Tree stand accidents are thought to be increasing across Pennsylvania. But just how many are ocurirng and why? No one can say.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission wants to fill in the gaps when it comes to tree stand accidents.
It believes there are plenty.
Jason Raup, assistant counsel with the agency, said falls from tree stands appear to be a big and growing problem across the commonwealth. Some preliminary – and admittedly incomplete – data suggests the rate of accidents per 100,000 hunters surpassed hunting related shooting incidents as far back as the early 2000s, he said.
No one knows for sure the extent of the problem, though.
There’s anecdotal evidence out there.
Raup cited the example of a Game Commission employee who fell from a stand and broke his back. Doctors at the emergency room told him he was the third stand hunters to be treated for accidents that day alone.
There’s nothing concrete, though.
Most state wildlife agencies are required to investigate tree stand accidents, he said. But the Game Commission is not. Neither hospitals nor anyone else is required to report cases they see to the agency either.
Commission wildlife conservation officers will look into accidents when they hear of them, said Tom Grohol, deputy executive director for administration.
“But other than that, there’s really no investigation,” he said.
That, Raup said, is a problem.
“When an accident occurs we don’t even get called. So we are unaware of a lot of what’s occurring out there,” he said.
That also means the commission can’t say what’s causing accidents, he said.
Alcohol is suspected as a factor in some. Raup said work by one physician found alcohol present in the blood of 7 percent of accidents he researched.
But until it knows more, commission staff can’t suggest how to tackle that or anything else, he noted.
“Because we don’t really have specific mechanisms in place right now for us to truly be able to identify the problem as to how many tree stand accidents are occurring and what we can do about it, we’re not making any recommendations. But we want to take a closer look at this,” Raup said.
That will come in several forms.
Wildlife conservation officers have been asked to investigate tree stand accidents they hear of, Grohol said. That will be a point of emphasis this fall, he suggested.
At the same time, commission staff will give board members a more in-depth tree stand presentation at their September meeting. A physician who’s been looking at accidents will be part of that.
It’s unclear where any of that may lead, Raup said.
The commission may look for ways to reduce accidents. It may just look for ways to track them.
But either way, it needs to get a handle on what’s happening, he said.
“I think this is something we need to do, not just for our information but for the general public,” Raup said.
Commission president Brian Hoover of Delaware County agreed. He believes tree stand accidents are probably more common than anyone realizes.
He’s fallen from one, he said, as have most of the archery deer hunters he knows.
“I think it’s going to be a huge number,” Hoover said.
That may be, Raup said, which is why it’s so important the commission look to get a handle on things.
“I think any information, any statistics, would only increase our understanding of the problem,” he said.
Want to make sure you’re doing all you can to be safe in a tree stand?
Here are some resources.
The Treestand Manufacturer’s Association has a number of safety tips, videos and more on its website. There’s even a free online safety course. You can find it all here.
You can also check out the official Pennsylvania bowhunter safety course. it includes a section on tree stand safety. There’s a fee to get the official safety card — needed before you can bowhunt in some other states — but the information is worthwhile.
The course can be accessed by clicking here.