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2 area hunters hospitalized after falling from tree stands

December 3, 2012

12/04/12 Indiana Conservation Officers are investigating two separate hunting accidents which hospitalized the victims.  Jason Dudley (46) of South Bend and Joseph Morehead (60) of Milford sustained serious injuries when each hunter fell from their deer hunting tree stands.


Jason Dudley fell on 12/01/2012 at approximately 5:30pm.  His hunting partner who is unnamed in the initial report, heard a crash from the direction Dudley was hunting.  They were hunting approximately 150 yards apart.  Dudley’s hunting companion climbed down and found Dudley lying at the base of his tree.  Dudley fell approximately 15 feet.


Dudley’s friend called 911 and the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Department and South Bend medics responded to the scene.  Dudley was transported to Memorial Hospital in South Bend and treated for facial lacerations and right shoulder and back pain.  Dudley was not wearing a safety harness.


Joseph Morehead’s accident occurred on 12/01/2012 at approximately 6:03pm.  Morehead was also hunting with a partner approximately 50 yards apart when he fell while attempting to descend from the tree.  Morehead was wearing a harness but it was not attached to the tree as he began his descent.  Morehead used a tree branch as a hand hold as he was attempting to lower his foot to the metal foot pegs he was using when the branch broke.


Morehead had a shotgun slung on his right shoulder and a muzzleloader slung on his left shoulder as he fell 20’ to the ground.  Morehead’s friend heard the crash and heard Morehead calling for help.  His friend quickly went to his aid and called 911.  The Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, Atwood Fire Department and Multi-Township EMS responded to the scene.


Morehead was transported to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne and is being treated for a fractured pelvis, fractured ribs, fractured vertebrae, and a fracture arm.


Indiana Conservation Officers recommend hunting with a partner whenever possible just as Dudley and Morehead were doing in these accidents.  The quick actions of the hunting partners very likely lessened the severity of each of these accidents.  Officers however want to remind hunters to wear a fall restraint harness system at all times while hunting from an elevated stand and whenever your feet are off the ground.  Officers also strongly discourage using tree limbs as hand holds or steps.


Tree stand safety is an issue that should not be taken lightly.  Indiana Conservation Officers want hunters to return home safely after their trip to the woods.  Hunters are encouraged to follow these basic tree stand hunting tips:


  1. Never consume alcohol while hunting
  2. Always wear a fall restraint system when hunting from an elevated stand
  3. Never climb or descend a tree with your weapon on your person, use a haul line to raise and lower your weapon and gear to you
  4. Never use tree limbs as hand holds or steps
  5. Routinely inspect your stand for defects, needed repairs etc.
  6. Hunt with a partner whenever possible
  7. Tell someone where you are going to hunt at and when to expect you home
  8. Carry a cell phone in an outer pocket so it is easily accessed if you become injured