Michigan DNR Officer Tracks Down And Rescues 75-Year-Old Hunter Who Fell From Tree Stand

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Earlier this week, emergency dispatchers in Lake County Michigan received a call from a man who said he had fallen from a considerable height and broken his back.

Before the could get his name or location, the call was dropped due to poor cell service in the area the injured man was calling from. The call was so brief that the software system in place was unable to track the location of caller, so authorities in the area immediately went to work trying to figure out who the number was registered with.

Josiah Killingbeck, a conservation officer with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources was on patrol when news of the distress call came across his wire. When he checked in with police in the area, he learned the number belonged to a 75-year-old man. Authorities were able to track the mans son, who told them his father had gone to the Whiskey Creek area to get his tree stands in order for the upcoming deer season.

Had the man not shared his plans with his son, he might not be alive today. It’s something that a spokesman for the Michigan DNR emphasized that everyone who spends time in the great outdoors should get in the habit of doing.

“Whether you are hunting, hiking or trail riding you should always share your plans with a family member or friend. 

In the plan, you should list where you are going to be and when you expect to return. You should also include any alternate locations you may be at, in case weather or other conditions change your plans. Sharing this information could be the difference between life and death if you are injured and cannot call for help.”

Thanks to the tip from the man’s son, officer Killingbeck went to the Whiskey Creek area and was able to find fresh tire tracks headed down an unmarked road. Close to 10 pm and long after it had gotten dark, Killingbeck found a red GMC pick up truck parked on the side of the road.

Killingbeck forward on the GPS coordinates of the truck and called for backup to help try and find the injured man. He soon stumbled upon an unmarked walking trail which led to a bike trail that looked like it had fresh footprints on it.

He began to shout in hopes that the injured man would hear him, but at first he got no response. As he continued exploring the area, he finally heard the man faintly responding with cries for help from about 50-yards away. Soon the officer found the laying at the base of an oak tree next to a collapsed tree stand. The man had been laying on the ground for nearly 11 hours by the time Killingbeck found him.

The man said that had fallen from a height of about 30-feet after he grabbed a dead tree branch while trying to get the stand unhooked from the tree. He would have called for help sooner and followed up on the dropped call, but the lack of cell-phone service prevented him from doing so.

Killingbeck stayed with the main until state troopers could arrive on the scene to provide additional support. Finally, closer to midnight and more than 12 hours after he had fallen from the tree, the man was carried out of the woods on a backboard and promptly airlifted to to a nearby trauma center to receive treatment for his injuries.

Unfortunately falls like this from tree stands are all too common. With deer season around the corner, every hunter should brush up on tree stand safety protocols. Most importantly, hunters have no excuse not to use a safety harness when hunting from a tree.

Bass Pro Shops offers several great options if you need a new one as you prepare to hunt this fall.

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This video from Michigan DNR expands on the infographic with more information.

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