Deer hunters who use tree-stands can reduce their chances of life-threatening falls by spending 15 minutes taking an online safety course offered by the Treestand Manufacturers Association.
Statistics on tree-stand accidents are hard to find.
Missouri, like many states, only tracks firearms-related deer hunting accidents.
However, Tony Legg, hunter education coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says he is confident that injuries and deaths far outnumber shooting casualties.
"More than one in three deer hunters will fall from a tree-stand at some time in their life," said Legg. "Injuries range from cuts and bruises to broken bones, internal injuries and spinal cord injuries. Not everyone who falls from a tree-stand will be paralyzed or killed, but serious injuries are far more common than we would like."
Legg said the only sure way to avoid falls is to stay on the ground.
However, hunters can dramatically reduce the likelihood of falls and the severity of resulting injuries by taking a few simple precautions. Those precautions are outlined in a free, online tree-stand safety course at hunterexam.com/usa/missouri/treestandSafety.aspx.
The course covers what kinds of tree-stands and ladders to avoid, how to use good equipment safely, safety devices, tree-stand placement and what to do if you fall.
Legg noted that tree-stands provide many benefits for hunters.
If used properly, with safety equipment such as a fall-arrest system and a full-body harness, they can be very safe.
But he said it is important for hunters to realize the risks inherent to tree-stands and take every measure they can to reduce those risks.
"The online safety course covers the subject extremely well," said Legg, "and it is so concise you don't have to invest lots of time to learn how to be safe. Every hunter who cares about himself or his loved ones needs to set aside 15 minutes to take this course."