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'The most important piece is this harness.' How to avoid tree stand accidents as deer hunting season begins

A Kentucky sportsman talks the importance of safety in keeping the hunting tradition alive.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Modern rifle season starts in Indiana and Kentucky on November 14th, but you have to think about safety when planning ahead. 

It goes well beyond wearing blaze orange when you go into the woods. 

Recently, 3 Indiana deer hunters were seriously injured in separate incidents when they fell from their tree stands.

Former Commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, Rich Storm, has had close calls and friends who've been hurt. He knows that accidents can happen, even when you think you've got it all covered.

”We have far more accidents walking to a stand, climbing a tree stand or even cardiovascular events that happen in the field”, said Storm.

He spoke with us from the woods of Nicholas County, nowhere does he feel more at home. He’s been hunting the land for decades and takes friends and first-timers on deer hunts at the property that’s been in his family for generations.

“We look out for one another and to be a sportsman, there's a great deal of responsibility”, he explained.

Tree stands are a big point of concern. Studies suggest that 5,000 to 6,400 hunters each year are injured in falls from them. Trees grow, connections wear, weathering can create dangerous conditions and oftentimes hunters don't have or take the time to inspect their platforms.

We inspected some on Storm’s property and found common issues such as bad straps and mountings grown into their sturdy surroundings.

Even when it looks safe, he doesn't risk it.

“The most important piece is this harness”, he said, “because you can take a bad step, you could slip, you can get excited. Any of those things can impair your ability to make good decisions.”

But one of the biggest treasures from the woods, he feels, can also be a real danger.

“If you've got this thing on your body and you take a fall, it could impale you a number of ways”, said Storm.

Deer antlers used to "rattle in" big bucks, Storm says, need to be pulled up by a rope in a backpack or replaced with imitation tools that can do the trick. He doesn't see it as cutting corners rather as a way of preserving tradition.

“We have a great responsibility to replace ourselves, to maintain our tradition and heritage. We want people to have a good experience. Being abundantly cautious when you go to the field is extremely important and being out here is not necessarily about the harvest it's about being out here being safe, spending quality time with your family or your loved ones”, he said. 

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