Deer Hunting: Guns Aren’t the Only Potential Danger When You’re Out in the Field

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Deer Hunting
Courtesy CVA Muzzleloading

By Dave Lewis

Muzzloader deer season had just opened in Oklahoma. Short sleeve shirts were still comfortable during the day and a lightweight sleeping bag worked just fine at night. A couple of friends and I cut out of work early one Friday and headed down to southeastern Oklahoma for an early season hunt.

After a three-hour drive we settled into a camp site on land that was owned by one of the major paper companies. This land was open to the public for hunting and we believed – as all hunters do – that we had a reasonable chance of finding a white tail buck who wanted to commit suicide by hunter.

On Saturday morning we rolled out of our tents and headed out into the woods after a quick breakfast. One friend – let’s just call him Ray – said he knew of a “good spot” a couple of miles from our camp site.

Ray was driving a mid-70’s vintage Chevy pickup. It had a three-speed shift on the steering column (remember those?) and the old foot pedal parking brake. Ray had one of those white metal tool boxes in the bed behind the cab.

The morning was cool and it had rained during the night. That morning Ray and I planned to slowly walk along a ridge and then sit looking out into a small valley. Ray pulled his pickup off a dirt road, shut the engine down and left the truck in gear. I was about a hundred yards behind him in my van and watched what happened next.

Ray got out of his truck and opened the tool box. He reached in to get his rifle and day pack. As he did the truck popped out of gear and started to roll backwards. Since the driver’s side door was still open, Ray tried to jump into the truck and set the parking brake with his foot.

Ford F-150 IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
IFCAR, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately the truck was on wet grass and Ray was wearing smooth sole cowboy boots. He slipped and fell under the front wheel. The truck rolled over him and continued backward down into a steep-sided ditch, rolling over onto the passenger side and the windshield popped out.

When I watched my friend disappear under the truck I figured that he’d been killed, but as I drove up next to him I heard him cursing. I spent four years in the Navy, but I can say that I learned some new words that morning.

Ray was in considerable pain but he wasn’t bleeding and seemed to be able to breathe okay. He was able to get up into a sitting position so I rather foolishly decided to drive him to the local emergency room.

We stopped by our campsite to leave a note for the two other guys (a father and son) who were hunting with us. We had no cell phones or walkie-talkies in those far-off days.

We drove to the closest hospital – about a 45-minute trip – and watched the ER people trying to keep from laughing as we described the accident. Ray had a broken collar bone and some pretty bad bruises. They took a bunch of x-rays, put Ray in a sling, loaded him up with pain killers and sent us on our way about eight hours later.

The next morning we got Ray’s pickup back on its wheels with the help of a local guy’s four wheel drive Ford, a couple of snatch straps, and a bunch of helpful and only slightly drunk people. I took the pickup into town and had the guy at the local hardware store cut a piece of plexiglass that I duct-taped over the windshield opening.

Ray drove my automatic transmission van for the 150 mile trip back home. I drove his wounded pickup and the plexiglass managed to keep most of the wind out of my face. I got some very strange looks, but the drive was pretty uneventful.

When we got to Ray’s house I pulled into his driveway, jumped into my van, and got away as fast as I could. He later said that his couch really wasn’t all that uncomfortable and that his wife started to talk to him again about a week later.

Ray died from cancer about ten years ago. I visited him in the hospital a few weeks before he passed. He was pretty well doped up against what must have been incredible pain. We talked for a few minutes as my friend drifted in and out of reality. When I got ready to leave, Ray smiled at me and said, “Do me a favor before you go. Would you check the wheels on this bed and make sure that the brakes are set?”

They were.

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Lesson learned . allways make sure your vehicle is in park & use your brakes. I had an old Winnebago , Ford slant six , column shift. Unique to drive but I would not want to be run over by it. Bad day for Ray. There are also “so called hunters ” shoot at anything that moves. If you are hunting wear appropriate clothing. N.Y. upstate Deruyter used to be my home. Many a stray round reside in outer walls. Idiots with guns .the moral of this is , not everyone should hunt.

    • Still drive a 74 c20 here around the farm and town. parking brake can be set but the vibration of the engine or just whatever can cause the parking brake teeth to slip. You hear a “pop” of the foot pedal releasing and it starts to roll.

      I don’t rely on that, I shut it off and leave in gear. But even though the clutch is good it will still slowly roll (first or reverse) forward or backwards if it’s steep enough or you have enough weight on. It’s just something you need to be careful of on these issues of trucks. My 68 c20 with the under dash pull doesn’t do this, but I’ve driven a few GM cars and trucks 74,78, 81, 84 with that parking pedal brake that popped out.

    • Not really a “slant” 6 like the old Mopar ones (in all the applications I’ve seen its installed with the bores oriented vertically), but the Ford 300 c.i.d. straight-6 is right up there in contention for greatest motor of all time. As (if not more than) durable as the vaunted Mopar Slant 6 (7 main bearings, timing gears), makes impressive peak torque at a whale-shit-low 2000 RPM, these things were ideal for truck duty. Never made a ton of power, but they put them in everything from passenger trucks to RVs to school buses to tow-trucks and dump-trucks. A friends dad has an old stake-bed pickup with a 300 in it. Has owned that truck for longer than I’ve been alive and swears the only maintenance he’s ever done on the motor has been plugs, oil/filter changes, alternator/belt, and carb filter change. I’ve driven that truck and it starts every time, runs great, pulls strong even with a load, hell the owner swears he gets 150 psi compression on all 6 cylinders. Oh and the mileage is currently over 450,000 miles 🙂

      • Inline-6 engines tend to live forever for one reason –

        Balance. Having a power stroke every 60 degrees of crankshaft rotation makes for a nice, smooth application of torque to the crank and drive-train in general, and that makes for happy mechanical bits.

