Hunter Dies in Saddle Hunting Accident

By Brodie SwisherSeptember 27, 20224 Comments

Tragedy struck once again in the hunting world when a Iowa deer hunter recently died while testing his saddle hunting gear for the upcoming season. Dane Purcell, age 43, of Dunlap, IA was practicing with his saddle hunting setup when the accident occurred. 

Dane’s wife shares the story below. 

Hunter Dies In Saddle Hunting Accident
Dane Purcell died September 11, while attempting to descend a tree with his saddle hunting setup.

On September 11th, Dane went out to practice his saddle hunting for the upcoming season. I spoke to him around 5pm that day and could hear the joy and happiness in his voice about spending the day doing something he loved. We ended our call with goodbyes, see you at home, and I love you. That would be the last time I spoke to him. 

Around 8pm, I was answering a knock at the door from the sheriff. I rushed to the hospital, hoping it was not true, only having to confirm when seeing him that, yes, it was my husband. We didn’t even get to celebrate our first anniversary before I found myself having to say goodbye. 

Dane had one full season of saddle hunting experience and had stick climbing and rope climbing experience as well. He was methodical and deliberate in his approach.

Dane was at a public 3D archery range on the afternoon of Sunday, September 11th. He was alone, and there was nobody around. Dane’s plan was to practice with his bow and then try out his new saddle setup.

Dane spent some time practicing with his bow before climbing a tree to practice with his saddle hunting equipment. It’s unclear what went wrong, but at some point Dane found himself in a bad situation and in need of help. 

Hunter Dies In Saddle Hunting Accident
It's believed that Dane Purcell shot his bow on the archery range before climbing a tree to practice with his new saddle hunting setup.

At some point, Dane made vocal distress calls which were heard by a squirrel hunter, who was not certain what he was hearing in the distance and disregarded them at first. After hearing Dane’s cries for help again, the squirrel hunter moved closer to investigate the noise. 

Upon arriving on the scene, the hunter reported that Dane was upright in his saddle (not upside down), about 6 feet off the ground, in distress and on the brink of losing consciousness (reason unknown).

The hunter was unable to get him down, or cut him out. As Dane lost consciousness, he fell backwards and inverted. Unable to help free Dane from the saddle, the hunter called emergency services for help. 

Emergency crews worked on Dane for an hour to bring him back, but it was too late. Dane was gone. Based on the time of his last phone call and the time of the rescue call, it’s believed that Dane died in less than an hour of getting in a tree. The cause of death was determined to be suffocation. 

Dane’s equipment was found at the base of the tree. Among other items, the gear included a rappel rope, figure 8 rappel device, and platformThe squirrel hunter described Dane as being tied in with a black rope which meets the description of a tether rope.

Dane was 5’6″ and approximately 260lbs. He did have a preexisting health condition, but it is not known if this could have contributed to his physical state and reason for losing consciousness.

Hunter Dies In Saddle Hunting Accident
The last photo of Dane was captured on a trail camera just an hour before the accident.

Purcell’s wife hopes that Dane’s story could possibly help others to stay safe this hunting season. “I ask that each of you, please, never go out alone,” she said following the accident. “Also, that you carry a sharp knife that is in some way strapped to yourself. This is in the hopes that, should anyone find themselves in a situation like this, that you have help and a way to free yourself.” In addition to a knife, she also encourages hunters to keep a whistle within reach while hunting and climbing trees to signal for help in the event of an emergency. 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Purcell family in the days ahead as they cope with the loss of Dane’s life. A memorial fund has been set up for anyone wanting to help with funeral expenses following this accident. 

Stay safe out there this season. Wear a harness, use a lifeline, and always have an escape plan, regardless of how you ascend or descend the tree. 

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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