From a hospital bed, Daryl Caldwell, of Concord, warned Georgia hunters to watch out for trees killed by the drought when looking for a place to hang their climbers this year.
Daryl had seen a good buck in the area of his Meriwether County club where he hung his climber the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 12. He knew the tree he chose was ailing, but he didn’t think it was completely dead.
“I thought I saw some greenery on it. It didn’t look really dead,” said Daryl. “I climbed up the tree probably 25 feet, and all of a sudden I heard the tree cracking.”
Daryl had sat and was raising his bow when the tree started popping. For a couple of seconds, Daryl had the opportunity to consider his situation.
“It slowly started cracking. I couldn’t stop it from cracking, but it gave me the time to turn and protect my neck and back and push out from the climber,” Daryl said.“If the tree fell on me, I would have been dead, and the climber would have chopped me up, so I pushed myself out away from it.”
This is one of the rare instances when a safety harness might have made the accident worse. Daryl created some separation between himself, the tree and the climber as they fell.
“When I hit, I bounced and saw a few stars,” he said. “Then I probably blacked out for a few minutes. When I came to, I thought I might be alright at first, then the pain just engulfed me.”
Daryl had broken his hip and suffered serious internal injuries. He was in bad shape and knew he had to get out of the woods to find help.
Using a stick for leverage, Daryl dragged himself 400 yards to the backyard of a home next to the club.
“On the way out, I made it a point to just pick out a spot to get to and then from there pick out another spot,” he said. “I didn’t know if I’d make it, but I knew I had to. I’ve got kids.”
Daryl doesn’t know how long it took him, but when he arrived at the fenced-in yard he started hollering. A woman came to his aid, and Meriwether County first responders were on the scene shortly thereafter. Daryl was life-flighted to Atlanta Medical Center where he underwent a series of surgeries to set his hip and remove and repair parts of his small intestine, large intestine and colon.
“The doctor who operated on my stomach said two more hours and I would have been dead,” said Daryl. “It was a very unnerving experience, and thank God all those things fell into place that I was able to get out of the woods alive. It could have been a different story.”
Doctors tell Daryl the rehabilitation will be a long and grueling six to 12 months. Daryl tells hunters to be careful what you climb.