Man Falls 25 Feet From Deer Stand, Urges Hunters Not To Be Complacent

Robert McCormick | March 12, 2019

In late September 2015, I found a place to hunt only 350 yards from a main road in Walker County where I would also park my truck. I had no cell phone connection the first day when I placed my lock-on tree stand 25 feet up in the tree. I thought to myself that it wasn’t far from my truck on the highway, and I assumed I could get help if something were to occur. When I told my fiancée this, she insisted I give her a map of my location. To satisfy her, I marked the exact location on Google Earth, printed the map and gave her a pretty random DNR phone number while thinking, “Oh nothing will occur. It’s merely to pacify her.”

On Oct. 4, I planned to be in my tree stand before daylight on the following morning. Later that evening, I heard an inner voice, one that I believe was the Holy Spirit, that told me to pack my safety belt. I decided I would pack it in the morning since it was hanging next to my crossbow. How could I forget that, right? Being so totally fired up for my hunting trip, all I could think of was the buck sign and the size of the buck I was going to hunt.

The next morning the thoughts of the buck and the hunt were more intense. I dressed like a fireman, grabbed my bow and proceeded to load the truck and left.

When I arrived at the hunting property, I backed my truck into a parking spot, got out quietly, not using a flashlight, and slipped slowly in the morning darkness toward the tree that held my deer stand. Excited, I climbed up, pulled my bow and pack up to the stand. Then I began searching through my backpack for my safety belt, but I then recalled I did not pack it.

The moon chart said the prime time for deer to move ended at 9:30 a.m. It was now approximately 7 a.m. and twilight. I thought if I only sit for the next 2 1/2 hours that nothing would go wrong. Next, as I took a half step to the right to hang my bow on the hook, my foot was halfway off the stand. Leaning with my bow in both hands, I toppled, tossing the bow away from me. I yelled, “Going down!” in hopes another hunter in the area might hear me, but no help arrived. I was reminded of my complacent thinking that nothing would happen to me.

I landed on my back. Luckily, there were no rocks, logs or sharp debris. The impact left me stunned for about five minutes, I guess. Then, I tried to move. As I rolled over and got to my hands and knees, I felt numb but raised to my knees. Then the darkness turned to a bright light, and I passed out.

I opened my eyes and did not know where I was. After several seconds, I recalled what happened. I looked at my watch to get a time for how long I had been unconscious. I must have been out for about 20 minutes. I lay on my stomach feeling a lot of pain all over my body. My vision was still blurred. I loosened my belt and pants a bit, then I noticed something only an arm length away. Was it a snake? No, my shooting stick had fallen also, and it had a sharp point on the bottom end. I reached over and got it with my left hand, knowing this stick would come in handy. I used it to raise myself up to my knees again, and then I threw up and had blood in my vomit. I knew I must be bleeding internally. I raised my head as my vision blurred more than as if a bright light was shining point blank into my eyes. I passed out again.

Opening my eyes, I checked my watch. I must have passed out for about 10 minutes that time. I knew I had to get next to a big tree trunk for safety. I could use it for a wind block, stay a bit dryer if it rained and protect myself from predators. I knew coyotes would den-up in the cliffs not far below, and they did frequent this area. So, I tried two more attempts as before, passing out the same. I did move but only a few feet each time.

Waking up for the fourth time, I was in a good position. According to my watch, I had been unconscious for close to 40 minutes since my last attempt to reach the big tree trunk. I was next to a 6-inch log, and my was head was elevated a bit and only a few inches from the big tree. I cut a twig with my pocket knife, keeping the twig in my mouth so I would not dehydrate as fast. As I moved to cut the twig, I heard something that concerned me. It was a gurgling sound from my spleen area, so I thought that must be where I was bleeding.

Oddly, that was the side with the fractured rib but the only side I could lay that allowed me to breath with less pain. I was able to lay with my left arm tucked under my left side, which put pressure on my spleen to slow the bleeding.

