Falling From Deer Stand: Club’s Buddy System Saves Life

In a tragic split second, this hunter’s life was thrown into peril— and changed forever.

Daryl Gay | October 1, 2007

Ten months ago, Jerry Timmer, of Eastman, fell from a ladder stand while pruning limbs that were blocking his view. Today, Jerry is confined to a wheelchair but still has complete use of his upper body. He has returned to work and plans to be back in the woods this season.

The ladder stand was lashed onto a pine in a new hot spot as the 2006 whitetail season wound down, and the excited hunter had only a few last-minute items on his to-do list before easing out of the area.

He climbed to the top platform with an adjustable saw, intent on pruning away a couple of limbs to clear shooting lanes.

But what came next, suddenly and tragically, was a loss of balance, terrifying seconds of a downward plunge — then oblivion.

When next he regained consciousness, the race to save Jerry Timmer’s life was under way.

It was five days before Christmas last year, and Jerry’s trip to his Laurens County hunting club was more attuned to the pleasure of getting away than the business of deer hunting.

As he says, “I just love the woods. It’s always fun being out there.” The ladder stand had been put into place, and securely locked down, two days before. After work on a Wednesday afternoon, his plans were to get everything ready for a weekend hunt.

It never entered his mind walking in to the stand that those steps might possibly be among the last he would ever take.

“I had my rifle with me, but I wasn’t really hunting that day,” Jerry recalls. “I got to the stand, which was very sturdy and well supported, put my rifle against a tree and extended my saw to prune some limbs to see a little better and have a couple of new shooting lanes.

“I climbed up to the top of the stand, reached out, and I guess I just over-extended. I remember losing my balance and going over — and that’s it. I woke up on the ground, but I have no idea how much time had elapsed…”


Safety is a prime issue with the two-dozen members of the Potluck Hunting Club who roam some 5,000- plus acres between state highways 46 and 126 in southern Laurens County. They have a simple but fairly comprehensive system in place to account for each hunter and his location any time he is on club land.

Jerry and his wife, Lynn, also have a unique one of their own: “If he said he would be home at ‘dark-thirty,’ that’s what time I expected him. That way, I knew he wouldn’t be spending the night in the camper we had parked on the club land,” Lynn said from the couple’s Eastman home.

“I knew that if he was not home by about an hour or so after dark, he either had a deer down or something was wrong. I kept pretty close tabs, because you just never know…”

Her husband very likely owes his life to the concern of those around him plus the safeguards that were put into place before anyone hunted Potluck property.

Club member Alfred Williams’ home is across the road from club land, and Alfred keeps a watchful eye on the comings and goings of his fellow hunters.

On this fateful night, although he had hunted and come out fairly early, it was a call from an uneasy wife that alerted him to the fact that there was a Potluck hunter remaining on the property — well past “dark-thirty.”

“As the night came on and time passed, I was concerned that Jerry wasn’t home and that I hadn’t heard from him,” Lynn said. “So I called Alfred and asked if he had seen him or checked the board to see if he had come out. He didn’t know anything at that time, but said not to worry, that he would go look and call me back.”

The board mentioned is a primitive but reliable map of the club property, with nails on it to show stand locations.

When a hunter goes in, he hangs a washer with his personal number stamped onto it on the nail representing the stand he’ll be hunting from. If a hunter comes out and there’s someone else’s washer on the board, he waits until that person, too, exits.

“There are two uses for the washers,” Jerry said. “The first, obviously, is safety concerns. Secondly, you don’t want to ever go out and disturb some- one while they’re hunting.

“If there’s a washer up and it gets late, we know there’s something up; maybe the guy has a deer down or wounded, or maybe he’s had an accident. It’s that person’s responsibility who sees the last washer up to check out the situation. We know where the guy is, and we leave him alone unless we think something may be wrong.”


On that fateful December night, something definitely was.

“When I woke up, I could move my upper arms and my head, but I couldn’t move my body out of the position I was in,” Jerry recounts. “I had my cell phone but couldn’t reach it. All I could think of was, ‘Uh-oh, you’ve messed up now.’ For some reason, my primary concern was coyotes in the area, that they would find me lying there helpless.

“I knew Alfred was hunting, because I had seen his washer on the board when I went in. He was not in the vicinity where I was, but I knew he would check on me if it got too late.”

But Lynn Timmer had a premonition first, and with a worry-filled voice, called Alfred.

