How Many People are Killed or Injured in Hunting Accidents?
Male hunter aiming at deer with rifle

[Klaus Vedfelt]/[Taxi]/Getty Images

According to the International Hunter Education Association, in an average year, fewer that 1,000 people in the US and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters, and of these, fewer than 75 are fatalities. In many cases, these fatalities are self-inflicted by hunters who trip, fall, or have other accidents that cause them to shoot themselves with their own weapons. Most of the other fatalities come in hunting parties, where one hunter shoots another accidentally.

Firearm Fatalities in Hunting

Fatality numbers have improved somewhat in recent years, thanks to extensive hunter education programs available in most states, but hunting does come with inherent dangers. Hunting fatalities due to firearms account for about 12 to 15 percent of all fatalities due to firearms nationally. Hunting proponents will point out that the chances of a death due to a firearm accident of any kind are roughly the same as a death from falling out of a bed, chair, or other piece of furniture—about 1 in 4888. If you compare pure numbers, roughly 20 times as many people die each year by accidental drowning than do by accidents while hunting. These statistics are slightly misleading, however, since far more people engage in recreational swimming than engage in sports hunting with firearms.

Overall accidental death statistics from the National Safety Council can provide some context.

Of all accidental deaths:

  • 1 out of every 114 is a motor vehicle crash
  • 1 out of every 370 is an intentional assault by a firearm
  • 1 out of 1,188 is due to accidental drowning
  • 1 out of every  6,905 is an accidental firearms discharge
  • 1 out of every 161,856 is due to a lightning strike

It must be noted, however, that a great many accidental deaths by firearms do not involve hunters.

When shooting-related fatalities occur in hunting, most of the victims are hunters, although non-hunters are also sometimes killed or injured. It can be said that this is a sport that does pose some danger to an entire community, not just to the willing participants.

Hunting Related Accidents in Context

In reality, most the greatest dangers to hunters are not related to firearms, but occur for other reasons, such as car accidents traveling to and from hunting sites or heart attacks while hiking woods and hills. Particularly dangerous are fall from tree stands. Recent estimates say that there are almost 6,000 hunting accidents to hunters each year involving falls tree stands—six times as many as are wounded by firearms. A recent survey in the state of Indiana found that 55% of all hunting-related accidents in that state were related to tree stands.

The vast majority of fatal accidental shootings while hunting involve the use of shotguns or rifles while hunting deer. This perhaps no surprise, since deer hunting is one of the most popular forms of hunting where high-powered firearms are used.

The Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting maintains the Hunting Accidents Centersite, which collects news stories about hunting accidents throughout the United States.

Although the list is long, it’s not comprehensive, and not every hunting accident is reported in the news. If you’ve seen a newspaper article about a hunting accident that is not included in the site, you can submit a report.

DEC: 2017 tree stand-related accidents resulted in 6 hunter fatalities

Jury Awards Nothing to Man Injured in Deer Stand Mishap

Jeffrey Saxby, Hall Booth Smith Jeffrey Saxby, Hall Booth Smith

A federal jury agreed that one of two defendants was negligent in causing an accident that left a hunter with a shattered leg after a fall from an improperly erected deer stand, but decided the injured man assumed the risk of climbing it and awarded him nothing.

Hall Booth Smith partner Jeffery Saxby, who with associate Wayne Satterfield represented the company that sold the 16-foot stand to the retailer, said the last plaintiff’s demand to settle the case before trial was for $750,000.

The only defense offer to settle was for $2,000 or $2,500 in 2015, said Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith partner Brantley Rowlen, who represented the retailer along with associate V. Ashley Waller.

Plaintiffs attorney Steven Pickens of Lawrenceville’s Mahaffey Pickens Tucker said he will file an appeal.

“We thought we presented a compelling case and that it might go our way,” said Pickens in an email. “Mr. Rowlen and Mr. Saxby are both skilled advocates and did excellent jobs for their clients.”

According to the lawyers and trial documents, plaintiff Daniel Roberts and two friends were hunting one weekend in North Georgia and decided to go buy another deer stand.

One of the men, Lee Summey, went to the Tractor Supply Co. in Chatsworth, but they only had a display model left.

