From something as simple as a forgetting your license or ammo to a deadly plunge from a treestand or nearly being shot, Murphy’s Law seems endlessly at work amidst the lives of hunters. Listen to these tales and then share your own hunting horror stories in the comments section below.
The most common bad luck to befall many hunters is more of an annoyance than generally anything dangerous; it is the key item forgotten back at home or camp. I wish I had a trophy buck for every time I’d changed pants right before leaving to go on a hunt only to get to the property to discover that I had left my wallet in the other pants. The first time I did this, I was a young editor at American Hunter and a fellow editor was taking turkey hunting on some public land about an hour and a half away. It was going to be my first public land hunt, as I had grown up hunting on clubs. I met him at his house in the dark, loaded all my gear into his truck—except apparently my wallet and license—drove out to the property, and as we prepared to hit the woods, I reached into my pocket for something else and discovered my predicament. Oh well, I bet the hunting would have stunk anyway!
I have a real love/hate relationship with waterfowling. As much as I enjoy the water, I’ve suffered some of my most physically miserable days hunting waterfowl. On my first true duck hunt, I joined a couple of hardcore duck killers in a blind in the famed Currituck Sound. We were several miles out and had just set out roughly 50 plus decoys when the prop fell off the boat!
No worries we figured, we’d hunt awhile since we were already set up and just wave down a returning boat later to tow us in. Then fog as thick as a politician’s lies rolled in and while we heard countless duck boats returning to the docks, none came close enough to see that we were stranded (without oars). With only two ducks down and an increasingly thick fog settling in, we tore long wood slats from the blind and used them to pole the boat, first pulling up all of the dekes and then working our way toward shore. Of course, in the fog, we weren’t sure we were heading the right direction, but after about seven hours of poling in a steady drizzle, we finally made it back to the dock.
A couple years later, while hunting a swamp in a canoe with a good friend of mine, we managed to flip the shaky vessel in chest deep water, losing a box of shells and a shotgun. I dove under the water and found the shotgun, but was soaked head to toe from the frigid water. With temps in the low 40s, it didn’t take long to decide, “To heck with this duck hunting, I need dry clothes.” We didn’t kill any ducks, either.
Lost and Found
Hunt long enough and hard enough and eventually, you will get lost. Just ask outdoor writer and AmericanHunter.org contributor Brian Lynn, who once wandered 10 miles off course while bird hunting public land with his dog. To add insult to injury, his rescuer turned out to be a barefoot and pregnant farm wife, with three kids in tow. Despite the indignity of his situation, Lynn was happy to catch a ride with the woman back to the public land entrance. He trekked the final mile to his truck in the rain, but was happy it hadn’t been the 10-mile trek it could have been.
For any sportsman or woman who flies to get to his or her many adventures, the fear of whether his or her gun or bow will make it in one piece is always a nagging thought. For hunter Mark Thomas, that fear was not only realized, it was witnessed as he sat in the plane watching the handlers toss bag after bag into the plane. As his aluminum gun case was unloaded, one baggage handler—apparently intent on proving he could destroy any bag, even one made to resist dents and dings—raised the case over his head and slammed it down on a six-foot piece of rebar. “It completely penetrated through, just missing my scope” said Thomas. The justifiably angered passenger filed a police report and wound up settling with the airline in compensation for the damage.
Since the invention of the portable, folding Baker Stand in the 70s, the way—and heights at which—hunters wait on a passing whitetail has led to a lot of successful tags being filled. It, unfortunately, has also led to a lot of hurt, sometimes dead and always spooked hunters who experience a fall. South Carolina’s John Brown was climbing into a lock-on stand in the dark when the strap holding it to the tree completely broke. Fortunately, Brown survived, spooked, but none the worse for wear. Missouri hunter Jason Brooks wasn’t so lucky. He was climbing a tree with an old climber that supported the platform with braided steel cables—cables that had apparently rusted through.
“As I was attempting to climb a tree last fall, the cable on my stand snapped and I fell 25 feet,” Brooks said. He suffered a broken arm and cracked vertebrae. Brooks warns hunters to wear their harnesses at all times and inspect their equipment regularly, both excellent suggestions.
Any hunter who has ever inadvertently found him or herself on the downrange end of a shot at game because other hunters were closer to them than they realized, understands the value of blaze orange. They also know the fear that crawls through your veins at the sound of a projectile humming by at more than 1,000 fps. Maryland hunter Michelle Elliott was in a treestand on a hillside when a group of hunters nearby began pushing the woods in a drive. Suddenly, one of them shot through the woods, in Elliott’s direction.
“The slug was breaking branches next to me as it went by. The sound was scary,” said Elliott.
It’s an experience to which I can relate. I was involved in a drive many years ago where a fellow hunter and I were lined up along the side of a road. When a doe busted out between us, he swung and shot a load of 00 buckshot right in my direction. Despite being almost 200 yards away, the shot ricocheted and whistled past, one of the pellets striking my Danner boot, but fortunately not penetrating it. It gave me a new found respect for the carrying distance of buckshot.
Taking the Plunge
Plummeting from a treestand isn’t the only way to get maimed from a fall. Just ask Hunter’s Specialties pro-staffer Chris Walls. In 2008, Walls arrived in Illinois to film his boss and a few other guys on a deer hunt. Walls was busy the night before the hunt organizing his gear in the lit cabin of a Boy Scout camp where they were staying when he decided to go say “hi” to the fellows in the other cabin. He stepped into the darkness outside, turned left and tripped over a cinder block. The real problem was that the cinder block was part of a low perimeter around an open cellar below, a cellar which Walls plunged into, striking his head and knocking himself out. When he finally woke up about 10 minutes later, the other men of the camp were gathered around him and wisely realized that Walls needed medical attention. He was woozy and his speech was slurred. A CT scan revealed an epidural hematoma, or bleeding on the brain. Had he not been properly diagnosed he could have died. He spent several days in the hospital and lives on today to attest to the value of flashlights and keeping open holes in the ground covered.