Archery is among the safest sports. Statistically, you’re 12 to 13 times likelier to get hurt while playing basketball or football. In fact, data compiled by the Archery Trade Association shows that golfers over the age of 60 are nearly four times likelier to sustain injury than archers of the same age.
Things get a little more complicated when you take to the woods. Bowhunting accident statistics are difficult to find because they’re usually lumped together with general hunting accidents. Hunting in general is pretty safe: According to data compiled by the International Hunter Education Association, from 2002 to 2007, there were fewer than 100 hunting-related fatalities per year across the nation, and that includes incidents involving firearms.
Today, given the widespread participation in bowhunter education courses, bowhunters are safer than ever. Through these courses, bowhunters learn the value of using safety harnesses, the dangers of shooting at unidentified targets, and the need to know what’s beyond your target before releasing an arrow, among other safety precautions.
Accidental shootings are extremely rare among bowhunters. Bowhunting is a short-range game and a majority of the time, bowhunters hunt from an elevated position. The ground is a fail-safe backstop for arrows that miss their intended mark.
The majority of bowhunting-related accidents involve treestand falls, many of which could be prevented by wearing a safety harness (see “Get a Safety Harness Now!” https://bowhuntersunited.com/2022/06/28/get-a-safety-harness-now/). Wearing a safety harness that’s in good working condition at all times is the best way to prevent treestand accidents. It’s also important to examine your stand to ensure it’s in good working order. And don’t leave it out year-round where it’s exposed to the elements and subject to damage from tree growth. Also, refrain from using homemade stands.
Other accidents can and do happen. Broadheads and knives used in bowhunting can cut more than game. Keep your arrows tucked safely in a quiver when not actively using them. Make sure you’ve settled down from the excitement of the kill before you begin to field-dress the animal, and then work slowly and carefully. If you think your arrow broke inside the animal, be especially mindful of the broadhead while gutting and processing.
Getting lost in the woods or running low on food or water during a backcountry hunt could get you into trouble as well. Make sure someone knows where you’re hunting and when you plan to return. Your archery gear bag should always include safety essentials such as a GPS, compass, whistle, waterproof matches or a lighter, and extra food and water. Bring extra clothing as well. Getting too hot or too cold while hunting can also get you into trouble. (See “What If You Get Lost While Hunting?”
Being in good physical shape can help you avoid injuries as well. If you’re planning a remote backcountry hunt, you’ll need to prepare with months of rigorous exercise, including plenty of cardio. Even whitetail hunters can benefit from some physical training. Consider stretching before hiking to your stand so you don’t injure yourself while walking in wooded terrain. Use bungee cords to tone your bow-shooting muscles, and don’t try to draw more weight than is comfortable. And of course, maintaining proper shooting form in the field and wearing an arm guard can help prevent painful bruises from string slap.
Finally, know your limitations. If you’re physically incapable of hiking in the mountains, don’t push it. If you’ve got a heart condition or a bad back, ask someone for help before dragging your deer out. Using restraint and common sense will help ensure your hunt is memorable for all the right reasons.
Archery Trade Association – Archery Safety
“Hunting Accident Statistics: Fatalities, Injuries & Tree Stand Accidents”
“How dangerous is archery?”
“How Safe is Archery? What You Need to Know.”