From the AP . . .

Hours after an alligator bit James Boyce on the leg deep inside a swamp, the avid hunter had resigned himself to dying.

He made his goodbyes with his wife, Terisa. They had tightened their belts around his thigh as a tourniquet, but he was bleeding heavily and going in and out of consciousness as they waited for a rescue crew to find them in a swampy wilderness area north of West Palm Beach.

“I’m in the middle of a swamp bleeding to death,” Boyce, 46, recalled Tuesday during a news conference at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. “I planned on dying there.”

The couple had been hunting deer in the rain on Saturday when the 10-foot (3-meter) gator suddenly lunged at Boyce, chomping down on his right leg, below the knee. It wouldn’t let go.

“All I felt was like I got an electric shock,” Boyce told reporters. “I just screamed.”

He says he and the gator made eye contact. “He’s looking at me and starts pulling me back, dragging me,” Boyce said.

florida alligator
Bigstock

Boyce picked up his shotgun and repeatedly smashed the gator in the face until it let go. But it came back, snapping its jaws onto his ankle and boot this time. Boyce said he wanted to shoot it, but was afraid he’d blow his foot off.

As he took aim, the gator backed off. Blood was spraying everywhere.

“I knew it was bad. I just knew it,” Boyce said.

They removed their belts and pulled them as tight as they could around his thigh. She tried calling 911, struggling to get a cellphone signal. They were miles from their vehicle, in such a remote spot of the wildlife management area that it was difficult to describe their location.

Time went by. Boyce lost hope.

“I gave up,” he said. “We made our goodbyes.”

Then a trauma helicopter appeared in the sky. The pilot spotted the Boyces, but there was no solid ground to land on.

Danny McClelland, 33, was with his family in a swamp buggy when they noticed a helicopter circling. Someone on board was making hand signals to them. They followed along.

“He led us right to where we needed to go,” McClelland said.

Boyce was unconscious when they reached him. McClelland said his “red neck ingenuity” kicked in: He grabbed some industrial sized zip ties from his buggy and cinched them around Boyce’s leg, next to the belts.

They loaded Boyce onto the buggy and took him to the helicopter, where he was flown to the hospital. Nearly three hours had passed since the 911 call.

“We knew it was going to be tough to get there,” Martin County Fire Rescue Life Star pilot Brad Bost said. “We were trying to locate these guys based off their cellphone ping and that doesn’t get you to exactly where you need to be, because the coverage is so spotty.”

St. Mary’s Medical Center trauma surgeon Jorge Vega said the tourniquet and zip ties minimized blood loss and saved Boyce’s life. Vega called it “survivor’s instinct.”

Remarkably, the damage from the alligator bites was limited to skin and soft tissue: No ligaments or muscles were severed, Vega said.

Boyce was discharged from the hospital Tuesday, with some impressive teeth marks on his thigh.

“They got me out of there alive,” he said, finding his words of gratitude inadequate. “There’s nothing I can say to thank anybody. What can you say?”

70 COMMENTS

  1. I’m in my 60’s and I frequently hunt and am in the boondocks alone. In the back of my mind is always the knowledge that any type of major emergency can be fatal simply due to lack of resources or nearby help.

    It’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    • I was trail running in the deep woods many years ago when I stepped in a hole and suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain. I basically crawled and hopped out of there because I couldn’t walk a step. The ankle could not support any weight and the pain was pretty intense.

      I finally made it to a road where I flagged down a van. I explained the situation to the driver and he offered to take me back to my car.

      He opened up the door to his van and, no pun intended, said “hop in.” I laughed so hard I almost sprained the other ankle.

      • 6-7 years ago I was running errands right here in town on my mountain bike. Got forced off the road by an idiot in a car. I crashed. Broad daylight right next to a busy road. There I lay in a bloody heap tangled in my bike.

        Nobody. Not one fucking person stopped to see if I was alive or needed help. When I finally regained my senses enough I got on my cell phone and self rescued. Nobody had even bothered to do me the solid of calling 911.

