Tumble down a ravine ends day’s hunting
If wind hindered deer hunting opening weekend, then I suspect
many hunters will blame the full moon and warm temperatures for
last weekend. The light snow cover last week contributed to a
bright landscape in the dead of night. Indeed, trail cameras
revealed great deer movement, during the moonlit hours between dusk
and dawn. That was the least of my hunting worries last weekend,
For a few hours on a treestand during a cold morning last Friday, I
wore my warmest footwear, a pair of Sorel-style ice-fishing boots.
After breakfast, my dad headed for a treestand on the far side of
his property, and the boys and I figured we’d give him 45 minutes,
then walk toward him through the woods – maybe kick up a buck. Like
a dolt, I ignored my upland hunting boots and slipped the
felt-packs back on.
We spread out and headed down the valley, eventually reaching a
massive ravine that’s become larger thanks to some huge
single-event rainfalls in southeast Minnesota the past few years.
With my 6-year-old at my side, I unloaded, intending to cross the
ravine with my shotgun, then help my son across.
Now, I’ve crossed this borderline canyon 50 times, and crossed
similar ones during 30 years of bluff country hunting hundreds of
times. Guess my number was up. Side-stepping down the eroded edge,
I grasped a small sapling to help support my weight. It snapped,
and I found myself running just a few steps to another small tree
to slow my descent. Would’ve worked, too, but a rock under my right
foot rolled. The upland hunting boots probably would’ve kept me
upright, but these particular felt-packs had the support of a
zip-lock bag. Down I went, hard. Searing pain burned through my
ankle. My 6-year-old heard a couple colorful words in the ensuing
seconds, then I briefly flirted with passing out. Thank god the
shotgun was unloaded.
Laying in the bottom of the 15-foot-deep ravine, there was a moment
when I wondered how I’d get out. Dad has a steep ATV trail about 50
yards away, but getting the quad down the icy, slick-with-mud
surface has become more challenging each fall. And no motorized
vehicle could reach me in the bottom of that deep ravine. A vision
of a helicopter hauling me away like Gord Ellis’ Ontario moose
hunting story last week briefly passed through my mind. I called
out to my other sons probably just 100 yards away, but between the
wind and depth of the ravine, they couldn’t hear me.
Within a few minutes the pain subsided a bit, and what initially
seemed out of the question felt possible. I pulled myself up
against a tree. The 6-year-old clambered down into the ravine
safely, all while pointing out, “Why didn’t you come this way?” We
limped down the bottom to the most-navigable route to the opposite
side, and I crawled up. My other sons arrived and asked where we’d
All that and we didn’t even run a deer past grandpa. The walk back
up the 200-foot-deep valley was slow, but required no internal
combustion engines. Back at my parents’ place, we dug out a pair of
my brother’s crutches from his high-school football days, and iced
down the ankle all evening. Felt better the next day, so I skipped
a doctor’s visit. Not the way anyone plans a deer hunt, but
could’ve been worse.