A near disaster in the woods

By By Otha Barham / outdoor columnist
March 15, 2002
Deer season has been over some 6 weeks now and most hunters have other interests on their minds. Some dedicated deer enthusiasts are searching the woods for shed antlers, tracks, and old scrapes in order to pattern particular bucks for next season. Some of these are scouting for spring gobblers and some are rushing through their scouting to save time for a crappie fishing venture. But for most, the memories of deer season have been filed away in consideration of current pursuits.
But not for Conehatta hunter Burnell Simmons. He had a deer season he will never forget. And his experience has a lot to offer the rest of us.
On December 16, 2001, at 8:10 a.m., Simmons shot and killed a deer from his lock-on tree stand, in which he had been perched since before daylight.
He waited 20 minutes to let nearby animals resume normal movements so they would continue their activities undisturbed. Then he moved out of his stand, placing his right foot on the stick ladder, which was 21 feet off the ground.
Sudden slip
His foot slipped off that top step and Simmons plummeted to the ground. "Everything seemed to go into slow motion when I realized I was falling," he said. "I remember telling myself that I had to get up after I hit the ground," Simmons continued. Well, he did get up and even walked home to get help after the fall. But his memory is clouded regarding the journey.
Simmons says of his ordeal, "I am just very blessed by the Lord," his expression of gratitude for surviving the fall. This hunter, who just turned 50 years of age and has hunted since he was eight years old, points out that he is experienced but that an accident can happen to anyone at any time.
Burnell Simmons' story serves as a reminder for hunters to take special care with deer stands. Right now, while the weather is cool enough to work in the woods, is a good time to check the safety features on deer stand components, including ladders. Although there was apparently no defect in Simmons ladder, plenty of falls could be prevented by finding imperfections and fixing them before a disaster happens.