My friend, Ed McCorkle, once remarked that bows and arrows are extremely dangerous implements, “mostly to the people shooting them.” Ed had been an archer for a long time when he said that, about 25 years ago, and he’d seen a lot of people hurt, some of them prettly badly, just from trying to propel an arrow toward a target. This is where the saying came from about archery being what happens while you’re making other plans. Or maybe I made that up.
I have personally witnessed quite a few archery-related injuries, such as cedar arrows exploding and parts of them going through hands and arms, and strings breaking on compound bows, causing small parts to go where no small parts have gone before. Checking equipment constantly is a good idea, no matter what kind of stuff you’re using.
Traditional archers such as myself would seem to have an advantage because of our simpler gear, but that view can be misleading. Compound shooters don’t string and unstring their bows every time they shoot, the way we do. And bracing a bow can be dangerous in itself.
A fellow I used to know was stringing his recurve before a 3D shoot in San Angelo once, and didn’t have the string loop set properly in the nocks on one of his bowtips. The string slipped off, and when the bow snapped back to its resting shape, the tip whacked this guy in a very personal, private, male region – Lake Nasworthy. I think the guy ended up having to see a doctor about that one, due to the resulting low lake level.
So archery is pretty dangerous to begin with, and then hunters add razor sharp blades to the ends of their already unweildy arrows, and the situation can go from zero to uh-oh in short order. Some people should never have access to sharp objects anyway. I’m not naming any names, here.
Add to all that the act of climbing into an elevated stand with all that dangerous stuff, in the dark, early hours of the morning, by a half-asleep hunter who has trouble walking through a door without bumping his head, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Even if the hunter gets into the tree without major bloodshed, he than has to get settled, remove an arrow from the quiver, and get it nocked without allowing the broadhead to come into contact with anything vital, such as his bowstring, or ears, or Lake Nasworthy. Bowhunting isn’t easy, and can be fatal.
Falling out of stands is another hazard faced by all hunters who don’t have the sense to stay on the ground, such as myself. According to some statistics I’m making up as I write this column, at least half of all hunting accidents are caused by falls from elevated stands, which is far more dangerous for bowhunters than gun hunters. It’s not pleasant to land on a box of .30-30 ammo, but it’s a lot less pleasant to land on a quiverful of arrows tipped with STOS broadheads. The best thing to do if you find yourself falling with a bow and quiver in hand is to throw them as far from Lake Nasworthy as possible on the way down.
As bad as all that is, it pales in comparison to what happened to Darren ‘Andy’ Royalty recently. Andy lives in Seymour, Indiana, and happens to be the only person I’ve ever heard of named Darren who is nicknamed Andy. But we ain’t got time for that.
Andy noticed, as many hunters do, that deer tend to browse along power line right of ways. There is such a right of way on Andy’s property, so he did some scouting and set up a treestand right in the edge of the trees near a deer trail.
But in front of every silver lining there’s a cloud, and Andy’s cloud came along in the form of a rotary-wing aircraft. Power companies don’t send a bunch of guys out with saws and axes to keep those right of ways clear, like I thought they did. No. They use helicopters. Very dangerous helicopters, more dangerous even than bows and arrows.
They hang long, bar-type things under the choppers with multiple circular saw blades attached, and I guess they can turn the blades on and off in flight. So what they’ve got is a vertical sawmill. They fly along the edges of the right of way, and the saws trim the limbs as they go. And anything else that’s in the way.
Andy was in the way. He was sitting in his stand, on his own property on the edge of a clearing, when along came the Blades of Death. The pilot didn’t know Andy was there, of course, since he was all camouflaged and hidden, and Andy didn’t have a lot of time to climb down as he saw the blades approaching, and he was hoping the thing would miss him, but it came right at him.
So, at the very last second, Andy jumped out of the tree as the chopper came over, and the blades sawed right through his stand, and turned his crossbow into splinters. The Field & Stream story didn’t say how high Andy’s stand was, but at least he survived.
Andy needs a new bow and stand, but it could have been worse. The saw could have gone into Lake Nasworthy . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who avoids saws, as a rule. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org