Tree Snaps With Hunter 45 Feet Off The Ground In Climbing Stand

When the tree Jeff Sutton was deer hunting from broke off beneath his stand, he launched on a 45-foot plunge to the ground.

GON Staff | December 1, 2006

The tree Jeff was hunting from broke about 10 feet underneath his stand.

On October 23, Jeff Sutton, 42, of Barnesville went hunting on a lease in Lamar County near Milan.

At about 4:15 on a windy after- noon, Jeff left his truck and walked 15 minutes to a small, overgrown swampy area about 20 yards wide that was the low spot between three soybean fields. In that low spot was an oak tree that he had been climbing for three deer seasons.

“I had been hunting a big buck there for three years,” said Jeff. “I’ve seen him a couple of times. It has eight or 10-inch tines and a spread out beyond the ears.

“From that tree I could see into all three fields — I could cover it all. I had 300-yard shots easy all around. I have hunted out of that tree for three years, and I have been up it 60 or 70 times.”

At about 4:30 p.m. Jeff went up the tree in his two-part climbing stand. He was hunting high.

“The tree sits down in a low spot, and with everything grown up around the edge of the fields I had to get up pretty high to see,” said Jeff. “I was up about 45 feet.”

Jeff’s stand was one that faced the tree. He stood on the base and pulled up his rifle and backpack. He placed the Remington 700 across the bars of his stand in front of him, and leaned forward to pull his safety strap, gloves and binoculars from his pack.

Then he heard a sharp crack — the sound of the tree breaking.

“It was windier than normal. There was a cold front coming in, and there was one good blow and it cracked, and I didn’t have much else to think about except holding on. I knew it wasn’t above me when I heard it crack, and I froze. I thought if I didn’t move I would be OK.”

Within a few seconds the tree snapped off about 10 feet below Jeff’s stand.

“It snapped off, and I went down,” said Jeff. “It wasn’t slow. If it had happened slower, I might have been able to grab onto something, but it was a freefall. All I had time for was to grab my gun and the stand and hope for the best.”

Jeff rode the tree down 45 feet to the ground in his stand.

“I never blacked out,” he said. “I remember hitting the ground and trying to get my breath. It seemed like forever before I could breath. I could breath in, but I couldn’t breathe out. I could breath in three times before I could get one to go out. When I got my breath, I reached out and pulled from another tree to get out from under the tree so I could get to my cell phone. I was pinned in the stand. I wasn’t mashed or in pain, but I couldn’t get myself out.”

Luckily, he landed to the side of the trunk and not under it.

Jeff was frightened that he had been seriously injured. When he reached out to feel his legs, his hand slipped into something gooey and wet – — but it was only a persimmon gel used as a cover scent that had burst from the impact. Jeff had broken several ribs in the fall, and he had abrasions and bruises on his face from hitting the tree. His mouth was so bruised that edics would later think he had broken teeth, but he had not.

Jeff used his cell phone to call 911. The operator insisted on a road name that Jeff could not remember, but he was able to provide directions to his truck. He also made calls to his son, the woman he was dating, and his mom to let them know he was in trouble.

When an ambulance and rescue squad arrived at his truck, they went down the opposite side of the field. Jeff called 911 back to redirect the rescuers.

By now, Jeff knew he was going to live, but he was still pinned in the stand, which had been bent by the impact. The EMTs had to cut the stand away to free him from the tree. They placed Jeff on a back board to carry him out of the woods, and he was air- lifted to Grady Hospital in Atlanta where he spent two nights before being released.

At presstime, Jeff, who works as the general manager for six Subway stores south of metro Atlanta, was still out of work. He is also out a deer rifle — the impact of the fall bent the barrel of his 7mm mag.

“A lot of people fall out of tree stands,” said Jeff. “Some of those are from carelessness. People want to know how I fell out of a tree stand. I tell them I didn’t fall out, it was just a freak accident.”

In Jeff Sutton’s bizarre incident, it was the tree that fell out from under him.

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