'I got very lucky;' Virginia hunter recovering after falling 25 feet from tree stand

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BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) — The last two weeks have been some of Cody McCulloch's longest.

Cody McCulloch is recovering after falling 25 feet from a tree stand. WDBJ7 Photo.

Since October 2nd, the temperature has dropped, leaves have changed color and the fall hunting season officially started.

McCulloch, for the first time, has watched it all unfold from a hospital bed.

"All it takes is a second," said McCulloch. "That is all it takes and it will change your life forever."

It was two weeks ago that McCulloch and his friend, JW Carroll, went into the woods to set up a lock-on tree stand for McCulloch's son. McCulloch was standing on the platform and was getting ready to step onto another stand when the cables holding his tree stand broke.

"All of a sudden, I just hear 'pow!'" said McCulloch.

The platform dropped and McCulloch fell 25 feet, breaking his lumbar spine, several ribs and one of his wrists.

"It was almost like a slow motion fall and seeing him hit, I knew it wasn't going to be good," said Carroll.

McCulloch landed on his feet and immediately lost feeling from his stomach down to his toes.

"I don't know how I survived," said McCulloch. "I really don't."

The days since have been spent recovering. McCulloch was transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Charlottesville last week, but experienced a setback days later. He was taken back to the hospital and treated for an infection. Once he gets back to rehab, he is looking at one year of treatment. There is no clear prognosis.

"Just waiting for my nerves to wake up," said McCulloch. "I got very lucky, very lucky."

Tree stand falls are the most common, and most serious, type of accident for hunters, according to the Tree Stand Safety Awareness Foundation.

"The number one cause of people falling is actually just a slip or loss of grip or loss of balance," said Glen Mayhew, who is serving as president of the foundation.

According to Mayhew, in 2018, about 3,000 tree stand falls resulted in serious injury or death.

"It can be done safely," said Mayhew.

The foundation works to spread the "ABCs of Tree Stand Safety." Mayhew said hunters should always inspect their stands, buckle on a full-body harness and connect before their feet ever leave the ground.

McCulloch preaches the same principles, but forgot his harness the day of his accident. While he would like to see a better design for tree stands, he wants to remind hunters to always wear a harness.

"A safety harness would take care of the whole thing," said McCulloch. "So my big thing is wear your safety harness."

McCulloch is slowly regaining feeling in his legs. While it will be a long fight, he says he is ready and that an outpouring of love from the hunting community is fueling him forward. Friends, family and hunters have raised more than $18,000 to help McCulloch with medical bills.

"I hope one day to be able to thank everybody and prove the kind of person that everybody thinks I am," said McCulloch.

McCulloch's other source of inspiration is found in his two sons. A card from one is hanging near his bed.

"They are my push. I want to be able to take them in the woods, and just be there for them. It is definitely my drive," said McCulloch.

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