“I went on, and I knew right where Jerry was,” Alfred says. “When I got pretty close to the stand, I thought about all the different situations, whether he was hurt or had wounded a deer, whatever. I just didn’t know. But when I called to him, he responded immediately. As I got to him, he just kept saying over and over, ‘I broke my back…’

“I knew better than to try and move him in that condition if he did have a broken back, and after I had a good look at him, I knew he was in bad shape. There was a really deep, nasty cut on his head. It was a terrible scene, but all I could do was tell him to not try to move, to just be still while I got some help — and I took off!”

One of the first things Alfred did upon heading for assistance was to call Lynn, who immediately headed for Potluck.

“When the first responders and emergency personnel got there, the big question was how to get Jerry out of the woods the quickest and safest way,” Lynn stated. “He’s a big man, and he was a long way back into the woods. They strapped him onto a stretcher, then put that on a big 4-wheeler with four guys holding him steady as they moved him as carefully as possible.

“Alfred knows that property like his living room and walked a shortcut straight to the ambulance, leading the procession. Those guys all did a great job holding him like a baby on that tough ride out.”

From Potluck, Jerry was taken straight to the Medical Center of Macon.

“When I finally got a good look at him, it was the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” Lynn recalls. “He had a very bad gash on his head, and he thinks it came from hitting the ladder during the fall since there were no limbs on the pine tree. There was dirt everywhere: in his hair, in his eyes, his nose, his mouth.

“When we got to Macon, the doctors cleaned him up a little, but they were more concerned with his injuries than his looks. And they laid it out straight to us about his condition.”


Like to know what can happen to a human body compliments of a fall from a ladder stand? Probably not, but Jerry’s going to tell you anyway. It calls for some deep thought next time you decide to climb.

“They did surgery on my back, putting in a couple of steel rods along with some pins. I broke five ribs on one side, two on the other, punctured both lungs, broke my back at the T6 level just above my navel and fractured several vertebrae in my neck.

“All in all, I thought I was going to die, and I very well could have. But they patched me up and sent me on my way.”

The next stop on his way was the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, a little more than a week later.

“I spent exactly two months at Shepherd and was released on Feb. 28 of this year. Now, 10 months after it happened, I don’t have any feeling until just above my navel. I can’t control my legs or move them. I have good upper-body strength, good use of my hands and upper body.”

Doesn’t sound like an easy trip, does it? According to Lynn, it hasn’t always been.

“It’s been pretty bad at times,” she said wistfully. “On the night it happened, at the hospital in Macon, he kept saying ‘I’ve screwed up’ over and over. But I told him we’d just have to regroup, to see where we need to go from here, and we’ve taken it slowly just that way.”

“When there’s an injury of this magnitude, there’s always some depression to contend with. I try to keep him out of that, because once you get into it, things just go downhill.”


Fortunately, Jerry has been able to return to his job in Eastman as a “financial guy.”

“My company has been good to me through this, and as a controller, I can still work. I didn’t lose any of my faculties in the accident, so I’m still able to go in every day. Most folks with these types of injuries can’t. There were two cases similar to mine while I was at Shepherd’s. The doctors said that in the summer they have swimming-pool accidents, and in the winter they have deer-stand accidents.

“I’m really lucky to be able to do my job, and I’m planning on going right back to hunting, too. I’ll probably be relegated to ground hunting, but I think you see as many deer on the ground as you do in a stand.

“If there’s a message in this, it’s to always wear a safety harness. If I had had one on, I probably would have been hurt, but not to the extent I was.”

There’s also a second lesson to be learned, according to Alfred Williams.

“Some of the emergency guys and first responders said that they were going to talk with other hunting clubs and try to get them to adopt our system for keeping up with each other.

“Like they said, we could have been out there all night looking for Jerry if I had not known exactly where he was. He had just moved his stand a couple of days before, and moved the nail into place to represent it. That’s the only way I was able to go right to him. Who knows if he would have made it if we had taken several hours to find him…

“Jerry seems to have gotten along great, and I think he seems to have accepted all of it pretty well. He wants to keep going and do everything within his power,” Alfred said.

But there are many things no longer within Jerry’s power. The camper that was parked at Potluck is gone now, since he won’t be spending any more nights in it.

Departed, too, is a boat and several other similar items no longer feasible to keep around.

And under his carport are two constant reminders of the way things used to be — a pair of Harley Davidson motorcycles that Lynn and Jerry rode together. They, too, are for sale.

If there is a positive in all of this, it is the indomitable spirit of Jerry and Lynn Timmer. The guy’s going to make it just fine, and she’s going to be there to see that he does.

Jerry shared this story not because he wanted us all to know how hard things have become — but to show each one how easily it could happen to us.

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