Nope. No one heard Gerald fall last year out of his tree stand, and his story still serves to illustrate why all of us who climb to sit up high should strap in, too. If you haven’t read the story in the archives, I’ve republished it here this week. It was one of my first blogs about a year ago. (And, by the way, Nov. 4 marks our one-year anniversary here at The WON.)
I checked with Gerald last week, who recommended his favorite type of harness system: “I’d have an adjustable chest harness with groin straps to insure that the harness couldn’t pull off over my head. Equally important, I’d want the strap that fastens to the strap placed around the tree to be mounted as high as possible on the harness. Some less expensive harness lack the groin straps and mount the connecting strap to the belt of the harness. Alert your readers to avoid this type of ‘safety harness’ like the plague, because, when used, the hunter often ends up hanging upside down. Most people cannot remain conscious for more than a few minutes in this position. Finally, place the tree strap high enough that it’s barely possible to sit down and be sure the chest and groin straps are tight.”
That sounds super uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as poor Gerald, who reminds me of Clark Gable, must have felt last year for quite a while after slamming into the ground below his stand. It also tells me that I need to tighten my Seat-O-The-Pants harness systems down a little more.
From the archives, Babbs in the Woods, Nov. 25, 2008
On Nov. 7, 2008, outdoor writer Gerald Scott pled guilty to two counts of falling: the first count – falling asleep in a tree stand without wearing a safety harness; the second count – falling 12 feet to the ground.
Ironically, in his self-syndicated weekly newspaper column, called “Scott Shots,” he recently had written about non-firearms’ related safety issues faced by deer hunters.
He explained, “A canceled appointment and an unexpected favorable wind direction switch provided a chance for a last-minute hunt on the evening of November 7. In my haste, I ignored the written equipment checklist I’d taught my readers to use and, instead, just grabbed my bow and a fanny pack and headed out.”
In fact, Gerald had not used a safety harness until this year, having hunted from trees without accident since 1965. In his haste, on this day he forgot to pack the harness and reckoned that the 12-foot stand ranked the shortest out of the 12 he had placed on the property. He said, “This line of reasoning demonstrates the danger of too much experience.”
Thirty minutes into the hunt, his eyelids started to droop and his chin bounced off his chest. This act made him recall why he had decided to wear safety gear this season. But, Gerald is a stubborn sort, and after eying a nearby ladder stand with a wraparound rail, he decided to tough it out and stay awake on his stand.
He said it gets hazy from here on in the story, until he hit the ground. He thinks he woke up just as he toppled sideways off the stand, and is sure he awoke upon impact.
This is gonna hurt
When he began to regain his senses, he panicked for a moment by the fear that he couldn’t see. After wiping the blood off his glasses, he discovered a pencil-thick stream of non-arterial blood flowing from a gash in his left cheek. He made a pressure bandage from a clean handkerchief and pressed it to the wound.
He said, “My body-part by body-part self-triage then discovered that, if I didn’t move, the pain level in the right side of my rib cage and lumbar spine ranked an easy 8 on the standard one to 10 pain scale. Movement sent the reading off the charts.” But, at least he could move. And, his cell phone lay only a short crawl away.
His wife, Amber, came to his rescue and took him to an ER nearby. Four hours later, he learned that he suffered fractured transverse protrusions on the numbers 1, 2, and 3 lumbar vertebrae, a fractured 10th rib and torn cartilage where the 11th and 12th ribs join the spine.
Gerald’s morals to the story
1. Don’t ever think that you’re too experienced to have an accident.
2. Be willing to alter your plans anytime circumstances even suggest it might be a good idea.
3. Have some means of calling for help.
4. Know enough first aid to be able to care for yourself until help arrives.
In addition to having been a professional outdoor writer since the early 1980s, Gerald Scott teaches “Intro to Writing” at State Fair Community College in Joplin, Mo., and owns a private investigative agency. You may write to him at gjsa at sbcglobal.net.
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