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Local hunter injured in township after falling from tree stand

September 11, 2013 - At about 10:30 p.m., Sept. 6, Brandon firefighters/medics and Oakland County Sheriff deputies responded to a wooded area near Sashabaw Road in Brandon Township following a report that a man had fallen from a tree stand.

When emergency personnel arrived they found a 41-year-old Waterford man unconscious with labored breathing near a large tree with climbing sticks attached. The sticks are typically 4-foot sections of steel ladder that fit together and strapped to a tree used by hunters to climb to a tree stand.

A friend of the victim was contacted by the victim's girlfriend after he did not return home on Friday for several hours. The friend, familiar with the territory, went to the tree stand and found the victim lying at the base of the tree. He stated the tree stand was about 30 to 40 feet above the ground. The friend called 9-1-1 and escorted emergency personnel back to the scene about 100 yards off the roadway. The victim was transported to Beaumont Hospital and remains in stable condition.

The Brandon Township hunter is just one of thousands of sportsmen that are preparing for the statewide archery deer season opener on Oct.1. The firearm deer season opens Nov. 15.

It's estimated that more than 750,000 hunters will take to the woods during the season.

Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, has worked in the field with hunters for more than 18 years.

"Most accidents with a tree stand of any kind are going to happen when hunters are climbing up and down from their hunting blind," said Molnar, a DNR official since 1989. "After many years of law enforcement I've helped investigate many hunting mishaps and honestly, there's not a common thread between them. However, the lack of proper safety equipment with regard to tree stands is pretty common. Often I've seen hunters injured when raising or lower equimpment from the ground up to the stand. Many times, the more seasoned hunters become more complacent—young or new hunters have the safety courses fresh in their minds."

Molnar stressed the use of proper equipment.

"When I was in the field as a CO (conservation officer) in Lake County (near Cadillac) there was a hunter who fell and broke his neck while climbing up to his tree stand because he had smooth soled leather work boots on and slipped. Whether climbing devices, tree stands or boots and safety harnesses using the right equipment can make a difference."

Molnar suggested go out hunting or scouting with a partner or at least let someone know when you're going to return from a trip. When selecting a tree to hunt from make sure it's solid and you're not too comfortable up there.

"Like many hunters that work all year long and finally get a vacation to go hunting they often fall asleep when they are sitting out there," he said. "It's understandable you're relaxing. But don't climb up in a tree if you're going to fall asleep and fall 20 feet. Be smart."

"Remember it's Michigan—many parts of the state will have frost, snow or ice this October," he said. "Trees, climbing ladders and stands get ice on them and become slippery—that can change in an hour. Test your equipment out before you head out there—it's been a year since that gear has been used and it can deteriorate. Make sure it works."

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