Summey bought the display stand, which did not have a box, manual or other instructions and returned to his friends in the woods.

“Summey told them he didn’t have the manual,” said Saxby. “They went ahead and completed the assembly the way they thought was correct.”

The stand included two “criss-cross” nylon straps that were supposed to be used to secure it to a tree, but the men didn’t know how to attach them, he said.

“They used one as a brace and left the other off completely,” he said.

The trio raised the stand against a tree with one holding the ladder and the other holding a stabilizer bar while Roberts climbed up.

“When he got past a certain point, the top of the stand began to pull away from the tree,” said Saxby. “Our plaintiff jumped off—probably about 8 feet off the ground—and shattered the bones in one leg.”

According to his filings, the bones in Roberts’ right leg snapped below the knee and “tore through his skin.”

Roberts, whom Saxby said is in his 40s, underwent two surgeries, was out of work for three months and is likely to need another surgery to remove the hardware.

There was no evidence alcohol was involved, Saxby said.

Roberts filed negligence claims in 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia against Tractor Supply Co. and New Buffalo Corp., which imported the tree stand and sold it to the store.

Trial began Feb. 20 before Judge Richard Story.

According to plaintiff’s pleadings, New Buffalo was negligent in marketing a product when it knew the instruction manual might be lost and for not having the straps affixed to the top of the stand.

Tractor Supply was accused of negligently selling the stand without the instructions or warning that the straps had to be affixed to the stand to prevent an accident.

Defense pleadings say New Buffalo simply imported the stand and sold it and had nothing to do with its design or manufacture.

Tractor Supply argued the instruction manual was easily available on its website and noted that—two weeks after the accident—Summey and the other man watched a demonstration on YouTube and were able to assemble and use the stand without any problem.

The retailer also said Roberts ignored warning labels affixed to the tree stand instructing users to follow the assembly instructions.

Both defendants argued Roberts assumed the risk of climbing the tree stand and was responsible for his own injuries.

The plaintiffs brought in Marietta accident investigation specialist Jeff Hyatt to testify, Saxby said.

“Even he testified that, if used in accordance with the manual, the stand is fit for use,” he said.

The defense did not call any experts to testify, he said.

Rowan said the defendants were essentially united at trial.

“It was pretty cordial,” he said. “The plaintiffs had a manufacturing defect claim they abandoned midtrial, so that made it straight negligence for both of us. But there wasn’t any finger-pointing; everybody was pretty united in the knowledge that, when these gentlemen took on this project, they assumed the risk.”

Saxby said Roberts claimed damages for roughly $124,000, which included about $90,000 in past medical bills, plus additional funds for the expected future surgery, and $24,000 in lost wages.

At closing, he said, Pickens didn’t ask for a particular figure but “sort of hinted around $2 million in damages and pain and suffering.”

After a weeklong trial, the jury took about six hours to deliver a defense verdict.

The jury foreman told Saxby they decided about 15 minutes into deliberations that his client, the importer, had no liability.

“They found that Tractor Supply was negligent but that Roberts had assumed the risk of injury,” he said.

Lee County authorities investigating tragic hunting accident

Lee County authorities are investigating what appears to be an accidental hunting death in the Beulah community.

According to authorities, 51-year-old Edward Allen Martin Jr. was found dead around 7:40 p.m. Friday in the 600 block of Lee Road 263.

Martin had gone hunting on his land earlier in the afternoon and when he he did not return at dark, family members went looking for him and found him unresponsive on the ground below his tree stand, According to a Lee County Coroner’s press release. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to the Coroner’s office, it appeared that Martin fell about 18 to 20 feet to the ground, but it is unclear whether his death was caused by the fall or a medical event that caused him to fall. His body has been transported to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences medical examiner’s office in Montgomery for a postmortem examination.

No foul play is expected.

Man dies in Sauk County hunting accident

TOWN OF GREENFIELD, Wis. (WMTV) — A Milwaukee man is dead after a hunting accident in Sauk County.

The Sauk County Sheriff’s Office said they received a call around 10:35 a.m. on Sunday for a hunter who had fallen out of a tree stand and had fatal injuries.

