Finally, the opening weekend of the Kentucky Bow season has arrived. I had scouted and prepped the last several months with much anticipation for this weekend. Not only for this hunt, but knowing that this is just the beginning of a much anticipated season. I have several mature bucks showing up on my Covert Trail Cameras that are scattered across four different states, needless to say I was pumped to get the 2014 season started.
My first evening in the stand, I was set up on the edge of a bean field, but saw very little activity. Due to the extremely high temps, I elected to try a stand a little closer to a bedding area by a small pond. As the sun set and shooting light was fading, I thought to myself, if I hurry down and make it back to the road, I would still have time to glass the bean field where I had set the evening before. I gathered my things, lowered my bow, and unhooked my safety harness. With much excitement and anticipation of possibly being able to see where the deer were entering the bean field in relation to my setup, I grabbed a limb with my left hand and shifted my weight from the platform to the ladder sticks; at that point, the unthinkable happened…..the limb broke, sending me backwards and tumbling head first in a collision course with the ground 22 feet below.
As I began to fall I could see the ground getting closer and what seemed like eternity was in reality less than a second. Time slowed down, and I mean to a snail’s pace. As I was falling several thoughts ran through my head. I told myself to tuck my arms in, tuck my chin down, and let my air out to keep from getting the breath knocked out of me. As I impacted the ground, I remember hearing the loudest thud, seemingly echoing for miles.
Rolling around trying to catch my breath telling myself to stay calm, I’ve been here before, I ‘ve had the breath knocked out of me many times during my high school and post high school grid iron days. As I caught my breath and took that first full breath, there was a calm that came over me. I remember thinking, that was an experience I did not want to repeat. I had a lot of pain, but nothing that was overwhelming. I stood up and turned to look for my bow, that’s when it everything seemed to “spiral” out of control. I use the term spiral, you will understand why later in this article. I immediately fell back to the ground with an unbarring pain in my right leg. Grabbing my leg I felt a warm wetness that was beginning to soak my pant leg. I looked down and realized what I was feeling, it was blood pouring from my leg. As I was holding my leg I could feel a separation in my shin bone. I then began to feel around and felt an object protruding from my leg, quickly realizing that it was my bone and I was experiencing a compound fracture.
This is when things began to sink in that I was in real trouble; I was over 400 yards from my truck and lying in hilly terrain. I had made my mind up that I was going to have to crawl out of here. As I rolled over to my stomach and attempted to get up on my hands, it was then I first realized that my left arm would not work. I could raise my shoulder, but from my elbow down there was nothing. I immediately rolled over to my back, leaning back on my Alps pack that I still had on. As I pulled my cell phone from my pocket, I said a little prayer to “please God, let me have service. The service had been spotty all evening in the stand and now at 22 feet lower I was worried. BINGO!!!! I had two bars. Thank You Jesus!!!
An emotional high went to an emotional low when I observed only 13% battery life left. I knew I was going to have to make a call and make it quick. I called my wife first because her brother was the only one that knew exactly where I had hung this stand. As she saw my name on the caller ID, she was instantly excited, thinking that the only reason I would be calling this close to dark is that I had smoked a big one. As I told her that I had fallen from a tree and believed to have broken my arm and my leg, she laughed and said “no, really how big is he”. As we went back and forth in this conversation trying to convince her of the accident, I told her that I only had 13 percent battery left on my phone and I was going to have to call 911. I told her of the bone protruding from my leg and how I was unable to use my left arm from the elbow down, and how there was blood every, I guess my tone had changed, because then and only then did she believe me. Her voice changed to a worrisome tone and immediately into panic mode. Now the roles changed, I was in the middle of nowhere unable to walk or crawl with 13% battery left on my phone and I catch myself trying to calm her down telling her everything will be fine. I told her to get a hold of her brother, because he was the only one who knew where I was and he may have to talk to the emergency crews to help find me. I then hung the phone up and immediately called 911. I have to stop here and tell you how thankful I am for the emergency crews of Butler County, KY, from the 911 call taker to the crews that were dispatched to find me.
