Three Georgia deer hunters suffered severe injuries within a two-week span during primitive-weapons and rifle-season weekends. Two fell from tree stands—one climber and one ladder—and a third plunged 40 feet through the darkness down an unmarked well.
Before daylight on Oct. 13, Donny Moore, 50, of Atlanta, was walking to a stand in Meriwether County when the ground beneath him suddenly disappeared, according to his friend Aaron Metcalf.
“He was walking in with his wife and another hunter, and they split up to go to their stands. Donny was lucky they were close enough to hear him yell as he was falling.”
The abandoned well was covered with a piece of plywood, but the dirt sides had begun to cave in around it.
“It just worked like a trap door when Donny stepped on it,” Aaron said.
Donny was retrieved fairly quickly, but the rescue required paramedics and other Meriwether volunteers, a winch, a tractor with a bucket on the front to hold the cable over the well opening and a Hunter Safety System harness to attach to Donny as he was winched up from 40 feet down.
As GON went to press, Donny was in Grady Memorial Hospital with both sides of his jaw broken and wired together, two broken vertebrae in his neck, two more broken vertebrae in his back and a crushed left ankle. It is expected that Donny is going to require at least three surgeries.
“Several members of the club Donny is in knew about the well, but he didn’t,” Aaron said. “I understand now that the landowner is going to fill the well in.”
Also recovering from surgery at Grady, following an Oct. 14 incident, is Peter Hoffman, who fell from a climber while attempting to adjust the stand’s cables—17 feet in the air.
“Peter had installed new cables on his stand and was trying to adjust them,” said friend Todd Wilbanks. “When he sat down, the cables slipped and he fell.”
Peter, who was hunting in Talbot County, suffered a broken pelvis.
On opening day of rifle season, Oct. 20, Dublin resident Tom Eck, 71, was hunting from a ladder stand in Johnson County when he fell. According to his wife Dot, Tom apparently blacked out or dozed off and fell under a railing around the stand and then 18 feet to the ground.
“He always uses his safety harness, but I guess this one time he figured he didn’t need it with the railing around the stand,” Dot said.
He managed to call for help from his cell phone, but because of another poor decision, that help was still a long way off.
As many hunting clubs do, Tom’s has a pin map for each hunter to place his personal pin on a numbered stand location. Tom had done that—but then changed his mind and went to another stand. It took more than two hours for fellow club members to locate him.
Tom suffered broken ribs on both sides, a punctured and collapsed lung, fractured spine and fractured pelvis. He is currently in a Macon hospital.
Obviously, little things add up in a big way when it comes to safety in the woods. There are dangerous, abandoned wells all over our state, and a stroll under the stars is not the time to become acquainted with their whereabouts.
Hunter-restraint systems can save your life, or prevent catastrophic injuries. And always informing others of your whereabouts while hunting can make a life-and-death difference.