Authorities say 50-year-old Jacob Herr was using a self-climbing tree stand on public hunting land with a family member on Tower Road in the Town of Greenfield.

The sheriff’s office said Herr was found by a hunting companion near the base of a tree. He was wearing a safety harness, but it was not attached to the tree.

For Hunters in the Woods, a Quiet Killer: Tree Stands

Chris Nutter surveys the land around him in rural upstate New York from a tree stand, which are popular among deer hunters. At least five people have died this year statewide while hunting from tree stands and many more have been injured. CreditBrett Carlsen for The New York Times

Jeff Callahan can still recall the morning he dozed off while hunting deer from a homemade tree-stand in upstate New York.

The resulting fall — a 13-foot plunge that caused a spinal injury and left him paralyzed from the neck down — was avoidable, he said, if only he had followed precautions and tethered himself to the tree with a safety line.

“Some guys think they’re indestructible, and that’s what I thought too,” said Mr. Callahan, 57, who now hunts from his wheelchair. Even aiming with his teeth and firing with the help of a breathing tube, he has bagged many deer with both shotgun and crossbow.

“They call me one-shot,” he said.

While the topic of dangerous hunting mishaps has long seemed synonymous with gun-related incidents, there is now a more deadly category: falls from tree stands that have become increasingly popular among gun and bow hunters seeking a high vantage point.

Tree stand mishaps are not a new phenomenon, but have become chronic enough that, this year for the first time, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates hunting, has begun collecting information about such accidents from local authorities to better monitor and study the problem, said the agency’s commissioner, Basil Seggos.

Continue reading the main story

As this year’s deer hunting season winds down, New York State officials report only one gun-related fatality among hunters this year, while at least five people have died statewide while hunting from tree stands — many more have been injured.

Continue reading the main story


“Some guys think they’re indestructible, and that’s what I thought too,’’ said Jeff Callahan, who was left paralyzed from the neck down after he fell from a tree stand while hunting deer.CreditBrett Carlsen for The New York Times

State officials reported one tree stand death last year, but said that there may have been others, since they had not started to systematically begin tracking the incidents. Mr. Seggos said he had “heard at least anecdotally that a number of people die or get injured each year” from tree stand falls and mishaps, but lacked hard information.

“I wanted to begin tracking them, to see where the problems were,” he said.

Gun mishaps, the longtime scourge of hunting season, have been declining for decades because of safety awareness initiatives such as orange clothing meant to deter accidental shootings, said Glen Mayhew, president of the national Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation.

“But we’ve seen tree stand incidents go up, because although people know they should wear harnesses, many still aren’t wearing them,” said Dr. Mayhew, adding that the mishaps continue despite persistent efforts to educate hunters about tree stand safety, the most important rule being the use of a safety line and harness attached to the tree both while in the stand and while climbing in and out.

Several thousand hunters fall from tree stands each year nationwide — with roughly 4,000 falls in 2015 — and states where hunters use tree stands typically have a fatality or two a year, Dr. Mayhew said. “So to see five fatalities from one state in a year, is an outlier, or unusually high,” he said of New York’s figures.

Mr. Seggos said his agency relies on some 2,500 teaching volunteers for its hunter safety program, and that about 45,000 hunters took advantage of the 1,500 courses given this year whose curriculum includes safety instruction on the stands, which often consist of a seat and a small platform that are fastened onto a tree’s trunk above brush lines and above an animal’s ability to spot or smell a hunter.

Also, he said, the agency has created online videos on tree stand safety, posted online notifications, and put out advisories on social media.

Continue reading the main story


Mr. Nutter, a hunter who lives near Syracuse and teaches bow hunting safety, said he knows numerous hunters who have suffered broken limbs and spinal injuries from falls. CreditBrett Carlsen for The New York Times

Of the five tree stand fatalities in New York in recent months, one is still under investigation, officials said. One was caused by the failure of a tree stand, and another victim likely fell while entering or exiting a stand, a particularly common circumstance. The two other victims fell after having heart attacks, state officials said.

