Since the start of archery deer hunting season on Oct. 1, there have been nine hunter-related accidents in Indiana, eight of which have been hunter stand accidents, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

In Vigo County, emergency personnel responded Sunday to a call about 5 p.m. for a man who had fallen from an elevated hunting stand. Indiana State Conservation Officer Max Winchell said Dave W. Archer, 60, of Rosedale, was able to use his cellular phone to call a friend after falling 20 feet from a deer stand.

Archer was listed in critical condition on Monday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after being taken by helicopter to the hospital.

Winchell said Archer fell asleep, leading to the fall.

”This is a common accident,” Winchell said. “Accidents involving tree stands are the number one hunting accident.”

In fact, in the last five years, there have been 182 hunting accidents reported to the state’s Department of Natural Resources, of which 100 involved tree stands, said Phil Bloom, DNR spokesman. That is nearly 55 percent of the total accidents coming from falls from tree stands.

Most of those who fell from tree stands were not wearing any form of fall prevention device, which could have prevented serious injury, Bloom said.

National studies, Bloom said, show that half of all tree stand users wear a fall prevention device and that as many as 30 percent of hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will have an incident something in their hunting career.

Bloom said DNR recommends hunters wear a full-body harness, which is attached to the tree as soon as a hunter begins to climb.

Winchell said the full-body harness has five points, which includes straps that go around the upper thighs of a hunter, around the shoulder and are attached to a strap on a hunter’s back. That attaches to a strap around the tree and prevents a hunter from falling if the hunter slips or goes to sleep, Winchell said.

Last year, there were 33 reported hunter accidents, of which 18 were tree stand falls, or 54.5 percent of accidents. In 2012, there were 42 hunter accidents reported, of which 28 were tree stand falls, or nearly 67 percent. In 2011, it was nearly 53 percent, with 42 accidents reported, of which 22 involved tree stand falls.

While tree stand accidents are the most common, DNR does provide hunter safety training courses, which Bloom said are working.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service survey of hunters in 2011, there are nearly 392,000 hunters in Indiana, of which 266,400 are deer hunters. Another survey will be taken in 2016.

”It is a small percentage of the hunters that have accidents,” Bloom said. “We offer hunter safety courses, and people can also go online to look up when courses are held,” Bloom said.

The state hosts 350 free hunter safety classes a year, as well as online courses that require a fee. For online courses, go to www.hunter-ed.com/indiana. To find when traditional hunting safety classes are offered, visit www.in.gov/dnr and  search “hunter education.” DNR also provides a harness safety video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lluyhke638w (also with this story at tribstar.com), Bloom said.

Archery season ends in Indiana on Jan. 4, and firearm season starts Nov. 15 and ends Nov. 30. Muzzleloader season starts Dec. 6 and ends Dec. 21.

This year marks the third year for a special antlerless season, which starts Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 4 in selected counties, Bloom said. In the Wabash Valley, that special season is in Vigo, Parke, Sullivan, Clay and Vermillion counties. State hunting licenses are required for each season, Bloom said.

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

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