Tree Stand Hunting Safety - My Near Tragedy Story
I would like to share an event that has painfully shocked me back to reality in way that many middle aged men will relate to. While in my youth I thought I was bullet and accident proof and possessed the skills, balance and stamina to overcome just about anything. I could never leap over tall buildings or stop a speeding locomotive but I have always been in darn good shape and relatively fearless with most things in life. Recently I learned that I’m far from what I used to be and I don’t bounce off of hard surfaces like in the old days. This story is about me falling from a hunting tripod last year that could have ended much worse – or even been fatal!!
I was hunting for Axis deer on a friends ranch near Junction Texas last November and based on seeing a beautiful bull a few pastures over we quickly abandon my ground blind and erected a 13’ tripod that was nestled in a scrub oak tree and strategically located to intercept the stud should he be so inclined to keep his travel route in tacked.
The scheduled appointment with the big guy would be for the next morning and based on a complete lapse of good planning and sound judgment I departed the lodge absent of my safety harness. Upon arriving at the tripod, exiting the truck, gather my gear and cross-bow I realize that my harness was safely stored someplace other then the back of the truck – likely right where I left it in my haste and excitement to get the morning hunt started.
As I went through my thought process of options; go back and get it, hunt from the ground or slip on my superman suit and climb to the seat of the shallow tripod. As I starred up at the uncomfortable seat in the pre-dawn darkness I thought, hell it’s not that high and there is a decent platform. I’ll just take it nice a slow going up, hang my pack on the pre-trimmed limb and pull my weapon up as per normal.
My friend suggested that we make a bee-line back to the lodge retrieve the harness and slip into the stand at first light – Me recalling that I was still very much bullet proof along with visions of the 35” in bull on my wall stated I’ll be fine. Man was I ever wrong!!
Well I headed up, hung my pack, pulled up my Bow and settled in for a beautiful Texas morning. The first hour or so was great! I saw numerous exotics and some great high potential young whitetail bucks that needed another year or two to be keepers…Until the slightest movement to my far right caught my eye. Out stepped a few Axis does with a young buck right behind them.
The problem was they were on my extreme right side and not taking the pre-determined route as planned. I just knew the big guy would show himself and I would not be able to take the shot unless I made a seating adjustment to take advantage of a shooting lane that was nearly behind me.
Sound thoughts of safety rapidly slipped away and I started to turn the swivel seat only to find that I was turning and the seat was not. Just then the buck walked on to the trail and was fast approaching the shooting lane. I had to do something quick or I would not be able to take the 35 yard shot. So naturally, I bore down on the platform and tried harder to swivel the seat, only to find that it would not budge.
Time moved quickly and I determined that the “T” handle must be locked down or perhaps the swivel tube was caught on a bur of some sort. The Stud was now in the lane and I grasped the “T” handle to free the seat as I still apply pressure against the platform with my muck boot covered feet. The Stud was frozen as I franticly tried to loosen the grip of the “T” handle and it finally broke free!
The chair swiveled lighting fast and in the process I was launched from the seat head and left shoulder first into the air. Now things were in slow motion; how long before I hit the ground, will the Bow go off, would the Rage three bladed arrow make a clean pass through me, will I clear the legs of the tripod – I wonder if the Stud will spook when I spat to the ground, I wish I had my harness on and a helmet would be really nice about now…
Well for some reason and somehow I tossed the Cross-bow and made a silent wish it was in the right direct. I didn’t clear the legs nor the welded on re-bar that served as the ladder rungs. I felt the rebar tearing thru the much boot hide on the inner side of my left leg until it reached my knee at the same time I heard a sickening twang that I knew was the sound of the deadly arrow being release as I continued my decent to the ground.
My leg ended up with severe contusions from ankle to Knee along with a nasty laceration at the joint that required numerous stitches to address, as well as my ACL being wrecked and in need of repair that I have put off until mid summer (I’ll be limping along on a May plains Game Hunt).
In addition to that and if you will recall, I don’t bounce anymore and the landing was not graceful or kind as my left shoulder was dislocated with my arm feeling like it was dragging the ground.
To add insult to the injuries when I was taking account of the my wounds I discovered that in the search for my harness I left my cell phone in the back of the truck and I now had a two plus hour wait for the appointed pick up time. Needless to say the big guy did not stick around to see with the giant falling blob was that thudded to the ground and to this day he’s likely still running the trails on the ranch.
The first order of business was to address the bleeding from my knee wound, I carry a field first aid kit with me on every outing, and however it was safely tucked away in my backpack which failed to make the flight with me to the ground. So, a swath of tee-shirt served as a bandage with the sock from my left foot tied around my knee. All this accomplished with a dislocated shoulder that was miserable painful!!
With the bleeding under control I thought about trying to walk the mile and a half to the lodge but after a hundred yards or so the pain in my knee convinced me that was a dumb thing to do so I turned around and headed back to the crash site. While taking a sit under the very tree I was posted in my shoulder snapped back in place – what a painfully weird feeling that was, but at lease my arm was no longer dragging the ground.
Once I found a “comfortable” sitting position I had time to think about all the stupid things that I’d done that lead up to the flight from the tripod. It struck me that the afternoon before I climbed up the tripod to “check the view” and shooting lanes I had never thought twice about a harness or strap to secure me during the setup – stupidly enough I’ve done that before, to only preach safety harness religion on wearing them in the stands.
Accidents are not accidents; there are a series of poor decisions that mount up to a bad situation or perhaps one monumental poor choice that could end in your loss of life. Suffice it say, I will never leave the ground again without my harness on me and securely fasten it to whatever I’m climbing into. One more thing – I never did find the cross-bow arrow, I’m just thankful that it wasn’t in me.
USE AN ARRPOVED SAFETY HARNESS!!