Tree stands account for six times as many deaths as guns

Tree stands may now pose a greater danger to hunters than guns, although hunters have reduced the number of shooting incidents each year for the last five.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation released its annual evaluation of hunter injuries, deaths and incidents for last year, and in keeping with a trend, the number of people injured while hunting is considerably lower than historical levels, although there were more incidents in 2017 than in 2016. And while shooting-related incidents are showing a downward trend, the number of people getting hurt or killed due to tree stand incidents may be on the rise.

According to the DEC, there were 19 shooting-related incidents. Several of these were self-inflicted, while 14 were two-party incidents. Only one was fatal, which is below the five-year average.

The DEC found that within the two-party incidents (where one person shoots and another is injured), the vast majority of those who were struck were not wearing safety orange.

Six of the incidents occurred during deer season, while the waterfowl and spring turkey seasons were second most dangerous with three incidents each. Small game season, along with upland bird hunting, accounted for the rest of the incidents.

Ten of the shooting-related incidents involved shotguns and seven involved rifles. One unlucky person was injured by a bow and arrow and the final incident involved a handgun.

2017 was the first year the DEC tracked injuries and incidents involving tree stands, as hunter safety has been on a general increase since the state mandated hunting safety courses. Compared to 19 shooting incidents, tree stand episodes resulted in another dozen reportable incidents, including a stunning six fatalities.

Five of the deaths involving tree stands were people who didn’t have a full-body harness on, and one didn’t have the harness attached. The DEC said in its report that only about a third of all hunters who use tree stands wear a harness.

“Tree stand injuries are becoming the major cause of hunting related injuries,” the reports says. “New York is among several other states that have drastically reduced deaths during firearms seasons due to a hunter safety curriculum that stresses firearm safety.

“Recently, however, deaths from tree stand falls have begun to increase.”

According to the DEC report, two of the deaths related to tree stands were likely heart attacks that caused the victims to fall. Several others were due to equipment failure.

To read both reports, including a breakdown of each incident, go to