This weekend marks the beginning of Michigan’s regular firearm season for deer (Nov. 15-30, 2015). Hunting is an important tradition for many Michigan families. With proper safety precautions in place, hunting can be a safe and rewarding recreational activity.
Hunting safety is a topic of great concern at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. Each fall and winter, the hospital provides rehabilitation to hunters who have sustained injuries in falls from elevated tree stands. Jackie Wondolowski, Spinal Cord Injury Network Program Director, notes that already this year, the hospital has admitted patients who experienced severe injuries from tree stand falls during the bow season.
Rehabilitation after a tree stand fall typically includes many hours of specialized physical and occupational therapy (and speech therapy if a hunter has additionally incurred a brain injury). The average inpatient stay fluctuates with the nature and severity of the injury. It can range from 4-12 weeks, for instance, for a spinal cord injury resulting in paraplegia or tetraplegia.
Most people want to get back to hunting as soon as they can safely do so. Recreational therapy can help patients return to favorite activities — including hunting with adaptations. [Watch the video above to hear Mary Free Bed graduate Mike Kibben’s story. Mike, who was paralyzed in a tree stand accident in 1997, today uses modified equipment to pursue his passion for hunting.]
While many resources are available for people who sustain hunting-related injuries, accident prevention is a crucial part of their rehabilitation education. Below are tree stand safety tips for everyone to consider as the season gets underway. Please share with family and friends who will be heading out into the woods this month!
Tree Stand Safety Tips
- Keep hands free of any equipment when ascending or descending a tree. Use a haul line to get hunting devices and other equipment into and out of your stand.
- Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for safe use of your tree stand.
- Always wear a full-body safety harness when hunting from a tree stand. Never use a waist belt or rope as a substitute.
- Choose your tree carefully. Opt for one that’s as straight as possible and note that smooth-barked trees — like aspen, beech, hickory and maple — can get slippery in rainy/snowy conditions.
- Use extra care when hunting from a frozen tree. Avoid using elevated stands when it’s icy.
- Only climb healthy trees and don’t rely on tree limbs to hold your weight when you’re climbing into or out of a tree stand.
- Wear boots with non-skid soles. Steps or platforms may be slippery in rain, sleet or snow.
- Always try to hunt with a buddy. If you go out alone, tell someone where you’re hunting and when you’ll return. Always carry a cell phone, but remember: a cell phone is useless if you’re too injured to reach or use it.
- Never use alcohol or drugs while hunting.
- Keep your weapon locked and unloaded until you are up/down safely from your tree stand.
- Inspect hunting equipment before and after each outing and maintain it properly. Familiarize yourself with its operation before using it in the field.
- Climb higher than your stand and step down onto it. Climbing up into the stand can dislodge it and cause a fall.
- If you’re sleepy, come down from your stand and hunt from the ground.
Visit the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for additional information on hunting safety. Contact Mary Free Bed at 800.528.8989 to learn about options for rehabilitation and adaptive hunting.