        The base engine for the Toyota Supra of old was an iron-block straight-6 from Toyota’s truck line. The performance crowd was able to make some serious power (1,000 + HP) with that engine that was fairly reliable for an engine that was pushed more than 4 times what it was originally designed for…

      • “…in contention for greatest motor…”

        No argument from this auto repair shop owner. We had a couple of those on the farm over the years. One year, Dad put some really gnarly retread snow tires on the rear of the F250. 5 speed on the floor, and even though it was rear wheel drive, there wasn’t anything around the farm that we couldn’t drive through or move with some weight in the bed and that truck in granny gear.

    • I’ve always taken the “slant six” term to be generic for inline six cylinder, although I prefer the term “straight six.”

      • Some of the better vehicles in my youth had that straight six motor. Reliable, hard working and when they broke you could fix them yourself.

        We called that 3 speed on the column ‘3 on the tree’.

        • 3 on the tree and when the linkage got bad speed shifting to second locked up the linkage.
          First car I owned was a 56 Chevy Bellaire 235 six, second car 1960 chevy, same, then I graduated to a 1961 Ford Galaxy with a 352 v8, whoe daddy.
          These memories can wait.

        • I’ve never actually owned a Ford of any make or model. I’ve used them as company vehicles and a lot of my family had them.

          For some reason it just never happened for me.

  2. For whatever reason, I saw the picture and thought this story was going to be about a buck white-tail deer that attacked (gored) a hunter. That would be a valuable story to read and from which to learn.

    Every time I trek through the woods in total darkness, I am always concerned about an amped-up buck in-rut deciding that he doesn’t want me in his territory. And that is on top of worrying about cougars, bears, bobcats, coyotes, feral dogs, and feral hogs deciding to come after me as well. At least I don’t have to worry about alligators!

  3. That was a fine story. Even through the pain and dope, Ray knew what to say to help you remember him and realize he’d appreciated your help those many years ago. Old friends are often the best friends.

    • I remember a trip with my friend where we lost the car at night. We parked next to a corner in a fence line, stepped through the fence, and went to a water hole. Leaving the water hole my friend took a the wrong direction and we were lost in the bush for about 25 minutes (complete pitch-black moonless night). We found our way back to the water hole and I said let’s go in this direction. We found the car 2 minutes later.

      • Southern Cross,

        Several years ago, my brother-in-law was helping me track a wounded deer on a family friend’s large rural property. Something like 0.5 to 1.0 mile away from our starting point, the blood drops stopped and we had to concede defeat. So it was time to head back. Easier said than done: it was night, dark, and cloudy; we were in the middle of semi-swampy dense forest; and we had wandered off the family friend’s property into unfamiliar territory. We had no idea where we were, although we knew that we had to go south.

        Of course neither of us had a compass because we never expected to wander off the family friend’s property which we know very well. Normally I can establish direction based on the time of year and time of night if stars are out. No such luck because it was cloudy. At that point my brother-in-law was quite concerned and suggested that we try the “moss grows on the north side of trees” trick, which is very unreliable.

        And then I thought of a clever answer. It was very dark because it was night and cloudy and we were in a remote area. And there was only one town about 15 miles away and due east of us. So I started looking for the the sky glow of the town’s street lights reflecting off of the clouds toward the horizon. Sure enough, I could make out the sky glow of that town and now we knew which was was east, so we could head south. About 20 minutes later, we made it back to our family friend’s property and all was well.

  4. “heard him cursing – so I knew that he was alive.”
    [Chuckle]

    Moral of the story – Smooth soled cowboy boots are pretty useless for anything besides dancing in a honky tonk with a sawdust-covered floor.

    • There good for scraping cow patties and mud off your heel. Also tough as hell if you get a good pair.

  5. I’ve known my fair share of Ray’s in my life time. They make for a good life. Sad when we lose one. But the memories…..

  6. Hell of a story.
    Chev her in the ditch and let a Ford go by.
    Just about the same thing happened to my daughter in law, she wasn’t hunting tho.

  7. Had a ’74 Chevy Nova 6 cylinder and 3 on the tree, bright mustard yellow and women couldn’t seem to see it. Twelve times I got rear ended at a stop sign or in a line of cars at a light, those fugly 5 mph bumpers and a frame welded trailer hitch so no damage to old ugly.

    Dang thing just ran and ran, though if you were at a dead stop you couldn’t be to quick pushing it into gear because you could get it in both 1st and 3rd at the same time or reverse and 2nd. This resulted in the drive wheels being unable to turn. The drill for dealing with that was to shut off the engine, get out and open the hood then you jerk the shift levers to get the transmission into neutral slam the hood, jump in the car, start the engine, carefully put it in gear and drive away.

    I do not miss that car!

  8. fond memories of inline sixes. the big three all had them as well as amc (alcoholics making cars). legend was that 258cu took two cans of “cash for clunkers” juice to submit. that guy sucks.
    can think of four factory bikeys that had ’em, although transverse mounted, one with water jackets.

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