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Hunting Injuries in Mississippi







The following article appeared in the Jackson, MS. Clarion Ledger Newspaper Monday, October 25, 2004.

Falls from tree stands kill 2 Mississippi Hunters

The Clarion Ledger, Jackson , MS (Monday, October 25, 2004 )

Men in separate accidents weren't wearing harnesses, officials say.

by Camille C. Spencer

Mississippi's first two hunting fatalities of the season occurred on the same day after men who weren't wearing safety harnesses fell from tree stands, officials said.

"It's the most dangerous piece of equipment a hunter can use," said Major Steve Adcock of the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "We have more injuries with tree stands every year than anything else. If you climb a tree enough, you're going to fall, if you don't wear a harness."

Rudy Walker, 43, of Monticello died Thursday night after falling 16 feet from a tree while on hunting trip, Adcock said.

And Christopher Spradley, 22, of Jones County died Thursday afternoon in a separate accident at a hunting club in Jasper County, said Jasper County Coroner Keith Shelby. Spradley died of injuries sustained in the fall, Shelby said.

Spradley fell about 25 feet, Adcock said.

Walker, who had been hunting with a friend since 4 p.m. Thursday north of Monticello on Fair River, died of a cervical spine fracture, said Lawrence County Coroner Sidney Fortenberry.

Walker 's friend left the woods at about 6:45 p.m. and waited at a truck, Fortenberry said. At about 7:15 p.m., after Walker hadn't rejoined the fried, Fortenberry said, his friend went into the woods and found him at the bottom of the deer stand.

"It's a metal stand with no rails around it," Fortenberry said. "He fell out of it, landed on his head and neck, fracturing his cervical spine and severing his spinal cord. Death was instant."

Walker, an avid hunter, worked at a Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Brookhaven, said Marion Watts, his sister-in-law. Walker was married and had two children, Watts said.

"He was a people person," she said. "He was an outdoorsman. He didn't suffer because of the impact of it, and that was the only comforting thing. He loved camping and fishing. He died doing what he loved."

Walker 's funeral is 10 a.m. today at Wilson Funeral Home in Monticello, with burial in Newhebron Cemetery in Newhebron.

Serviced for Spradley were held Sunday in Laurel , Shelby said.

Hunting Injuries in Mississippi

: was published in the Mississippi State Medical Journal November 2002 issue and authored by Thomas P. Forks, DO.


(Minor editing has been done to Dr. Forks' original article.)


It is clear that hunting injuries in Mississippi mirror those which occur nationwide. The vast majority of these injuries are easily preventable by following common sense hunting safety rules. As with firearm injuries, tree stand injuries are clearly preventable by following common sense rules. Most falls are due to poorly constructed or old wooden tree stands that come apart or become detached from the tree thereby causing the hunter to fall. All bolts and fasteners should be inspected and replaced if found to be defective prior to use on the stand. Old, broken or rotten lumber should be replaced. Tree stands should only be placed in healthy, mature trees with strong healthy limbs. Unfortunately, tree stand hunters seldom wear safety harnesses when hunting. These devices, when used properly (worn around the chest under both arms), can greatly decrease morbidity and mortality associated with falls. To minimize trauma, tree stands should be constructed no greater than 20 feet above ground level. Hunters should be cautioned to wear non-slip boots and apply a non-slip covering to the floor of their tree stands prior to use of the stands. Other safety tips include the removal of all logs, stones or other obstructions from around the vase of the tree. As with all hunters, tree stand hunters are advised to carry a compass, whistle, flashlight and cellular phone with them during their hunt. Hunting equipment, including bows and arrows and all firearms should never be carried up to the stand. This equipment should only be lifted or lowered to or from the stand with the use of a haul line. Hunters are also advised to hunt in-groups and should notify family members or friends of the approximate time they anticipate entering and leaving the hunting area. Bright orange hunting vests have been shown to greatly increase the hunter's visibility and should always be worn when in the field during firearm season. Hunters are also advised to layer their clothing to prevent cold injures. A backpack containing a flashlight, compass, prescription medications, first aid kit, cellular phone and high calorie foods should be taken into the field with the hunter. Bowhunters can drastically reduce injuries and death by following a few common sense rules. (1) Keep all arrows sheathed until ready for use.
(2) Never nock an arrow until ready to shoot.
(3) Never draw a bow with a nocked arrow until prey is sighted and you are ready to shoot.
(4) At all times, keep your bow and nocked arrow pointed in a safe direction.