        You got real lucky that van guy was a real person. And not some of these fakes running around today.

    • jwm,

      “It’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

      An author that I like explained an incredibly poignant fact of life: ultimate security and ultimate freedom/adventure are diametrically opposed and on opposite ends of a continuum.

      The ultimate security is locked in a bunker — where you have zero freedom/adventure.

      The ultimate freedom/adventure is going anywhere, any time, for any reason (including no reason), without any advanced preparation, no equipment, and no available additional resources.

      It probably comes as no surprise that most of us choose our lifestyle pretty far toward the ultimate freedom/adventure end. In your case that means some great adventures out in the middle of nowhere. And, while that entails risk, you understand and accept those risks. Sounds totally fine to me. Just don’t tell anyone who is a Progressive: they will claim to know what is best for you and then try to impose that upon you, whether you like it or not.

      • Yeah. But when they go places that might cause death or serious injury, you/they should know that you signed a waiver that says, “if I do something wrong or stupid, I DO NOT expect others to put their life on the line for me.”
        Too many times SAR and other volunteers risk life and limb to rescue people that maybe should NOT have climbed that mountain and fell off (she went 300+ feet, hit a ledge and another 150 feet) or fished in the white water 15+ miles from the trailhead, had his boots fill up and drowned. (never found him, K-9 showed where he went in, had waders on)
        Have fun but be careful. Glad Alligator boy survived. Next time use a stick to tighten belt.

    • SMS can get through when there’s not enough signal for voice calls. But emergency services usually don’t have SMS service.

      • In the military we ALWAYS carried an AN/PRC-90. On beacon mode it would alert all aircraft in the area of an emergency. Don’t know if it is “legal” for civilians to use, but if you had one and an emergency arose, who cares about legal if it saves your life!

        • Civilians can use better devices that can summon help via satellite.

          I’m not sure the frequencies used by the PRC-90 would be legal for civilian transmission…maybe with an Amateur Extra license?

  2. What, no CATs or RATs or training or expensive kits? No training? Just zip ties and “redneck engineering?” How ’bout that, throwing a few more zip ties in my pack now.

        • I agree. Most of the “blood loss” had no doubt experienced before my fellow “red-neck” showed up with the zip ties that saved his life. Benjamin R. Bounds, Eagel Scout, troop 231 Moss Point, MS, Pine Burr Area Council. (Eagle earned in 1964).
          P.S. The “Stick” and twist in the belt would have done trick, too. EVERY Outdoorsman needs some basic “First Aide” Training…so does everyone else. The life you save maybe your own!

      • He almost bked ro death because of stupidity. I’ll compromise and go as far as to say lack of preparation, but that’s in terms of equipment, not training.

        He had no GPS device to pinpoint his location. He had no radio to communicate with, instead of relying on spotty cell service. He had no flares (handheld or projectile) or mirrors to indicate his location to the helicopter. He had no basic emergency first aid kit which would include a tourniquet. He had no sidearm BUG to fire atvthe gator with less risk to blowing off his foot.

        If he had to rely on firing the shotgun himself, then it sounds as though the wife was not even minimally proficient in yhe use of a shotgun. That’s a lack of training, but it’s still stupidity on his part for going into the swamp with a hunting partner unable to provide assistance.

      • Carry a couple of bungie cords. Stretch as you wrap. Incredible “tightening”. I always have several in Jeep for emergency tourniquets.

      • Maybe you should read it again. It was the zip ties that stopped the bleeding enough that it saved his life! The article says: “St. Mary’s Medical Center trauma surgeon Jorge Vega said the tourniquet and zip ties minimized blood loss and saved Boyce’s life.” Red-neck ingenuity saves the day AGAIN!

    • A basic CAT-T is well under $30. A simple kit with a couple of extra basics in under $60 total with the TQ if you shop around. All of the respectable vendors selling this have decent vids that show how to self apply/apply a TQ, Israeli bandage, etc.