For some hunters, carrying equipment long distances to hunting locations and then climbing up to the stand can increase the chances of a heart attack, Dr. Mayhew said. Strapping into the stand can help a hunter survive a heart attack by enabling him to phone or signal for help, he said.

Dr. Michael F. Kamali, who runs the emergency department at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said hunters are brought in perhaps once a week — usually still in their hunting outfits — after tree stand falls, with injuries that range from “minor to very significant to life threatening.”

Chris Nutter, 57, a hunter who lives near Syracuse, and teaches bow hunting safety said he knows numerous hunters who have suffered broken limbs and spinal injuries from falls. Two hunters died in tree stand accidents in 2015 in Onondaga County, which includes Syracuse, he said.

As a young man, Mr. Nutter said he sometimes felt impervious enough to neglect safety practices — “I was 8 foot tall and bulletproof” — and fell twice from his stand while in his 20s, but avoided lasting injury.

Many hunters called tree stand accidents far more frequent than official figures indicate, because hunters are often reluctant to tell medical or law enforcement that they fell from a stand.

Continue reading the main story


Mr. Nutter heads into the woods in northern New York. As a young man, Mr. Nutter said he sometimes felt impervious enough to neglect safety practices — “I was 8 foot tall and bulletproof” — and fell twice from his stand while in his 20s, but avoided lasting injury. CreditBrett Carlsen for The New York Times

“A hunter who goes to the E.R. is not going to admit they fell out of a tree stand,” said Bill Conners, 71, a lifelong hunter from Dutchess County who writes about conservation issues and serves as a regional director of the New York State Conservation Council. “Either out of embarrassment, or because they didn’t tell their wives or bosses they went hunting.”

In fact, many hunters favor hunting alone and lose communication after a fall, especially if cellphone service is spotty.

Years ago, many hunters built wooden tree stands, but affordable manufactured stands have become the norm. Many are left up year-round and become weakened over time, Mr. Conners said.

Hunters often access the stands by rudimentary ladders, which can be tricky while wearing bulky winter clothing and lugging equipment, especially in icy conditions. Falls can be caused by alcohol, fatigue, sudden moves with a weapon and even excitement.

“When deer comes along, or a squirrel jumps onto your head, you might suddenly take a step back and you’re not standing on anything anymore,” said David Hartman, the president of New York State Whitetail Management Coalition.

It was sleepiness that caused Mr. Callahan’s fall in 1986. He now hunts from his wheelchair with the assistance of a friend. He finds flat areas in the woods or a field to roll onto, and behind camouflage material, rests his crossbow or shotgun onto a shooter’s rest. He aims it with a bar controlled by his teeth and activates the trigger with an air tube.

“I‘ve talked to so many hunters who have fallen out of trees,” he said. “So the first thing I tell any hunter is to learn from my experience and put your safety strap on.”

“One in Three Hunters Will Fall”

…from their Tree Stands according to deer

So what is a tree stand? A tree stand (or deer stand, or more appropriately, deer-hunter-sit) has nothing to do with standing, yet everything to do with sitting on one’s heavily-armed rump. It looks basically like a lawn chair strapped high in a tree, accessible only by a ladder that the hunter (affectionately known as Elmer) brings along for the would-be kill.

Animal advocates (not to be confused with people who want to bring a dead body home to covet), understandably upset by all the carnage out there this time of year, sometimes write things like “I’ve been saying that tree stands could be a focus for some monkeywrenching” “We should lobby for tree stands to be at least 24′ off the ground” or in response to the many, many incidents they hear about of someone falling out of one, “Very encouraging. Where can we donate to a fund for more tree stands?” And “Karma’s a bitch. Well played karma!”

But it seems to me, hunters are scoring plenty of accidents on their own–based on the number of accident reports I’ve come across lately.

And how unnatural for anyone (human or otherwise) to hunt from high up in a tree anyway. No other large animal sits a limb 20-30′ off the ground or tries to kill prey from so far away. Cougars would not want to risk jumping from that height (though they’d survive it a lot better than the average Elmer). An owl might swoop down on a mouse or rabbit, but they don’t go after deer and they definitely don’t drive home in the luxury of a new, heated and leather-seated $35,000.00 pickup after the kill.

