DES MOINES, Iowa -- The DNR says 24-year-old Bobbie Joe Stephens was hunting in southern Warren County out of a tree stand when the straps holding it to the tree snapped. The malfunction caused the hunter to fall over 23 feet to the ground below, breaking his ankle.
“That’s the scary part about going out, if you haven't checked your straps or something crazy like this happens, you could not be coming home to your family,” said Mark Wagner of Archery Field and Sports
Wagner says Stephens was lucky to come out of the woods with just broken bones. The DNR says the stand had been left up since last year, and the straps had weathered.
“Those trees, each year they grow just a little bit, so those straps get stretched, they weather, rot, and things can happen,” said Wagner.
The DNR also say Stephens was not able to hook up to his harness.
“We do encourage wearing the safety harnesses, leaving your method of take--whether it be a gun or a bow--on the ground, and using a pull up rope to get your stuff up there, so after you make it up and are harnessed in that you can pull your equipment up there safely,” said Conservation Officer Aaron Arthur.
Stephens was an experienced hunter and was with a partner he was able to call for help, which was fortunate. Arthur says oftentimes hunters are deep in the woods by themselves, and it pays to have a plan in place before the hunt.
“Make sure people know where you're at and have the ability to get in contact with them. In the cell phone age, have your cell phone on. Make sure you have it where you can get to it so if you do have an accident, people can call you. In the era we have now, they can ping cell phones so if you fall out of the stand people that know, 'hey, he should have been home a couple of hours ago,' they have the ability to ping your phone if it's on, even if you can’t get to it. So think about those things when you go out hunting,” he said.
Arthur says that this happens a handful of times every year, but guesses it happens more often and just isn't reported.