It was nice to meet you at the Evergreen Sportsmen show. Thanks for the book. Here’s my tale, I hope it’s entertaining.
I went to the Rocky Mountain Elk seminar in Portland Oregon sometime in the early 1990’s. I have always had an interest in survival and practice and teach various aspects of it over time. I saw Peter Kummerfeldt’s seminar on survival. His ideas were useful and practical. I immediately purchased 5 orange bags, I could see their value in not only protection for sleeping, but in signaling as well.
Saturday morning, Sept 27, 2004, I climbed up a hill about 1.5 miles from my van to bow hunt for deer in the Okanagan area of Washington State. I couldn’t find the crossing I hoped to sit at, but when the sun came up there were deer all around. I stalked a few, decided not to take a shot and observed a couple of deer going down the side of a small gulley. It had a couple of big evergreens located within great shooting distance.
I tied my rope ladder to a bottom limb and climbed up to scope out a place to sit in the afternoon. I found an ideal set of limbs and started back down. I got on the ladder, but the knot holding it up slipped. Gravity did it’s wonderful work of accelerating falling objects to 35 feet per second squared and in the blink of an eye I was looking at the ground hanging from a limb. My first thought was, this is probably the end of my deer season this year. I wiggled my fingers and moved my head and didn’t feel anything hurting that would indicate a neck or back injury. I climbed back up the tree with my arms to get a look at my right leg. It had gone between two branches on the way down and had stopped me from landing on the ground headfirst. But the big toe on my right foot was now pointed at my left ankle, almost 180 degrees in the wrong direction. It was 8 A.M.
My next step was to get down out of the tree with two arms and a left leg. I had lowered my bow and quiver down out of the tree on a 25 foot rope and swung it away from the tree trunk so I didn’t hurt my gear or myself when I climbed down.
I splinted the right leg with two sticks and a rope and decided to try to get somebody’s attention with my whistle. After an hour I realized I needed to get myself back to my van.
I tried using a large stick and my bow to hop on one leg, but that didn’t work. I tried crawling but the bones were rubbing together which was causing some pain. I also speculated that four sharp bones grinding around the inside of my calf could not be very helpful in the overall recovery. I looked around and there was a four foot section of a 2×4. I put my leg on it and cut up my long underwear shirt into 2-inch strips to secure it to the board. I tried to not cut off circulation, but to get it so my ankle would not move around. I dug around in my pack for more materials and found my trail marking tape. It was just wide enough and elastic enough to stretch without pinching my leg. It was also fairly colorful. After this addition my right leg did not move at all.
To get to my car I started to crawl. Sitting upright I had to lift the board up, move it forward 4 inches, then scoot up with my left leg. I would go 25 feet, the length of my rope, then pull my backpack quiver and bow up to me, rest for a minute and proceed onward. I had on dark wool clothes. My pants are tough as iron, you can, and I have, wade through blackberry bushes as needed. This was handy when you are crawling. I crawled for 5 hours until I was on top of a small ridge where I could see some other hunters.
They were probably a half-mile away but I started blowing my whistle , three blasts at a time and waving my orange bag, which is always part of my survival kit. They thought I was just being a jerk and trying to scare the deer away. They looked through the binoculars and thought I was in a wheel chair. One of them started across the field toward me to see what I was up to. I scooted down into some shade.
Joe looked at my splinted leg and immediately sat down. He said I can’t help carry you out but we know some people up the road where we can call 911. I said that would be fine, I was a little tuckered out by now. He gave me a bottle of water, which tasted great then went back to his truck to tell the other two what was going on. He came back with another bottle of water and a candy bar, both of which were wonderful.
In the small world category Joe, and his hunting partners Carol and Frank, lived only a few miles from my house on the west side. They put my stuff in my van and drove it home. It’s hard to thank somebody enough for that kind of help.
The first volunteers were there in 10-15 minutes. The ambulance came. I was strapped to a backboard then the whole group carried me to the fence, lifted me into the air, and loaded me into a pickup and down to the ambulance. The medics said they couldn’t have done a better job of splinting so they left my leg alone. They said that orange bag was easy to spot, they saw it from over a mile away and drove right to the site. The EMT was amazed that I would crawl 5 hours to get out of the woods with a broken ankle and still haul all of my stuff out with me. I got myself in, I was going to get myself out if I could.
I went to North Valley hospital in Tonasket. They said we can’t fix that kind of a break, you’ll need to go to Brewster to see the orthopedic surgeon. Would you like some pain medication? 9 hours after I’d fallen, I said, well sure, that would be nice.
Somebody recently asked me if I’d ever thought I wasn’t going to make it. To be honest, the thought had never crossed my mind. A couple of broken bones are inconvenient, even painful, but not life threatening. I didn’t do anything I hadn’t practiced, first aid and signaling, a hundred times before. I have decided that no deer is worth falling out of a tree. I hunt on the ground now.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks again, Edward Scullywest