When the dispatcher at the 911 call center answered I informed her of my situation. She asked for a location and I informed her that the closest landmark to me was a new school that had just been built. When she responded we are only a few miles from there, I overheard a guy say, I know where that is and I’m going to run this call with them. I explained to her where my truck was and which path to follow that will get you directly to me. I then told her that I was going to hang up and call my wife to let her know that help was on the way. Reminding you that this was less than a 5 minute conversation with the dispatcher before calling my wife back, she answered and said her and her brother were on their way. Shaking my head thinking, what are they coming here for, it’s over a 5 hour drive, but try arguing that with your wife, is useless. After 20 questions of how and why was answered, I told her I was going to call 911 back to see if she could give me an ETA on the emergency crews. I was thankful to have the same dispatcher answer my call since she was familiar with me.
While asking her to get an ETA on their arrival, I could then hear sirens in the distance. She stayed on the phone with me while I was waiting to be rescued. At one point I could not hear the sirens anymore and immediately asked her where they went, she told me that they had found my truck and was following the path. Just a few seconds later, I could hear an atv racing up the hill and could see the lights bouncing up and down as it was getting closer. I raised my phone in the air waving it hoping they could see the light shining from my screen. I heard a man yell “he’s over here” and I was immediately swarmed with several rescuers. I could tell the men that came to my rescue were good old country boys and they knew what they were doing. These men were truly at the top of their game. I remember one guy wanting to cut my Scent blocker boa boot off my foot, and arguing with him that they were my favorite boots in the world and would greatly appreciate it if he didn’t. After telling them how they loosened, he removed it, I remember him saying, I think I’ll get me a pair of these. (lol) Now I remind you, I was in pain at this time, but when they put my leg in a splint, that’s when the pain really set in. In a matter of minutes, I was taken off the hill and was being loaded into a helicopter. After an argument with the medics, because I didn’t want to fly in a helicopter, which I lost, I was in the air on the way to the hospital.
After arriving at the hospital, I then learned that I had a broken elbow, broken wrist, and two breaks in my right leg, one which was a “Spiral” Compound break, see, I told you that word would come back into play. Two surgeries later with metal pins, rods, and plates in my body, I learned how very blessed I was to be alive, while at the same time, I was bummed that my much anticipated hunting season was now over. You prep, plan, and save all your vacation for a few anticipated months of the year, and here I was laid up in a hospital bed with no chance of drawing a bow for several months.
The trauma Dr. could tell how much bowhunting meant to me, as he was a passionate bow hunter himself. He then informed me of a statistic; he told me the magic height of falls is 17 feet. Statistics show that 50% of all fall victims above 17 feet will die and the other 50% percent that do not die will be paralyzed. Knowing that I was over 20 feet high, I thank God every day for saving me, I hope my story can help save the lives of other hunters,
I have always been very safety minded when hanging and hunting out of tree stands. I have always used a safety belt and safety harness, but now and always moving forward, there’s one more safety product that’s in all my stands, the Tree Spider safety line by Scent Blocker. This ensures that I am never unattached from the tree, from the time a leave the ground to the time I’m back on the ground.
I now know how quickly accidents can happen and how quickly things can turn bad. I know that if I were using this product at the time of my accident, I would not have plunged 20+ feet to the ground. Instead I would have fallen a few feet and been caught by my safety line with no serious injuries. I have hung and hunted out of several tree stands in my life and never came close to falling. I am a former athlete that has continued to take pride in my personal physical fitness over the years, I thought this combined with my years of experience in hunting/hanging stands, that a tree stand accident would never happen to me, well it did, and it can happen to you too. Please for you and your family’s sake, be cautious, don’t get into a hurry, and always, always use a Tree Spider safety harness and Spider Line when hunting from an elevated position.
I want to give a special thank you to all the dispatchers and emergency workers that assisted in rescuing me. The Butler County Emergency crew showed up to the rescue swiftly and professionally and I could not have asked for a better crew!
For more please go to: Close Enough