I mean, who do hunters think they are anyway? God’s gift to wildlife reduction; or “recreation”? I suppose some think they’re min-gods themselves.

Don’t get me started. Somebody stop me and all that…

While on the subject, here’s an article from the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting about tree stands:

Tree Stand Injuries – interesting statistics

November 29, 2010

This is an interesting article. While hunting orgs minimize the number of accidents that take place every year, every so often an article like this slips through and we get a more accurate estimate of what the true numbers are.

Back in 2009, Ron Kolbeck, a certified HuntSAFE instructor in South Dakota stated that there were 4,114 hunting accidents in the state in 2008. When we posted this info the hunters went nuts, telling us that we were making these stats up.

So here is another article I recently found that also discloses that the number of accidents that take place are far higher than the hunters will admit.

Tree Stand Injuries

Hunting in the U.S.

Hunting is a popular sport in this country. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates 12.5 million Americans 16 and older hunted in 2006. The hunters took 185 million trips and spent $22.9 billion.

More than 85 percent of hunters go after big game, like deer and elk. Roughly 38 percent hunt for smaller game like rabbits and squirrels. Less than 20 percent hunt birds.

Tree Stands for Hunters

A tree stand is an elevated platform placed from 15 feet to 30 feet above the ground and secured to a tree. The platform is typically small, with just enough room to sit or stand. Tree stands can be purchased from a retailer or built by hand. Many permanent tree stands are constructed by hunters rather than purchased.

There are several different kinds. One of the most popular types is the climbing stand. These are designed to be moved as the hunter climbs the tree, then secured when the desired height is reached. A fixed position stand attaches to a tree trunk for an extended period of time (like all of hunting season). A vertical ladder stand has a ladder attached to the platform. The ladder can often be disassembled and reassembled for carrying the stand into and out of the woods. The last type of stands are permanent tree stands. As the name suggests, these are designed to remain permanent and used season after season.

According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, more than 90 percent of hunters use some type of tree stand for hunting. Although tree stands were initially most popular with bowhunters, many rifle hunters use them also. Elevation enables the hunter to see game at a greater distance. In addition, the hunter can’t easily be seen or smelled by animals, improving the odds of bagging game. Some tree stands also have canopies that protect the hunter from the cold, wind, rain and sun.

Injuries Associated with Tree Stands

Researchers estimate about 10 percent of hunters who use tree stands are injured while using the platforms. Investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, looked at hunting accidents across the U.S. from 2000 to 2007. During that time, there were about 46,860 injuries to hunters associated with tree stands (Note: This averages to be 5,875 tree stand related injuries per year. Add to this all the other accidents that do not have anything to do with tree stands – JM) , mostly from falls. Male hunters were twice as likely to suffer a tree stand injury as females.

The researchers found injury rates to be highest among hunters 15 to 24 and lowest among those 65 and older. Gerald McGwin, M.S., Ph.D., Injury Epidemiologist, says the reasons for the highest rates of injury among younger hunters aren’t clear. However, he believes younger hunters are not aware of, or may not take appropriate safety precautions while using tree stands (like wearing a safety harness). Younger hunters may be more apt to take risks than older, seasoned hunters. Alcohol may also play a role in the risk for tree stand-related injuries. One study found 17 to 18 percent of hunters injured during use of a tree stand had been drinking at some point prior to the accident (NOTE: this means that 999 – 1,056 accidents per year – JM) .

The investigators found the most common consequences of tree stand injuries were fractures (especially of the spine, shoulder and arms), lacerations of the head and neck, and abrasions and bruises of the torso. McGwin says head and spinal injuries can be especially devastating to younger patients because they have to live with potential long-term disabilities. In the most serious cases, hunters may die from tree stand falls – either as a direct result of their trauma or by strangulation/asphyxiation when caught up in an improperly secured harness.

Tree Stand Safety

Many tree stand injuries can be prevented by taking a few extra steps: Check your stand. Experts discourage using home-made tree stands because they may not be properly constructed or unable to hold your weight. Even tree stands that are purchased from reputable dealers need to be inspected every season to ensure they are solid and will hold the weight of your body and equipment.

