MINNEAPOLIS -- Philip Martinson was standing on a step he had bolted into a tree and was reaching -- farther, just a bit farther -- around the trunk to fasten together his deer stand.
And that's when he fell -- 12 feet straight down into a shallow ravine.
"Ow, ow, ow, ow," he screamed repeatedly -- to nobody in particular, in the middle of an alfalfa field.
After decades of deer hunting with nary a slip, the 58-year-old Cokato man suffered a fall on Oct. 27 that fractured the L1 vertebra in his lower back.
Martinson told his story from a bed at Hennepin County Medical Center last week, two days before the firearms season hunting opener, in hopes of helping others avoid the same fate.
Fall-related injuries are far more likely than gunshot wounds for deer hunters, said Jeffrey VanWormer, a researcher with the Marshfield Clinic in north-central Wisconsin who published a study last year based on five years of injury treatment data in his region of the state.
"They don't go one year and then they're done," VanWormer said. "They go every year for 50 years. So the risk accumulates."
One survey found that hunters have as much as a 1-in-3 chance of falling from a deer stand at some point in a lifetime of hunting. VanWormer's study wasn't so dire, but it found that die-hard hunters face a 1-in-33 chance of suffering a debilitating injury from a fall.
He found that injuries were more likely among bowhunters -- though that could be because they have longer seasons and therefore more opportunities -- and more likely to occur in the morning or night as hunters climbed in and out of their stands.
Alcohol consumption was detected in only one of the fall victims in his study, though only a quarter were tested, given the higher priority of treating their traumatic injuries.