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Illinois Department of Natural Resources
August 2017
August 1, 2017

We all Fall Down

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By Eric Bumgarner
A deer hunter in blaze orange standing in a tree stand. He's aiming his shotgun.

It was a cold, brisk morning as the group began to separate and head towards their individual tree stands about a half hour before shooting time. Much work and effort had gone into getting the property ready for this archery and gun deer season. Scouting the property, patterning the deer, choosing stand sites, work days to build and brush stands, trim shooting lanes, and hours of practice. The group had thought of everything and now the big day had arrived, it was gun deer season. It was agreed they would meet back at the vehicles at noon to have lunch and discuss deer activity or help each other retrieve and field dress their deer.

As noon time rolled around, members of the hunting party began arriving back at the vehicles, all except one, Brad’s father, a gentleman in his late 60s and a veteran hunter. With the possibility that he may have deer in his area and couldn’t leave his stand, it was decided to wait for a while to see when he returned. After waiting an hour with no sight of his father, Brad decided they should go check on him.

Upon approaching, Brad could see that his father was not in the stand and quickened his pace as the feeling of something wrong began to course through his body. As Brad arrived, his feelings turned to fear as he saw his father lying on the ground at the base of his tree, unable to move, barely coherent, and extremely cold.

Brad’s father became yet another victim of a very common hunting accident—falls from treestands. His injuries resulted in a broken back, weeks in the hospital, wearing a Halo to allow his injuries to heal, and a major change in his life that would have to be dealt with for years to come.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, falls from treestands, are the leading cause of all hunting accidents by far in Illinois. As listed in their 2016 Hunting Incidents Summary, 80 percent of all reported hunting accidents were caused by falls from treestands. The Hunting Incidents Summary and much more information can be viewed at www.dnr.illinois.gov under the Safety Education tab.

Another valuable source of information can be found through the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association, www.tmastands.com. TMA has devoted its efforts in the education and promotion of not only the safe use of treestands, but the manufacturing of designs and standards for treestands and fall restraint systems.

Please take time to visit the websites listed above dedicated to hunting safety. With the information, technology, and equipment that is available today, there are no excuses to allow these types of hunting accidents to occur. Hunting accidents not only affect us as hunters but impact the lives of those around us. Attend a Hunter Safety Course in your area, insist that family members and friends always wear a restraint system, and lead by example.

Remember, without the proper use of elevated treestands and approved Full Body Restraint Systems, we all fall down!


Retired Lieutenant Eric Bumgarner spent 24 years with the Illinois Conservation Police. Eric is an avid outdoorsman and has a passion for protecting the natural resources.

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