By Risk Management MagazineNovember 30, 2018
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (November 30, 2018) - It was December in Mississippi. On this particular Friday, I planned to leave work early so I could go hunting at my deer camp that afternoon. The temperature was a crisp 28 F and expected to drop to 8 F after dark. That was fine with me since deer move better when there is a cold front.
I had called my hunting partner the night before to ask him if he was going up that afternoon as well. He and I hunted together as much as possible - not only for friendship, but also for safety reasons. Unfortunately, he couldn't leave early, but said he would make it to the camp later that night.
The camp was ordinarily buzzing with other hunters, but when I arrived about 1 p.m., no one was there. I expected other hunters would arrive soon, so I put my gear in a camper trailer, changed into my hunting clothes and made sure my rifle was ready.
Confident I had everything in order, I signed out of the camp and headed to a deer stand about five miles away. Adding to my confidence was the fact that an unwritten rule at the camp was if a hunter goes out and hasn't checked back in 30 minutes past dark, we (the other hunters) go out and search for him.
I drove to a spot where I usually park and walked the rest of the way to a stand about 1,000 meters down a trail. I crept through the woods slowly as to not scare any deer that may have been out feeding already. After reaching the stand, I put out some scent and started climbing. This particular stand was a lock-down type with screw-in steps reaching 24 feet up into the tree.
After climbing up, I attached my safety belt to the tree and sat down. At 4:45 p.m., I heard what sounded like deer fighting so I blew my grunt call, waited and listened. The sound stopped. I thought, "Great, you scared him off."
I hadn't heard anything for about 15 minutes when a stick snapped. My heart started beating out of my chest because I thought a buck had gotten behind me. I slowly turned my head to see a big doe to my left with her nose on the scent I had put out. I raised my rifle, fired and she hit the ground.
I looked at my watch and noticed it was only 5:05 p.m. In Mississippi, you can harvest a buck and a doe the same day, so I stayed in the stand hoping a buck would come out before dark. Sure enough, one did. As he turned broadside, I shot him. He hit the ground and didn't move.
It was still light so I got on the first step, unhooked my safety belt (you might be thinking I was going to fall at this point, but keep reading) and climbed down to check out my deer. I looked at the doe first since she was only 15 yards away; the buck lay across a little creek another four or five yards away.
I put my rifle on my shoulder, crossed the creek and walked toward the buck when he suddenly pushed himself up on his front legs! I was not about to let that buck get away, so I began chasing him. In my excitement, I paid no attention to where I was running, tripped on some vines and fell hard on my right shoulder.
Even though my arm hurt, I got up and continued the chase. I spotted the buck, lying on the ground again, and tried to raise my rifle with my left arm, but it was too heavy. The buck started to kick and attempted to stand again. At that moment, the thought occurred to me that this deer might end up stomping me to death! Somehow, I managed to get my rifle up and end the struggle.
At this point, my arm was useless and now I had the dilemma of getting two deer and myself out of the woods. My goal was to drag the buck back to the creek near the stand and go get help, but the pain in my shoulder had really begun to set in.
I made it to the creek, slid into it and waded through the cold water until I came to a place I could get out. I made my way back to my truck, which happened to be a stick shift, and drove the five miles back to camp in first gear. Luckily, my friend and others were there when I arrived. They could tell I was in real pain and needed help. As my friend loaded me into his truck to take me to the hospital, some of the other guys went to find my deer. I spent a painful and long night in the emergency room with a dislocated shoulder.
The lesson I learned from this experience is to not get in a hurry and overlook the little things. Even with all my efforts to be safe in the woods by making sure someone knew where I was, using my safety belt in the deer stand and being careful climbing up and down the tree, I still managed to hurt myself badly enough to end up spending the night in the ER. It just proves there are no small hazards. Sometimes, the little things can hurt you just as much as the big ones.
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