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Tree stand falls can be bigger risk for hunters than firearms

DANE COUNTY (WKOW) —  As the gun-deer hunting season starts Saturday, most hunters know to wear fluorescent orange to prevent them from accidentally being injured by gunfire.

But some hunters believe there could be something even more dangerous — falls from a tree stand. That’s why one expert says they  should wear a safety vest with a tethering line.

“You’re constantly attached to this vest type system. So if you do fall, you’ll fall. But you’ll only fall so far,” said John Beetham, an avid hunter from Brooklyn.

“You hook this into your line that’s hooked to the vest on your back. And then you just push this up as you’re going up ahead of you. So you’re always attached to the vest,” he said.

Beetham knows all too well the risk associated with not wearing proper safety gear. He fell about 25 feet from a tree stand two years ago while hunting with his son.

“I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move my legs, I couldn’t feel my legs. And I thought that I finally was that guy who was a tree fall victim.”

Henry Bauman is a conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He was one of the wardens to respond to the call when Beetham was injured.

“John was in excruciating pain. You could tell he was hurt badly. It was a sound I’ll never forget, I’ll put it that way,” he said.

According to the Wisconsin DNR, falls from elevated hunting platforms like this have replaced firearm accidents as the largest source of hunting-related injuries and deaths in the United States.

“Unfortunately I’ve seen it several times in my career. I’ve seen people that have fallen and died from the fall or otherwise end up paralyzed. Either paraplegic or quadriplegic,” Bauman said.

DNR wardens will be out on patrol to make sure everyone is safe during the hunting season.

Since the accident, Beetham says he doesn’t hunt without proper safety gear.

David Johnson

Reporter, WKOW

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