      Zip ties and such are not effective TQs, if they were the military would give those to soldiers as would LE. Sure a zip tie could work, so could a shoe string, etc. However real TQs are battlefield proven effective tools. I guess we all have to decide if our lives or those with us are worth $50-60 and a few minutes of our time to practice. Personally I carry such a kit hunting or shooting.

      • Obviously you’ve never been in the military, especially in Special Ops. We all carried the large zip ties, like used for cuffing prisoners because they have just as many uses as 100mph tape (duct tape). By the way, you use what is available and are only limited to your own imagination. Guys like you who “what if” every situation, would need a truck load of shit to survive – ty carrying all that shit in your ruck!!

    • Sort of like all the gun guru’s if you only carry a revolver and haven’t got through MY TACTICOOL training you’re not going to survive.

  3. Satellite telecommunications have really come down in price. It’s not “cheap” cheap, but cheap enough that if you’re a regular hunter/hiker/outdoorsman, you should consider investing in the equipment. This was the first thing displayed on a cursory duckduckgo search. Glad this hunter made it out alive.

    https://www.amazon.com/Garmin-Handheld-Satellite-Communicator-Navigation/dp/B01MRZ9ATL?psc=1&SubscriptionId=AKIAILSHYYTFIVPWUY6Q&tag=duckduckgo-ffsb-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=B01MRZ9ATL

    • JR Pollack,

      The communication equipment expense isn’t the problem. I figured the problem would be an expensive subscription with the Iridium satellite constellation or a competitor (if there is one).

      After about 20 minutes of research, it looks like you could get a text messaging subscription with enough allowable data to send for help and provide your location for about $20 per month — way less than I expected.

      I am thinking that the satellite constellation companies need to advertise more!

      • I didn’t do a really deep dive on the issue, but it appears that there are several data plans available that don’t require an ongoing monthly subscription. As I alluded to in my first post, it;s probably more affordable than most folks realize.

        • Yup. I bought a sat phone just for this purpose. I can turn it on for a month, then turn it off. Came with a spare battery and two chargers. Lots of peace of mind there.

      • I think you are thinking of SAT phones which can be pretty pricey per year. Its worth it to buy one as a squad but usually units buy that shit and pass it around.

        Tbh, I just take my cellphone with me, gets signal just about everywhere, even in the mountains of norcal.

        • anytime you dial 911 it opens your phone to all towers and usually the first antenna that goes up on a tower or at least it is in the coastal area of Fl.

      • I’ve been using the Inreach, and it doesn’t seem to be a good GPS. Unless I’m doing something wrong, it only seems to track if you let it upload (higher subscription). My old Magellan would show me where I went and how to reverse the track.

        • I used it again in the field today. You can get it to track without the higher subscriptions, so I’m satisfied. The higher subscriptions let you post you location in real time so others can see where you are.

  4. I used to hunt there. Assuming jw corbett bc no buggied allowed in dupuis. Always carried my 10mm glock with hardcast buffalo bores for gator or hog defense. Seen more than a few 10plus foot gators out there at 4am.

  5. If the alligator simply chomped down and wasn’t moving very much, I would blast that gator anywhere in its body that was a clear shot, even if that meant the base of its tail. Most likely, though, a clear shot would be mid-body which, at point blank range with a shotgun, should cause the cessation of critical body functions in seconds.

    • Yeah I can’t believe he didn’t try to shoot it. At least let the wife grab the shotgun if you don’t have a clean shot. I’d want her to get it after the gator let go just to even the score. Those creatures are terrifying. Do we really need them? I’d shoot one every chance I got and claim self-defense.

      • People like you should be eliminated. You seem to think that nothing else on this planet deserves to live if it interferes with your activity. Gators for the most part are wary of humans, unlike crocs. There were probably factors that caused this gator to attack – may have been defending it’s territory, protecting it’s young, or maybe this idiot stepped on the gator causing a retaliatory bite. Sometimes shit happens!!!!

    • A gator’s brain is in a specific location, and failure to hit that area will result in the death spin and a lot of shtf.
      I’m surprised that gator didn’t roll on him the minute he snapped down on him.
      He’d have twisted the leg off.
      We waded Newnan’s Lake years ago with bigger in the cypress trees for bedding bass.
      Once a gator decides you look edible, they don’t back off.