Use a harness. Researchers estimate more than half of all hunters injured in a tree stand accidents didn’t use, or failed to properly use, a safety harness. A harness is attached to the tree and designed to prevent a fall or catch a hunter who steps over the side of the tree stand. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends a full body harness. The harness should be inspected before each use and replaced if it shows any signs of wear or weakness. Roughly 50 percent of tree stand injuries occur when going into or leaving a tree stand. So it’s important to put the harness on before climbing the tree and keeping it on until you are safely back on the ground.

Don’t carry equipment while climbing or disembarking. Carrying equipment can affect your balance and cause you to fall. In addition, a gun can be accidentally discharged. Use a separate line to haul equipment up to the tree stand after you are settled in the tree stand. Also, don’t load the weapon until it is safely in the tree stand with you.

Have a plan. Let others know where you will be hunting and how long you expect to be gone. Carry a cell phone in case you have an emergency and need help. Carry emergency equipment in case you fall. While the harness may prevent you from hitting the ground, you can still die if you are suspended upside down for a significant amount of time and are unable to free yourself. Some experts even suggest practicing how to free yourself from the harness so you are better prepared to handle an emergency.

For information and tips on preventing tree stand injuries:
The National Bowhunter Education Foundation, Project STAND
Treestand Manufacturer’s Association
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service .

Return to Hunting Accident Index


A 32-year-old man is recovering following a hunting accident just north of Old Oneida Road in the outer district of Rome.

According to the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, the man was hunting alone in a tree stand when he fell approximately 30 feet.

The fall is believed to be due to a defective strap securing the stand to the tree. No weapon was discharged and the man was transported to St. Elizabeth’s with non-life threatening injuries.

The investigation was turned over to NYS Conservation Police as the incident is considered an Elevated Incident Hunting Accident.


Posted: Nov 27, 2017 2:09 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 27, 2017 2:12 PM PST

Credit KMOVCredit KMOV

ST. LOUIS ( — A 9-year-old boy was shot in an apparent accident as he and his father were hunting in Franklin County Sunday morning.

Police said the shooting happened in the 1000 block of Sauer Ford Road, near Berger, Missouri. The boy was found in a wooded area on a large farm with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. The injury is not life-threatening.

Police believe the child was in a tree stand when he attempted to hand a 20-gauge shotgun to a family friend. While handing the gun down from the tree stand, the butt-end of the firearm struck a rung on the ladder, causing the gun to discharge, striking the boy.

The child was transported to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Hunter survives long fall from tree stand


Posted: Nov 10, 2017 3:37 PM PSTUpdated: Nov 10, 2017 3:39 PM PST


An Iowa man is recovering after falling at least 20 ft. from a tree stand while hunting.

Jeff Pavek of Palo broke his neck, back, fractured his skull and sternum and suffered from a collapsed lung from the fall.

He says it’s amazing he is not paralyzed or dead.

“That strap let go around the tree, it was a cable, and I must have went backwards I don’t remember any of that though,” Pavek told us from his hospital room at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic.

Pavek’s girlfriend Lori Vandooren-Long started to worry when he didn’t come home so she called his best friend Ron.

The two went out to the hunting site where they made the terrifying discovery.

“He probably laid there for like an hour and 45 minutes and we found him face down,” says Vandooren-Long.

“I told him to turn me over, thank God he didn’t I would have been parialyzed,” says Pavek.

He tells us several of his vertebrates were crushed.

I really realize how close death was and it’s very sad because you just never know,” says Pavek.

“We needed him around for awhile longer,” Vandooren-Long says.

Pavek hopes sharing his story will help other hunters be safe.

“I really strongly recommended when you’re in a tree please wear a vest, a vest for safety. It could have prevented a lot of this,” he tells us.

Pavek believes he is lucky to be alive.

“Real close to being paralyzed or death, so I had both of them and I’m gonna beat them both,” he says.

A Go Fund Me account has been created to help with medical expenses.

Pavek is the third person in Iowa to fall from a tree stand in the last two weeks. . 

A man from Dubuque fell on November 4th while hunting near Garber. 

The next day a man from Adair was found lying at the base of his tree stand.