Copperhead Bite At Dixon Memorial WMA

Bowhunter makes full recovery after a frightening few days in pain, but hospital bill exceeds $200,000.

Craig James | October 4, 2019

Thursday, Sept. 26 started out like another typical day of bow season for Dave Johnson, of Waycross. Dave, 47, hunts as often as he can at Dixon Memorial WMA in Ware County.

Little did he know that this hunt was going to be anything but typical.

After sitting in the stand for a little while, Dave witnessed some folks illegally picking palmetto berries a couple hundred yards from the tree he had climbed.

“With all the racket they were making, I figured I might as well call it quits for the morning,” said Dave.

After climbing down, Dave dropped a pin as he disconnected his climber from the tree. When he reached down to grab the pin, that’s when things went wrong.

“I reached down to grab the pin, and that’s when he struck me in the left arm. I knew it wasn’t good, but I didn’t realize just how bad my situation really was,” Dave added.

What struck him was a snake. Although Dave clearly saw the snake, he wasn’t sure just exactly what kind it was. His first move was to text his wife and tell her what had happened.

“I told her about the bite, but truthfully I didn’t think things were that bad. I’ve been bit by all kinds of non-poisonous snakes in my younger years, and I figured it wasn’t that serious,” said Dave.

Dave is a member of a Facebook group called Satilla Outdoors and made a post about being bitten by the snake.

“Everybody was telling me I needed to go to the hospital and to call an ambulance. By then I was really starting to hurt bad, and my arm was swelling,” said Dave.

Dave’s long-time friend Ricky Kicklighter heard about the bite and called 911. He told the dispatcher about the bite his friend had sustained and gave them Dave’s cell number.

“911 called me on my phone and talked to me until I made it out to the main road. They were waiting on me there and immediately rushed me to the hospital,” said Dave.

After arriving, doctors showed Dave pictures of several snakes to try and identify what had bitten him.

“I pointed to a picture and said, ‘That’s got to be the twin to the snake that bit me,'” he said.

The snake Dave showed medical staff was a copperhead, which is a rare snake in the deep southeast Georgia area. Toxicology reports later backed up Dave’s identification with a near perfect match for copperhead venom.

Dave Johnson’s left arm just a few minutes after being bit by a copperhead at Dixon Memorial WMA.

After admitting Dave to ICU, doctors hurried to administer antivenom as Dave’s arm continued to swell. 

“That’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Burning, stabbing, aching pain, it was miserable. When they gave me the antivenom at first, I felt even worse,” said Dave. 

Doctors had to administer a total of eight vials of antivenom—at a cost of $4,400 per vial— to combat the affects of the copperhead bite. 

Eight hours later, Dave’s symptoms were slowly going away.

“On Friday, I was feeling a lot better, with the exception of some pain and my vision being a little blurry,” said Dave. “Against the doctor’s orders, I asked to be released from the hospital so I could go home and get ready to do some more hunting.”

The total hospital bill so far has exceeded $200,000, according to Dave.

Once Dave made it home, after talking with his wife and some friends, he decided to give it a few more days before heading back to the woods. After a few days of rest, Dave was back at Dixon Memorial doing what he loves.

“It hasn’t even been a week since the bite, but I can’t stand it. I had to get back in the woods. I’m thankful to the good Lord that it wasn’t worse than it was. I’m also thankful for my good friends who encouraged me to get to the hospital. If not for them, my situation might have been a good deal worse.”

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