  6. “He made his goodbyes with his wife, Terisa. They had tightened their belts around his thigh as a tourniquet, but he was bleeding heavily and going in and out of consciousness as they waited for a rescue crew to find them in a swampy wilderness area north of West Palm Beach.”

    Good illustration for why you should carry a real tourniquet.

    • If I were going out in the backwoods in gator or venomous snake country, I would absolutely bring a real tourniquet.

  7. Always remember that improvised TQs from belts, duct tape, boot laces, or zip ties don’t work. You need the real ones…. Or so say the people selling the “real gear” anyway… 🙂
    Geez, sometimes shutting the hyping industry down is just tooo easy!

  8. I saw parts of the interview on national news. The guy said that he kept hitting the gator as hard as he could with the butt of his shotgun. I cringed. I’m glad the guy survived, but a (I presume loaded, rule 1) shotgun is NOT a bat unless you are /holding/ by the butt. Holding by the barrel keeps the barrel pointed /directly at you/ (a rule 2 violation). Negligent (or even accidental) discharge would result in his death, or near-death experience.

    I understand not wanting to shoot your foot off, but shooting your head off is typically worse.

    I’m glad the guy survived, and IDK what I’d do in a panic situation like that, but thinking of him banging, excuse me, beating on the head of the gator with the butt of his shotgun with the barrel pointed at my face — yikes.

    • LasVegasBret,

      I understand not wanting to shoot your foot off, but shooting your head off is typically worse.

      Well, that depends on whose head it is!

  9. An Israeli Bandage and a tourniquet should be mandatory to carry into any wildlife sanctuary where you are miles from help. This should be common sense. You are interfacing with wildlife and primitive conditions along with dangerous terrain. On top of that you are carrying a firearm which can do untold damage accidentally very easily.

    I’ve started thinking I might start carrying those two items in my car when traveling around town. Let alone in the boonies with a firearm.

    Kudos to the Medevac and the float boat guy.

  10. Here’s an idea: how ‘bout staying out of the f’n swamp?! Couple years back the wife wanted to move to FL to be near a favorite uncle. Then I saw articles of rancher who pulled 14’ gator out of his cattle pond, 15’ pythons caught during the snake hunt, and the guy who died when he and his house was swallowed up in a sinkhole! Told her we’re not moving to a state where you have to fight dinosaurs while the ground is trying to kill you. And don’t get me started about the skunk apes and the homeless people zombies that eat people’s faces! Yeesh!

  11. I thought 911 cell calls automatically give the dispatch a location of where you are at and overlay it on google earth? Should just give a 10digit XR of location. I’m so far out on the sticks that when filling out forms that need additional directions, I just stick the co-ordinance on it.

    • If you only have connection to one tower, you only know the region, like somewhere within a radius. Multiple overlapping towers are needed to locate position.

  12. Not gonna argue about tourniquets, training, sat phones or even using a shotty to club a gator. It’s a great story period. Someone could make a great movie outta this.

    • It’s a good story for a 5 minute read but I doubt it has enough meat to fill 100 minutes on the big screen. A half hour spot on an “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” revival maybe.

      • Besides, the movie would revolve more around the red-neck guy with the swamp buggy who found the dumb lost deer hunter!

  13. I grew up in S Fl. Hunting and camping in the Everglades. Had a couple mishaps.

    Had a company picnic at Loxahatchee one year. Pouring rain. Mud football. We go so filthy we jumped in a pond. A gator chased me out. I somehow dove into the bed of a pickup. Shouldn’t have happened. Those things are fast.

    Bears can be dangerous. Mountain lions are sneaky. Be aware. Be prepared.

    I’ve had the most experience with gators. Those things are scary. Thank god the cant climb.

  14. He should have shot the gator behind the head with the shotgun! At point blank range, the lead shot would have acted as a single bullet, blowing a quarter size hole through the gators spine.

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