Deer Stand Injuries

Deer stand injuries can be completely avoided with proper preparation and being aware of common mistakes. We not only discuss those mistakes but also the statistics and myths around deer hunters. Be safe out there.

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Falling out of a deer stand or tree stand is an all too common accident. Estimates are around 10% of hunters are injured annually and out of that 10 percent, 75% are from fixed tree stands. When a hunter falls out of a stand that is taller than 15 feet, an individual can reach a speed of 30 MPH. Of course this depends on the weight and height of the hunter. Many times, these injuries are underreported due to embarrassment and hubris. I personally treat about one deer hunting injury per year. Most injuries result from either falling out of a stand or a substantial laceration from a broad head or hunting knife used when dressing the deer.

A study out of Wisconsin tracked deer stand injuries and revealed 80 % of all fall victims required operative interventions. About 10 % resulted in permanent and or neurological deficits or death. The majority where from poorly assembled stands, errors in climbing in or out of the stand and lack of harness.

A retrospective study out of Rochester , N.Y. Medical Center from 2003-2011 reveled the following: 54 tree stand injuries, 96% occurred in men, average age 47.9, average height of the fall 18 feet, no deaths out of the 54.  Reported cause of injury of the 54:  1. Tree stand construction failure. 2. Loss of balance. 3. Falling asleep. 4. Safety harness broke. 5. Lightheadedness. Important to note – None of the 54 had alcohol which is often a common stereotype.

Most common injuries were spinal fractures, with the cervical spine being the most common. Vertebral burst fractures, compression fractures and dislocations. 22% had head injuries and 5 of the 54 had facial lacerations. 7 hunters had loss of consciousness. There were 10 cases with a collapsed lung (pneumothorax), 25% had a laceration to their liver, spleen or kidney. The average height of fall was approximately 18 feet.


  1. Make sure the stand is secure. Practice setting it up before deer season.
  2. Make sure all dead limbs, rocks, stobs, and debris are cleared below the tree.
  3. Survive Outdoors highly recommends a stand no higher than 15 feet. I understand many hunters will scoff at this concerned with scent and being detected. I have killed many deer at 15 feet. It is strongly advised.
  4. ALWAYS use a harness and make sure it is secured.
  5. In freezing and below- freezing temperatures, bring a small bag of soot from a fireplace, or salt to place on the stand so you do not slide. This can be very helpful.
  6. Be aware of your own excitement and “buck fever” – the adrenaline rush of seeing a large deer. When this occurs accidents increase. Stop, breathe and calm yourself. Slow methodical and purposeful movement.
  7. Always be aware of where your feet are in relation to the edge of the stand.
  8. Always unload your gun before getting in and before getting out of your stand. Yes ,I have to say this. There have been accidents with loaded guns and dropped guns while climbing in a stand and out of a stand. The same is true with bows. Keep arrow in quiver until you are in the stand.
  9. Have the ability to contact someone either by phone or a two-way radio.
  10. Med bag. Small medical kit with fire starter, whistle and essentials. ( See hunters medical kit )
  11. Your coat should have three (or at least two) types of closure. You want to have a zipper, snaps, or velcro. When falling out of a stand, it is very likely you will lose the use of one hand so you want the ability to close your coat with one hand.