Gene Chague: Hunting from a tree stand can be very dangerous

Sunday November 11, 2012


We were saddened last week with the news of the death of Lawrence A. Lewis of Drury, who apparently fell out of his tree stand while hunting near Savoy State Forest on Nov. 3.

At the time of this writing, the circumstances of the fall are unknown. Perhaps he slipped, or had a seizure, or simply fell asleep and rolled off. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and was a valued member of the Berkshire Beagle Club. The last time I saw him was late last April while he was planting hundreds of small pine trees on the Club property. They were planted to provide cover and protection for the hares from overhead predators. Our condolences go out to his family.

Unfortunately, he was the second local hunter to experience a fatal accident while tree stand hunting in the last few years. Another bow hunter suffered a fatal fall from a tree while hunting near the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club several years ago.

Sadly, tree stand incidents and deaths are an all too familiar occurrence within the hunting community. According to the National Bowhunter Education Foundation, national studies indicate that approximately 10-30 percent of hunters who hunt from an elevated stand will have an incident sometime in their hunting careers.

Some will not live to tell their story; others will tell it from a hospital bed or wheel chair. Many accident victims will never hunt again. Some states report higher fatality rates associated with tree stand incidents than with firearm incidents.

Many years ago, brothers Homer and Paul Ouellette taught a basic bowhunting course for the Mass DFW locally. I had the privilege of taking one of their last courses and learned a great deal from them about this form of hunting and especially about the safety, ethics, bowhunting methods, and care and handling of the game.

Unfortunately, no one teaches this course in the Berkshires anymore and in order to take it one has to travel to the eastern end of the state. Log onto the MassWildlife's web site to find the details of these courses.

However, MassWildlife's Hunter Education Program has teamed with the to offer tips and an opportunity to take a free, voluntary online tree stand safety course. By reviewing this 15-minute interactive, narrated course, a tree stand owner or user will learn about the latest Treestand Manufacturers Association's safety standards and guidelines. I have taken it and highly recommend it to all tree stand hunters.


DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden recently reported that four hunters participated in the paraplegic deer hunt that was conducted in the Mount Washington area and three hunters participated in the hunt in the Williamstown area.

In both locations, the deer were moving around and there were several sightings, but none of the hunters bagged any. Nevertheless, it was a "very positive hunt," said Madden, and it was enjoyed by hunters and volunteers alike.


Educators of students in grades K-12 are invited to a useful, hands-on and fun Project WILD workshop at the Heritage State Park in North Adams.

Educator/Naturalist Aimee Gelinas of Tamarack Hollow and DCR Interpretor Alec Gillman from Mount Greylock State Reservation will conduct this workshop. Project WILD is an interdisciplinary, conservation and environmental education program that emphasizes wildlife, ecosystems, people and the environment. Workshop participants will receive copies of each guide, and a certificate of completion.

Pre-registration is required, so contact Aimee Gelinas at to register. Course fee is $25, but Northern Berkshire educators are free thanks to a grant from the Northern Berkshire Cultural Council. Project WILD is sponsored by MassWildlife and the Mass. Wildlife Federation.


Last week, I mentioned how the Stockbridge Sportsmen's Club "blew away" the competition at the Tri-Club Skeet Championships. Well, recently it was payback time for the Sheff ield Gun Club, as Jim Olmstead topped a strong field of shooters from the Sheffield, Stockbridge and Lee clubs at Sheffield's recent Iron Man Shoot.

The 100 bird shoot consisted of 50 Five Stand birds and 25 each of Skeet and Trap. At the end of regulation Olmstead was tied with a total of 76 birds with Jim Warner also of Sheffield. Olmstead bested Warren in a shoot-off to win the match and take home high-gun honors.

Rounding out the sweep by Sheffield was a third place finish by Joe Pothol, who came close with 75 birds.


In my Sept. 30 column, I attempted to compile a list of local deer processors, but only two people responded. This week I received an email from Chris Porter, who has been cutting venison for over 25 years. He has a facility all set up to cut and wrap deer, and to make sausage and/or hamburger. Deer can be dropped off at C.R. Porter Builders, Inc. 15 Taconic Park Drive, Pittsfield. Chris is the Director of the Onota Fishing Club, and mentioned that it is having its annual Game Dinner at The ITAM in Pittsfield on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 1 p.m., and expects over 220 people to attend. More venison is needed. He is willing to cut and wrap anyone's deer in exchange for a donation to the dinner which this year will benefit The Kid's Place in Pittsfield. If interested, you can call him at (413) 496-0105.


MassWildlife reminds us that black bears are beginning to seek places to sleep through the winter, particularly sows with cubs. However, if there is no snow cover and food is available, bears may not den up for winter until later in December. We are advised to wait to put out bird feeders until mid-December.

To reach Gene Chague:,
(413) 637-1818.


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