Friday, August 29, 2014 · 2:19 p.m.

One hunter dead, another crawls six hours with broken leg

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Good safety harness systems will cost $100 or more, but if it keeps you alive, isn't it worth it? (Photo: Contributed)

On a deer hunt last month, I took twice as long to climb into my tree stand as normal. That's because as I climbed about 25 feet high, I was already hooked to the tree via a Hunter Safety System harness. Years ago, I never thought about safety belts at all, much less climbing a tree while already hooked in. Stories like the one below convince me that I am now indeed older and wiser. 

An extremely sore hunter from Tennessee is recovering after a dangerous fall that shattered his leg. Bob Thurman, 47, from Memphis, fell out of a tree and broke his femur in three places when he was mounting his tree stand. He had left his cellphone in his car before hopping on an ATV to head to his tree of choice, leaving him unable to immediately call for help.

“I was out there trying to attach a 14-foot ladder stand to a tree by myself, and I knew better than that,” Thurman told Bryan Basher with the Commercial Appeal. “When you’re hanging a ladder stand, you always need two people—one up in the stand and one on the ground making sure it doesn’t fall. I didn’t follow that rule, and it almost killed me.”

A similar fall did kill 49-year-old Kerry Seiber of Columbia, Tenn. Seiber's family began looking for him when he didn't return Nov. 10 from a hunting trip to Williamson County. His body was found below a homemade tree stand that sits 23 feet off the ground. His gun was hanging on a hook in the stand.

It was the same day Thurman lay in excruciating pain and chose the only option available to him if he wanted to get out of his predicament alive: He crawled for four hours back to his ATV. Then, it took another two hours for him to climb onto his ATV and drive back to his truck, where his cellphone was.

Six excruciating hours later, he finally was able to get help. Checked in at a hospital since that Saturday, he was awaiting transfer to a rehab facility Tuesday evening.

Thurman’s ordeal serves as a lesson to hunters to always take all precautions when hanging tree stands, especially taking care to have someone with you, even if they are not a hunter.

A spokesperson for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency said tree stand falls are the leading cause of hunting-related accidents in the state. Last hunting season in Tennessee, one hunter died from among eight hunters that fell out of trees. This hunting season alone, numerous hunters have fallen out of their stands, with a handful of fatalities across the country. 

Richard Simms is a contributing writer, focusing on outdoor sports.

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