Knowing I was on a blood thinner from a 95 percent blockage of the LAD (left anterior descending artery) 2 1/2 months before this occurrence, I would bleed much faster. However, I was doing all I could do, and throughout the day, I would look up at my backpack 25 feet above me, which had my water and cell phone, but it did me no good. I could hear frequently a vehicle from the highway where my truck was parked with a gallon of water, but I could not crawl or move on my hands and knees without passing out. I was in dire straits as I realized I could be laying in my grave.

The sun came out. There was a blue sky with a light breeze. It was a beautiful day as the thought entered my mind that it was a good day to die. However, I was not willing to die. I tried to raise up again and felt globs of blood running from what felt like my diaphragm to my intestines, so I lay down quickly before I passed out again. I lay there thinking my fiancée, who lives two houses away from my house, would not be home from work until 10 or 11 at night. It would be the next morning before she would not see my truck in my yard, realize something must be wrong, and it would be mid-morning before she contacted dispatch to send an officer to begin a search. It would be well into the next day before I was found, if found at all. I knew then I was in for a long, cold night, if God permitted me to endure that long.

As night came close, I kept my shooting stick next to me for a weapon, if needed, and my back close to the tree, I could curl in the fetal position to defend myself from predators. I felt I was as safe as could be considering the situation.

As darkness came, I heard coyotes howl not far down the hill. They were forming into a pack and soon would be sneaking in on me. Then I made ready for an attack. I lay still, listening because it was too dark to see. It was a cloudy night and no moonlight. I closed my eyes to use my ears for eyes. At first, I heard them walking slowly, panting as they came up the hill closing in on me. I felt like the the coyotes were as close as 40 yards away, but then things were quiet. All I heard was an occasional paw tiptoeing on dry leaves, closing the distance to me. I knew better than to use my hands or feet as weapons. Holding my shooting stick in a fixed cocked jabbing position, I suddenly realized a coyote was only a few feet from my face. I jabbed with the shooting stick, and the coyote yelped. Then, I began slapping the ground with the stick yelling, “Get, get, get!”

As the coyote pack skittered off, I thanked God for helping me once more. As I lay awake all night after that, I heard deer and other harmless animals. Luckily, the coyotes never came back for a second attempt.

As dawn approached, the wind brought a frigid chill. I knew hypothermia was the next life-threatening occurrence to encounter. As soon as the sun cast a beam of warm light close to me, I crawled the best I could for it to shine on me for warmth. I experienced a hard time breathing as I lay still, feeling the life drain from my body thinking it is a beautiful day and place to die. Unwilling to accept death, I kept repeating to myself, “Hang in there, just hang in there.”

I recall a flock of wild turkeys walked in close to me, and other birds were singing. It was little things like that which kept me hopeful that maybe rescue would find me. Then I thought if they don’t find me today, the coyotes may get lucky tonight.

It was around 1 p.m. when I heard human footsteps. I saw a DNR officer at 40 to 50 yards turning the opposite direction from me. I yelled, “Help, help!” He heard me and then saw me laying there and approached. He contacted 911, and paramedics were dispatched. They found me and began looking me over, started an IV, strapped me onto a stretcher and then carried me to a pick-up truck.

It was a bumpy and painful ride as the truck transported me the rest of the way out of the wooded area and to a highway intersection big enough for the helicopter to land. Then I was flown to ICU at Erlander Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn. The team of doctors and surgeons found myself going into kidney failure, and all major organs were close to shutting down. My back was broken in three places, my spleen was busted and bleeding internally, and two arteries busted in my abdomen and were bleeding internally.

A few days afterward, the physician in charge told me that he did not think he could save me when I arrived by helicopter at ICU that day. But I had God and a great team of professionals, which seemed like guardian angels taking care of me.

Please do not let complacency become the unforeseen killer of your life. I am alive today because of God, my fiancée, the DNR officer, the paramedics, the helicopter pilot and the team of professionals at Erlander Hospital ICU.


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  1. justus on April 15, 2019 at 3:15 pm

    Why you should never hunt from a lock on tree stand. Never seen one that appeared safe.

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