DNR says full statistics on bowhunting accidents aren’t available

Published 6:51 am Monday, January 4, 2010

It is unclear how common bowhunting accidents — like the one that claimed the life of Austin’s Bernard Olson on Christmas Eve — are in Minnesota.

Mike Hammer, education coordinator in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Enforcement Division, said complete statistics are not available on bowhunting incidents because the state does not require reports of injuries resulting from elevated stands.

Family members confirmed last week that an initial investigation suggesting Olson might have fallen on an arrow, severely injuring himself, matches what they were told following an autopsy.

“What we see typically are falls from elevated stands. They are fairly common, but they rarely end up as fatalities,” Hammer said.

To stay as safe as possible when hunting from a stand, the DNR points to several practices.

“You can help prevent accidental falls by following certain instructions,” Hammer said.

One important method to follow is the three-point-rule, meaning two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand need to always be in contact with the ladder or other mechanism when climbing.

Another is to follow manufacturing instructions to install and maintain stands.

“Any time you leave the ground, you need to take precautions,” Hammer said. “If you are more than 6 feet off the ground — if you’re changing a lightbulb — a fall can be fatal.”

Taking precaution and using proper equipment are the best ways to prevent falls and injuries, he said.

Hammer said equipment is available that covers broadheads, but it is still possible to injure one’s self with an arrow, depending on whether the cover is in use the moment that it falls.

The DNR offers a variety of hunter education and safety courses in different counties. Course matter includes firearm safety, bowhunter education, tree stand safety and wildlife species clinics. Most courses cost between $5 and $10.

The International Hunter Education Association (IHEA), a professional association for 67 state and provincial wildlife conservation agencies, also offers safety courses. There are online and in-field classes about hunting, bowhunting, trapping and muzzleloading as well as advanced courses and clinics.

The DNR does keep records of hunting accidents involving firearms. From 2004-2008, 43 percent of those accidents were self-inflicted; 14 percent happened when the victim was out of sight of the shooter. Other incidents happened when the victim was covered by shooter swinging on game, the victim was mistaken for game, or the trigger was caught on brush or another object. Seventeen percent of incidents are in an “other” category. In 2008 there were two fatalities and 23 nonfatalaties in the state.

More information is available about hunter education and safety classes on www.dnr.state.mn.us and www.ihea.com.