CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Acorns aren't the only objects dropping from trees this fall.
Since West Virginia's bowhunting seasons opened on Sept. 29, one hunter has been killed and eight others have suffered life-threatening injuries in falls from tree stands.
If falls keep occurring at that rate, this could turn out to be the worst year in state history for tree-stand accidents. According to Lt. Tim Coleman, hunter education coordinator for the Division of Natural Resources' Law Enforcement Section, 14 hunters were injured in 2011, the most accident-filled year to date.
"Falls from elevated platforms are now the leading cause of hunting incidents nationwide," Coleman said.
Dr. Norman Wood knows how dangerous a plunge from a stand can be.
Fourteen years ago, the Fort Ashby physician broke his back in a fall from a stand. He has since become an expert on tree-stand safety, and he recites the grim statistics from memory:
"Six thousand hunters a year are injured or killed in falls from tree stands," he said. "Eighty percent of those injured end up needing surgery. Thirty percent end up with partial or total paralysis."
Use of stands will ramp up dramatically during the next few weeks with the onset of the whitetail rut and the advent of the state's annual firearm season for bucks. With that in mind, Coleman has drawn up a list of tree-stand safety tips.