Hunting Injuries in Mississippi

Mississippi contains six national forests, a multitude of game management areas, 10 major lakes including the Ross Barnett Reservoir and hundreds of miles of fresh water streams. Coupled with relatively warm winters and abundant game, these fantastic "field and streams" contribute to Mississippi's image as a sportsman's paradise." Each year, over 300,000 hunters take to the field in pursuit of deer, rabbits, turkey, squirrel and other game and spend an average of 22 days in the field. Statistically, hunters are more likely to be injured during a one-hour drive to the hunting area than during an entire day of hunting. Sadly, a large number of preventable hunting accidents still occur each season despite the mandatory hunter education courses required for all participants born after 1971. Most Mississippi hunting deaths and major injuries are due to accidental falls from tree stands, the accidental discharge of firearms or the careless handling of bows and arrows. Injuries and deaths also occur as woodsmen discharge their firearms while swinging them to cover intended prey, inadvertently striking other hunters standing in the "line of fire", or when hunters are misidentified as game. A relatively large percentage of Mississippi residents (11.6% have hunting licenses) participate in some form of hunting each year. In an effort to increase awareness and improve education on safe hunting practices, this article examines the circumstances surrounding hunting injuries in Mississippi and compares them to nationwide trends. During the 1999/2000 deer season, there were a total of 16 tree stand falls, three of which resulted in the death of the hunter. Likewise during the 2000/2001 hunting season, the most common injury was related to tree stand falls, (15 in number) followed by injuries resulting from the imprudent handling of firearms or bows (14 cases). The 32 firearm/bow injuries resulted in four fatalities, two of which were self-inflicted. Tree-stand falls resulted in one fatality. The wearing of "hunter orange" has the potential of dramatically increasing the visibility of the hunters. This may well result in a decrease in accidental shootings. A review of 508 hunting injuries reported in New York over a 6 year period revealed that the majority of the accidental two-party shootings were caused by the misidentification of the injured hunter. Only 6% were wearing "hunter orange".An analysis of the 31 tree stand falls that occurred during the last two hunting seasons in Mississippi indicates that the vast majority of these falls and resultant injuries occurred when tree stands or ladders broke and came apart or when the hunter slipped and fell out of the stand. Unfortunately, hunters were wearing their safety harness in only 10%of these accidents. One fatality occurred when a 14-year-old hunter stand slipped from beneath him leaving him hanging in the tree. Although the hunter was wearing his safety harness, it was improperly fitted and became cinched too tightly around his waist causing him to asphyxiate.. A significant number of injuries also occurred when stands twisted (primarily homemade) or slipped on the tree due to improper fastening to the tree, thereby causing the hunter to fall. In some instances, these accidents resulted when the strap holding the stand to the tree broke. In other cases, injuries occurred when tree limbs on which the hunters were climbing broke, causing the hunter to fall.

Prevention of Tree Stand Injuries

(Table 1)

(1)     Use and install only factory manufactured tree stands.
(2)     Climb and install tree stands only in healthy, non-diseased mature trees.
(3)     Inspect tree stands, fasteners and safety harnesses each year prior to use.
(4)     Place tree stands no greater than 20 feet above the ground.
(5)     Pick up all rocks and debris from around the base of the tree.
(6)     Use a haul-line to bring equipment up to the tree stand.
(7)     Always wear non-slip boots when hunting.
(8)      Line the floor of the tree stand and all steps with non-slip rubber prior to installation of the tree stand.
(9)      Wear your safety harness.

Archery Safety Rules

(Table 2)

(1)     Keep all arrows sheathed until ready for use.
(2)     Never nock an arrow until ready to shoot.
(3)     Never draw a bow  with nocked arrow until prey is sighted and you are ready to shoot.
(4)     At all times, keep your bow and nocked arrow pointed in a safe direction.

Tree Stand Safety Tips

(Table 3)

(1)     Always wear a fall-restraint device. Wear it from the time you leave the ground until you return to the ground.
(2)     Read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and warnings.
(3)     Practice with your tree stands at a low level, under 5 feet, until you are sure you know how to use the stand.
(4)     Check your stand before and after each use. Correct and problems before using the stand again.
(5)     Take your time when climbing and watch every step you make.
(6)     Never climb with anything in your hands. Use a pull/haul rope to bring up equipment after your're secure in your stand.
(7)     Watch the weather. Some tree stands will slip on wet trees. Most stands are made of metal and are not safe during lightening storms.
(8)     Do not sleep in tree stands or drink alcohol or take drugs during tree stand use.
(9)     Tell someone exactly where you will be hunting and what time you plan to return. Agree that they will search for you if you do not return within an hour of that time.
(10)     Take a whistle, flashlight, cellphone or two-way radio so you can signal rescuers with your location.

(Source of table 3 contents:)

The User's Guide to the Tree Stand, Its History and Safe Use

by L.J. Smith, P.O. Box 4007, Brandon, MS 39047
and as publised in the Clarion Ledger Sunday, January 12, 2003.

Additional articles will be posted each month on this web site. Discussion and comments are welcomed on the:
Mississippi Bowhunters Association Talk/Forum.

If you have an article that you would like to submit for the Technical and Educational section of the MBA Website, please contact me by phone @ 662-323-1514 or by e-mail at The MBA welcomes your participation.

Joe R. Bumgardner, M.D.
Immediate MBA Past President/Web Master/Web Coordinator
Mississippi Bowhunters Association