In the modern era of hunting, it's easy to get complacent and forget you're entering the animal's domain. Even in smaller hunting areas, the woods and nature can be deadly to those who aren't careful. All it takes is one wrong path in the woods to get lost, or one bad fall to leave you far from your vehicle and the safety of home. In truth, most hunting survival stories start out incredibly routine with people finding themselves fighting for their lives in a place they've been a hundred times before. It's easy to get complacent and think we've conquered nature. Even for those who are embarking on a hunt that is more dangerous than most of us would, we usually make plans for almost any contingency. That is, until nature throws us a curveball. Sometimes it is an animal that is wholly uncooperative, and sometimes it is nature, but when a well-planned hunt goes south, it's anybody's guess as to the outcome. With that in mind, let's look at a few of the tales that give us a keen reminder of what not to do, or at least tell us to never take nature for granted. Hunting is our passion and our way of life, but let's not forget that wild game is just that, wild. Sadly, there are many tales of hunting adventures gone bad, and these are just a few. Here's hoping that some small portion of these tales can be a useful lesson to the rest of us.
Elk Hunter Mauled By Grizzly
Let's be honest- how many times have we heard of this same scenario? Those of us who don't live and hunt in grizzly bear territory have no idea of what it takes to prepare for just such a scenario. And truthfully, even among those who do live in grizzly territory, how many expect it to ever happen to them? Even when you're prepared for the worst, things can go south in a hurry, as this bear attack story illustrates.
In early October, 2021 Jeremy Dickson was elk hunting with friends near Grizzly Ridge in Wyoming when a big sow grizzly found him and began to attack.
"She came over the top from the east side of the ridge about 15 to 20 yards away from us," Dickson told the Casper Star-Tribune.
It's easy to forget how fast bears are, especially when they decide to attack. By the time Dickson realized the bruin was there, it was too late to react.
"That's when she tackled me. I turned around, and she hit me from the side. I never even got all the way turned around," Dickson said.
Dickson, who is an experienced hunter, told the paper he always carries a 10mm pistol across his chest for just such a scenario, but unfortunately, he couldn't get it out fast enough. There's a good lesson here about never going on a hunting or fishing trip alone. Because thankfully, his hunting partner John, wasn't far behind with his .300 Win Mag. Although it's worth noting his partner still had to take a highly dangerous shot at the bear. Fortunately, he pulled off like a pro, hitting it just behind the shoulder. It was then that Dickson was able to free his 10mm from it holster and help to dispatch the marauding bear.
Dickson's hand was torn to sheds with his thumb only having on by a thread. Fortunately, the group had quality survival gear, which included some first aid kits. They were also able to get a cell signal to call for help. He was helicoptered out of the bush, tourniquet and all, where he had surgery to save his hand. In an illustration of this guy's toughness, he was back to work only days after the attack!
Duck Hunting Survival and Tighty-Whities
Sometimes an otherwise routine day turns into a fight for survival based on a series of poor decisions that the person comes to regret later. Case in point, waterfowl hunter Dave Maas shared the tale of a duck hunting trip gone bad on Lake Puposky in north-central Minnesota way back in 1984. After having to break ice to get out on the lake, the hunters got in a 12-foot duck boat and found an area on the east side of the island to set up. Maas tells of heading out in the skiff solo, without his PFD, to search for a crippled duck when the boat suddenly flipped. The accident sent him and a dog into the water.
"Back in those days, boats didn't have level flotation. The duck boat was barely afloat, with only the front tip of it (upside down) above water level about 2 inches," Maas wrote in a story on Grandview Outdoors. "The small outboard motor was weighing down the back end. If I put my weight on the boat, it slid under and kept going."
While he clung for life to the boat, his friend John tried to get help. John ran almost a mile down the island, and then started swimming across the narrows for help... in only his underwear. Unfortunately, this attempt was unsuccessful too. Meanwhile, Mass was struggling to try and remove the outboard motor so the boat would pop back to the surface. All while fighting off the effects of hypothermia that were quickly setting in due to the freezing cold water.
While this was going on, John had made it to a nearby farmhouse. It was there he found a boat with a motor and got it all into the water. John showed up just in time to save Dave from certain drowning. Sadly, the dog did not make it.
The lesson here is to always wear a life jacket while a boat is in motion. Because it only takes a few seconds to find yourself in a life-or-death situation on the water.
Unexpected Treestand Fall
Many of us have climbed a tree to hunt without a second thought. However, that's one of the most dangerous times for a hunter during a hunt. Dwight Jones related a story to Georgia Outdoor News of how he survived a fall from his treestand back in 2017. The lifelong hunter and pilot was climbing into his stand at first light one morning when he approached the last step and was about to sit in his lock-on stand when something in the setup suddenly gave way.
"As I began my fall, my body rotated 180 degrees with my head down and my boots skyward," Jones told the publication.
He'd fallen 22 feet from the tree to the ground. His immediate thought was the fall would either paralyze or kill him. Luckily, as he lay there for a moment, took stock of himself, and overcame the emotion of going through the unthinkable, he began to wiggle his fingers and toes.
"By the grace of God, my left snake boot had contacted a step (to the point that it punctured a hole in the side), which appears to have rotated my body from 90 degrees to about 70 degrees," Jones told the publication. "My backpack broke the fall and kept my head and neck from making contact with the ground."
It's safe to say this hunter was tremendously lucky. Jones called some friends for advice and they told him to go to the ER. And it was only at the hospital that Jones learned just how lucky he really was in this case. Falls above the 20-foot mark are considered to be top of the line for broken bone and internal injuries that don't show themselves sometimes until it's too late.
Luckily for him, he lived to tell us the tale. Jones is a hunter safety instructor and we're guessing this tale is a big part of his lessons for new hunters every year.
As we all know, there are just too many stories like these to go around. We often read them and think that it can never happen to us, but that's what every hunter that finds himself or herself in that scenario thinks. That's why it can help to learn lessons from someone else's bad experience. The bottom line is to remember that hunting safety has many facets and none of them can be ignored.
Make sure to always tell someone where you are going, who you are going with, and when you expect to be home. Communication is the key when it comes to our passion and remember: no one is asking you for your secret spot or your honey hole, they just want you to come home safely.
Here's to these being the last hunting survival stories that we ever hear.
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