Supply, N.C. hunter killed in tree stand accident


Hunter fell 10 feet and was impaled by rifle barrel

A 17-year-old hunter from Supply, N.C. died when he fell from his deer stand on Nov. 21.

The young hunter, Justin Lee Smith, was on a hunting trip in Tishomingo County, Mississippi in the afternoon when his ladder stand apparently shifted. Smith fell 10 feet from the stand. He landed on the barrel of his rifle, which impaled him in the chest.

The teen was able to call 911 with his cellular phone, but he died shortly after placing the call, said Mack Wilemon, coroner of Tishomingo County.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for Smith’s family. Due to a recent job change by his parents, the family’s funeral insurance policy had been deactivated.

National statistics compiled through all 50 state wildlife agencies show that tree stand injuries account for the majority of hunting accidents, far outweighing accidental shootings. More than 95% of tree stand accident victims were not wearing a safety harness.

The NCWRC offers the following guidelines when hunting from a tree stand:

Prepping Your Tree Stand

  • Before use, check the stand’s belts, chains, bolts and attachment cords for damage and wear. Replace them, if necessary.
  • Ensure you do not exceed the stand manufacturer’s maximum height or weight limits.
  • Purchase a full-body safety harness as part of a fall-arrest system.

Setting Up Your Tree Stand

  • Let someone know where you are setting up your stand ahead of time.
  • Select a healthy, straight tree for your tree stand.
  • Have another person assist with setting up the stand.

Using Your Tree Stand

  • Always wear and utilize your harness and its tree tether to stay connected to the tree from the time you leave the ground to the time you return to the ground.
  • Maintain three points of contact, as most falls occur when climbing up or down.
  • When climbing or descending, use a lineman’s belt and/or lifeline.
  • Raise and lower equipment using a haul line – Never carry anything as you climb.
  • Bring an emergency signal device, such as a cell phone or a whistle.
  • For more information on tree stand safety, visit the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation webpage. For information on the Hunter Education Program, hunting seasons and Hunting Heritage Apprentice Permits, visit or call 919-707-0031.

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