HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – As hunters across Illinois get ready for this weekend’s firearm deer season, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is urging hunters to use safety harnesses when hunting from tree stands.

IDNR says that tree stands are the number one source of hunting-related accidents and fatalities in the Prairie State.

“Our utmost priority is ensuring hunters’ safety so they can return home unharmed after every hunt,” says Jed Whitchurch, director of IDNR’s Office of Law Enforcement. “While we want them to enjoy themselves and achieve success in the field, we emphasize putting safety first. Our recommendation for hunters is to prioritize safety above all other considerations.”

IDNR has recorded two hunting-related fatalities so far during the fall 2023 hunting season, both of which involved tree stands. One fatality happened when a hunter fell out of a 15-foot-tall stand. The second occurred when a hunter who’d been reported missing was eventually found dead on the ground at the base of his ladder stand.

IDNR says that tree stand falls often happen from heights of 20 to 30 feet and can cause significant injuries, such as broken bones, spinal damage, internal bleeding and paralysis. Most injuries are preventable through the use of fall arrest systems, making sure all tree stand equipment is in good working condition and avoiding drug and alcohol use.

“By using a functional and trustworthy fall arrest system and thoroughly examining every tree stand component prior to use, most tree stand accidents can be avoided,” says Whitchurch. “The consequences of falling from a tree stand can have a lasting impact on hunters and their loved ones. The Illinois Conservation Police strongly emphasize prioritizing safety in all hunting endeavors.”

IDNR also says that hunters should take a cell phone with them, use a haul line to bring up unloaded firearms, bows and other hunting equipment, and be sure to inform a friend or loved one where they intend to hunt and when they’ll return.

The 2023 firearm deer season dates are November 17-19 and November 30-December 3. More information can be found at IDNR’s hunter safety website.