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Published on November 10, 2015

MU Trauma Surgeon Offers Tips for Safe Hunting Experience

Serious fall injuries related to tree stands common during hunting season

With the Missouri firearms deer season set to begin this Saturday, Nov. 14, a University of Missouri trauma surgeon is urging hunters to be safe in the woods.

“As an avid hunter and outdoorsman myself, I always look forward to deer season,” said Jacob Quick, MD, a trauma surgeon at University Hospital’s Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center and assistant professor of acute care surgery at the MU School of Medicine. “However, as a trauma surgeon, I’m also part of a team that treats 40 to 50 patients with hunting-related injuries every year. Contrary to what many people believe, most of the hunting injuries we see in central Missouri are not caused by gunshot wounds, but rather falls from tree stands.” Approximately 500,000 Missourian’s deer hunt each year. Many use an elevated tree stand to provide a clearer view during their hunt.

“Tree stands offer a better vantage point for hunters by expanding their field of view,” Quick said. “However, this usually puts the hunter 15 feet or higher off the ground. A fall from even 10 feet can be devastating ― especially if the hunter lands on something other than just the ground, such as hunting gear, brush or a tree stump. This can cause serious injuries to the head, neck and spine that could result in paralysis or even death.”

Michael Cooperstock, M.D.

Jacob Quick, MD

Quick said that tree stand falls usually result from improper safety procedures, such as attempting to climb up or down a ladder one-handed while carrying gear in the other. However, failure to use a proper safety harness is the most common cause.

“A full-body safety harness really is key to remaining safe in a tree stand,” Quick said. “All of the injuries we treat from tree stand falls are caused by people who fell because they were not wearing a harness.”

For longtime hunter Brandon Stallo of Columbia, Missouri, this common mistake almost made the 2014 hunting season his last.

“It happened on Nov. 1 during bow season last year,” Stallo said. “I was hanging a new stand, and although I always wear a safety harness, I didn’t use one that day. I thought it would just take a little time to set up the stand, so I didn’t attach the harness. I don’t remember much more after that until the ambulance arrived.”

Stallo fell about 20 feet to the ground, fracturing his spine and severing major blood vessels in his abdomen. After being transported to University Hospital’s Level I trauma center, immediate surgery was needed to keep him from bleeding to death internally.

“I spent 16 days in University Hospital ― three of them in the surgical intensive care unit ― and underwent two surgeries,” Stallo said. “It took me four months to recover from this accident. Even though I’m back to where I was before physically, it did change my life. I just feel very lucky because it could have been so much worse.”

“Brandon sustained injuries as a result of his fall that were so devastating they almost ended his life,” Quick said. “I think his story is an example that none of us are so experienced that we don’t need to use a safety harness. It can happen to anyone. The more time you spend in the woods and use tree stands, the more chances you have of experiencing a fall.”

For a full list of tree stand and hunting safety tips, please visit

Click here to download a high resolution photo of Jacob Quick, MD