As hunters far and wide successfully exempt themselves from Holiday gatherings to pursue their passion, we offer some safety tips to ensure injuries do not cut adventures short.
We’ve identified some of the most common hunting mishaps featured in studies, seen in the ER, and recounted by hunters far and wide.
Among the most reported hunting accidents include:
- Hunting/Tree Stand Accidents
- Misfire/Shooting Accidents
- Field Dressing Dangers
According to studies, “hunting mishaps most frequently occurred because of overexcitement, unfamiliarity with equipment, or carelessness.” A study reporting on the hospital records of 100 male patients between the ages of 10 and 78 showed a wide variety of injuries resulting from hunting activities. “Almost half of the patients were injured during a 9-day gun deer hunting season.” The study concluded that while many of the injuries were minor, serious morbidity with potential long-term disability and costs in time and money can occur .
Tree Stand Accidents
Tree stands situated 20-30 feet in the air present a hazard potentially as dangerous as the weapons accompanying hunters in the trek up and down.
According to the Tree Stand Safety Awareness (TSSA) foundation, tree stand accidents are the number one cause of serious injury and death to deer hunters – estimating that more than one-third of hunters who use tree stands will be involved in a fall sometime in their hunting careers .
While broken bones are very common following a fall from a stand (arm fractures, hip fractures, as well as injuries to the head, neck and spine), others less frequently discussed involve jewelry/accessories.
A potentially limb and life-threatening injury that is completely avoidable among hunters involves jewelry/accessories – watches and rings in particular. During a slip or fall from a stand, these objects can catch on parts of the stand, as well as nails and tree branches causing serious damage to the affected limb. The catch/pull/hanging of the watch or ring during a fall, traumatically impacts the soft tissue of the impacted region. This can result in a severe wrist fracture for watch wearers and traumatic ring avulsion for ring wearers, which can strip tendons and nerves from the bones of the finger.
The severity of either injury is long lasting – surgery and rehabilitation required in both cases. Additionally, hunters are often located in remote areas, and treatment of such a severe injury is delayed – impacting outcome.
Hunters are urged to ensure tree stand safety by wearing a full body harness and leaving watches and rings at home. A system of communication with fellow hunters is also encouraged should a mishap occur.
Many of the injuries seen during hunting season involve a shooting accident. These accidents often occur when hunters are overly eager and fail to adhere to a basic safety protocol – proper attire, weapon check and communication. Shooting accidents also occur when drowsy hunters fall from their stands with weapon in hand. These accidents can cause self-inflicted injuries as well as injury to nearby hunters.
According to the International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), approximately 1000 people in the US and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters every year – just under a hundred of those accidents are fatalities. Hunter safety courses are strongly encouraged and required in some cases before hunt participation.
Field Dressing Dangers
Another opportunity for injury occurs during the process of field dressing. Not only is the rapid cleaning of hunted game essential to prevent bacteria from growing on the surface of the carcass (at initial wound site or while gutting) and contaminating the meat, but also to reduce risk of dangerous infection if cut during the process.
Field dressing must be done as soon as possible to ensure rapid body heat loss. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F, in some cases doubling in number every 20 minutes. This range of temperature is often called the “temperature danger zone .” Hunters in warmer climates should be particularly vigilant.
Too often most of the hunting preparation is focused on the kill and not enough on safely field dressing the game. Dull knives and dirty prep areas can result in lacerations prone to infection. These types of infected wounds can be difficult to treat. Additionally, many types of popular game are infected with Brucellosis, an infectious disease caused by bacteria. Hunters merely handling the blood and organs of an infected animal while field dressing can become infected. The infection may remain dormant up to a month after exposure and can cause severe illness requiring antibiotics. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint pain .
Field dressing preparation should include:
- Clean, sharp knife
- Resealable plastic storage bags
- Whetstone or steel for sharpening
- Cooler full of ice/snow
- Rope or nylon cord
- Disposable plastic gloves
- Clean wipes or paper towels
- Clean drinking water
Be safe and Happy Hunting!
- Huiras CM, Cogbill TH, Strutt PJ. Hunting-related injuries. Wis Med J.1990 Oct;89(10):573-6.
- Bailey C. Here are the Five Most Common Hunting Injuries. Wide Open Spaces. 2017 March 29. http://www.wideopenspaces.com/these-are-the-5-most-common-hunting-injuries/
- PennState Extension. Proper Field Dressing and Handling of Wild Game and Fish. 2017. https://extension.psu.edu/proper-field-dressing-and-handling-of-wild-game-and-fish
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Hunters: Protect Yourself from Brucellosis. https://www.cdc.gov/features/huntersbrucellosis/index.html
Dr. Korsh Jafarnia is a Houston based board-certified, fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in the hand, wrist and elbow. He is recognized locally and nationally as a “top doctor” in his field and highly sought for his level of expertise in hand and upper extremity orthopedic care.