Outdoors Column

Tree stand safety

By Bill Howard | Nov 12, 2013
Photo by: File Bill Howard.

Tim Bowers was like many of us. He enjoyed hunting, particularly bowhunting, and headed out to his farm of soybeans and corn. He climbed a tree that provided an overlook in hopes that Mr. Big would make his way into shooting distance.  Then the unthinkable happened. Tim planted his foot on a dead branch about 16 feet up the tree and he heard it snap. As Tim met the ground below he heard another snap.
The family believes Tim lay there for over five hours before he was found. Three vertebrae were crushed leaving Tim with no movement from his neck down. His sister, a nurse, recognized the severity immediately and knew the prognosis was grim.
Tim was only 32 years old. He just married the love of his life in August after a three year courtship. They were expecting their first child in April.
Tim survived the fall but would be paralyzed for life. Family and doctors provided information to Tim regarding the options of his future. Tim asked for them to remove the ventilator that he would have to rely upon for the remainder of his life if he chose, so he could speak. He then asked to keep it out. He essentially told the doctors to pull the plug so his family would not have to endure the pain of his new state of life.
Let that sink in a little.
Last year, North Carolina had three fatalities from hunting incidents. Two of those fatalities were results of tree stand falls.
An overview shows North Carolina’s numbers decreasing in both actual numbers of fatalities as well as percentage. The previous two years resulted in 12 deaths combined. The number of licensed hunters, 528,636 was the largest number since 1994-95. However the three deaths tied the lowest number since non-firearm fatalities were recorded.
Even with the lower numbers, in most cases these types of fatalities can be prevented.
Most falls occur during the climb up or down a stand. With the colder weather coming in, frost on the steps for the stands creates a slick surface especially for the rubber soled boots hunters tend to wear. Gear being tangled amongst tree limbs and brush is another issue that causes falls.
But it does not have to be a true tree stand either. One of the two fatalities in North Carolina last year from a fall was on the typical tripod stand that is popular in the open fields.
All could have been prevented with a proper safety harness.
While browsing through Facebook posts last weekend, I noticed a friend who was on a deer hunt up north. His post read “Harnessed in and ready to play … in Central Ohio.” Throughout his preparation he remembered the one thing that could determine his fate. While his firearm would be necessary to take a deer, his harness was necessary for him to ensure his safety. Smart move Scott.
For Tim, he was told he may gain a very small movement in his neck to turn his head one way or another, and after surgery to his spine he may eventually be able to sit upright. He would not ever be able to hold his baby in his arms or give hugs. Tim will never see his newborn child.
Tim’s family went to the farm and found the tree Tim fell from. They cut it down to a stump and fashioned a cross out of the remainder as a memorial to the son, husband, and would-have-been father Tim was to become.

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