By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Saturday, thousands of Minnesota hunters will head out for the start of firearms deer season. They’re hoping to get a trophy buck, but a Cokato man is hoping they just make it back safely.

A week ago, Philip Martinson fell 14 feet out of his deer stand while getting ready for the opener. He broke his back and didn’t have a cellphone on him to call for help.

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“I found a tree that would give me good sightlines on this little area of trees,” he said.

Martinson has been a hunter, and a good one, his entire life — but even good hunters can develop bad habits.

“Let’s just say I was stupid,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of tree stands like that and gotten by with it.”

Last Friday, Martinson finished putting up his hanging deer stand, but when he stepped back to look at his work, he noticed something wrong.

“There was a flip in the belt, and I was concerned that it would compromise the integrity, or the strength, of the belt,” he said.

So he climbed back up without putting on his safety harness. He fixed what needed to be fixed, and that’s when his world turned upside down.

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“Next thing I know, I’m falling,” he said. “Boom, boom, two seconds and I’m on the ground. If I breathed, it hurt. If I moved, it hurt. So I stayed there a while and gathered my thoughts.”

To make matters worse he didn’t have a cellphone to call for help. So Martinson crawled a painful 20 feet to his truck, pulled himself inside, and drove home in agonizing discomfort. His wife rushed him to the Hutchinson hospital before he was transferred him to Hennepin County Medical Center.

His L-1 vertebrae was broken in three places.

“I think he’s extremely lucky, because when the spinal column is broken in both the front and the back, many patients become paralyzed or very weak in the lower extremities,” Dr. Uzma Samadani said.

Martinson will go home this weekend, but he’ll have to wear a brace for three weeks. He hopes to be the first and the last hunter to go through something like this.

“I’m so blessed,” he said. “Always wear your safety harness, and wear your tree belt. I know it’s hard. It’s hard to get the belts around them, but it’s a safety harness for a reason.”

Doctors said Martinson will have discomfort for three months before he fully heals. They also recommend that if you are putting up a deer stand, take a friend with you and bring your cellphone.

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If you do have a back or neck injury, call for help and let medical personnel come to you.

John Lauritsen