Worst Things to Happen Hunting
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The 4 Worst Things to Happen to Me in the Woods and What I Learned

Hunting is a favorite pastime for most of us. However, as we all also know, the woods can be a scary place. You never know exactly what is going to happen; and if you hunt for years like me, you are bound to experience some things that are not on the itinerary. Thankfully, I do not have too many horror stories, but I have definitely had some things happen in the woods that I would rather not do again. Today, I am going to cover some of those experiences, and what I learned from them, so you can hopefully avoid them yourself!

Shot Deer Running to Neighboring Properties

Worst Things to Happen Hunting

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This is one thing that I hate the absolute most about hunting. When I am hunting on a smaller property, or if a deer just decides it wants to run for a while, losing deer to another property is the worst. You can avoid it by getting permission for that property; but let's be honest, that is not always possible with an over-protective neighbor. You can try hunting closer to the middle of your property, but that doesn't help on very small properties. For example, I shot a buck in a single acre of woods in my neighborhood this year. Luckily, I found that deer in a neighbor's front yard the next morning.

Unfortunately, I had another deer flee 80 acres to another property last season, too. I was hunting in a stand that I had hunted since I was young. We were set on taking a good number of deer from the property this year. So when a doe and two yearlings came by, I let the Remington 700 eat. The doe went down first, and I also mortally wounded one of the yearlings. I tracked that second deer until I found it lying down. That's where I made a finishing shot. When I did, I scared up the other yearling, which stopped only 10 yards from me. Naturally, I took the easy shot opportunity.

Unfortunately, my dad and I tracked that deer for nearly 300 yards before it went over a hill and through a neighbor's backyard. This property was in the middle of the woods, not a neighborhood. Walking through their yard was not an option. And to be fair, if it were me in that house, I wouldn't be very nice to two hunters and strangers walking through my property either. We were forced to abandon our search at the property line, and it still makes me mad. Sometimes, that just happens and there is nothing you can do about it. The lesson I took away from that one is that I probably should have been fine with the two deer I already had on the ground and gave the last deer a pass.

ATV Wrecks

Worst Things to Happen Hunting

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This can happen to anyone who uses off-road vehicles while hunting. Unfortunately, it has happened to me a couple of times. We shouldn't need to repeat this, but operating an ATV requires all your attention for safe operation. I'm not sure about you, but it's easy for me to get caught up looking through the woods for game. I have had a few accidents, including collisions with other four-wheelers. Aside from ATVs being dangerous, their parts are expensive. I'll admit I haven't always heeded the warnings about limiting the number of riders on a four-wheeler either.

When I was younger, my dad, my dad's hunting buddy, and I were all riding on the same four-wheeler. Obviously, this was a very bad idea in hindsight. When we went up a hill, we flipped. I can still close my eyes and see my dad literally holding the four-wheeler up with all fours long enough for me to crawl out of the way before it landed right where I was. Don't sacrifice safety for convenience. And don't forget to always wear a helmet and other safety gear when operating any off-road vehicle.

Hunting Other People's Hang-on Stands

Worst Things to Happen Hunting

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Sacrificing safety for convenience likely explains most of the accidents that happen in the woods. This is another classic example. A few years ago, I drove 12 hours north to go hunting in Michigan with a buddy of mine. While I was there, he suggested that I hunt in a couple of his hang-on stands. That sounded a lot better than lugging around a 30-pound climber into the woods, so I agreed.

What I didn't know is that his hang-on stands had screw-in steps—yeah, those little Z-shaped steps that are about $2 each at Walmart. Like many outdoorsmen and women, I am a fan of keeping things as cheap as possible. However, there's a fundamental flaw with using these steps. That's mainly because when you screw those into the tree, it is only natural to put them where you would naturally step when climbing the tree. It just so happened that my buddy was a bit taller than me, and much nimbler. Those steps were way too far apart for me, and I needed way more steps to feel comfortable.

Plus, there was no way for me to have a safety strap on while climbing them. I would have to take my hands off the steps to move it up, and that was more dangerous than no strap at all, in my opinion. I am not usually afraid of heights, but I climbed that tree at a turtle's pace. It was extremely sketchy and the closest I have come to falling out of a tree. Many hunters have done the same, even if they won't admit it. However, after that experience, I quickly decided I will never be doing that again!

Cutting My Hand While Handling Deer

Worst Things to Happen Hunting

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Another extremely important thing I had to realize as a young hunter is that sometimes I just need to slow down. I am always in a hurry to get things done for no real reason. It is just how I am wired. It's how many people are wired these days. Well, that came back to bite me one day when it was getting dark and I was dragging a deer after a successful hunt.

Before I move a deer, I cut off its tarsal glands, and if it is a male, the testicles. I could write a whole article about why I do that, but that isn't important now. Unfortunately, I rushed things while cutting one of the tarsal glands. If you've ever removed one, you know there isn't a lot there to grip while you're cutting. So it wasn't too surprising when my hand slipped. You can guess where this story is going. I cut the meaty part of my palm right under my thumb. Yeah, that didn't feel good, and it certainly slowed me down. Thankfully, it didn't require stitches, and I just wrapped it as best I could and put a latex glove over it that I usually use when cleaning deer anyway. It could have been much worse. Since that incident, I'm extra cautious while doing any field dressing activities.

Thankfully, I haven't had anything too tragic happen in the woods, but I have certainly had some learning moments—as any hunter will if you do this long enough. If I could sum up the most important lessons I have learned into a single sentence, it would go something like this: Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing. Put as much effort into tracking as possible but know it doesn't always come together. And never sacrifice safety for convenience in the unforgiving wilderness.