"There isn't a deer in the woods worth losing your life or limb over."
He was affectionately known as "Quad". Not because of some love for all-terrain vehicles, but because of a tragic fall out of a tree.
Mike was his real name. He had been paralyzed for a couple decades when I first met him. He told me the story about how he and a couple of his hunting buddies set out to their respective treestands one afternoon. Mike had forgotten his safety belt, something he'd always worn when hunting before, but since he was already nearing his stand when he realized his error, he decided to continue on to his tree to hunt regardless. (This was before safety harnesses became the norm.)
He made it up into his treestand with no problems, but because it was a slow and uneventful hunt, after a couple hours he began to get sleepy. We've all done the "nod and jerk" when we get tired, but he "jerked" himself right out of his treestand. With no belt or harness to tether him to the tree, he fell to the ground.
He lay there unable to move, groaning in pain. The sun was beginning to set.
To make matters worse, it began to rain. This was back in the days before cell phones, so no way to call for help and his buddies were in an area far removed from him. There was nothing he could do but lie and wait, and hope and pray.
Back at their home base, well past hunting hours, his buddies were getting worried as to why Mike hadn't shown up yet. Thank goodness they knew where his stand was, so grabbed their flashlights and wandered there into the darkness.
There they found him at the base of his tree, and quickly summoned for help.
Broken bones and a severed spine would now change his life forever.
Fast forward many years, when I came to know him. Because of his injury, he was now a quadriplegic, relegated to his wheelchair. He could only move his head a little bit from side to side and up and down. To type, he would peck at his computer keyboard by using a stick in his mouth. It was very slow but it got the job done. I remember once during an online conversation with him, he suddenly stopped typing. An hour or so later, his name was still there on screen but no other words appeared. I hoped he was all right. I found out the next day that he had dropped his stick out of his mouth and there was no way for him to retrieve it
without his nurse there to help him. (She was hours late in coming to care for him that evening, as he needed 24-hour care.) All he could do was watch the one-sided conversation on his screen.
Later came the voice recognition software which was a big help for him.
Hunter Safety System's Harness and Lifeline and Tree Hopper Belt
I've also known a bowhunter education instructor who was a linesman by trade, who just one time didn't use a tree belt while hunting and slipped down the tree and broke his ankle in several places. He beat himself up over that one, being that he, of all people, should have known better.
Whenever I go out into the woods now to ascend a tree, I think about Quad, but I don't want to be quad.
Now, if anyone wants to hunt with me, they know they HAVE to wear a safety harness or they won't be hunting. My mantra is, "There isn't a deer in the woods worth losing your life or limb over." Wear a harness! Use a belt! Be safe. Always.
There have been occasions when I have felt like I didn't need to use a belt while climbing up or down (most falls actually occur not from falling out of a stand but rather from climbing up or down a tree and slipping and getting in and out of ones stand) but then I remember Quad. As much as I liked Quad, I didn't want to end up like him. Quad had become a driving force for me in my hunting adventures to always stay safe.
Let this be a reminder to everyone, that if you think it can't happen to you, it can, and it will to far too many a hunter. Remember, Safety first!