My view of a tree stand accident

September is tree stand safety and awareness month.  And throughout this month, I’ve read alot of articles extolling the virtues of using safety harnesses and lifelines while in the stand.  You’ve probably read the same ones; without a harness, you’ll fall, crack some bones, possibly lose your life, severe brain injuries and so forth.  And yet, despite all of those pleasant thoughts (yes, that’s sarcasm people) some hunters just don’t practice any type of safety protocol.  It’s a pain, the harness is uncomfortable, etc.  So WHAT will get hunters to start wearing harnesses?  Not sure if my story will help but I’d like to think it could.  This is a story about my husband and the accident he had-but told from my perspective, the wife, the caregiver, the family left to pick everything up.

It was early fall and my husband had left before dawn to hunt about a half hour from our house. I wasn’t sure of the spot, didn’t have the address and no one else knew he was going. Mistake #1.   The sun was up and it just our young daughter and me in the house; my sons were with my ex-husband.  I was having a bit of a lazy morning.  Really just some light cleaning and a trip to the grocery store were on my list. So while I showered, the bathroom door was open and my daughter played in the space between the bathroom and bedroom.  I heard the phone ring but wasn’t in any rush; if it was important I expected the person would leave a message. For whatever reason, my daughter answered the phone. Now she was 3 or 4 (I can’t remember!) and never expressed any interest in the phone. But that day she answered it.  She walked into the bathroom and said, “Mommy there’s a man on the phone.” I told her to tell him I would call him back.  She said, “No Mommy, there’s a man on the phone.” I never did find out what was said to her but it must have made an impression. So I turned off the shower and held out my wet hand for the phone.

Here’s the conversation:
Mrs. Herbert?
This is Chief ?? from the Anne Arundel County Fire dept.  (And I immediately think if they are selling those jellies the troopers sell I am hanging up)
Your husband has been involved in an accident this morning.  (What? I think. He can’t be in an accident, he’s hunting).
He fell from his tree stand. He is conscious, moving his extremities but we are transporting him to Shock Trauma in BaltimoreMy husband would later point out that the stand and strap broke but that’s another topic.

I went numb. Literally numb. I didn’t hear properly and experienced tunnel vision. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back now I know those things happened.  I didn’t feel my fingers holding the phone. The whole conversation was so surreal.  I started to think whether or not they had the right person.  I can’t be MY John! But then I heard people talking and I heard John’s voice through the phone. They were loading him onto the ambulance to take him to a parking lot to meet up with the helicopter that was to fly him to Shock Trauma.  How can THAT be happening while our daughter is happily playing on the floor?  How?

“Mrs. Herbert, do you have someone that can drive you to Shock Trauma? Because we don’t want you driving yourself.” I answer yes. It was a total lie. He asks me again, probably hearing the lie in my words. No, no I insist, someone can take me.  I get the particular details, the ambulance, the flight to Shock Trauma, etc.  I have no idea how to get to Shock Trauma.  I hang the phone up and realize I’m on the bathroom rug, wet, hair dripping, no towel and I’m not fazed. I have to make a plan of action. I actually spoke out loud to myself: Okay, put a towel on your head. Get dressed. Get a piece of paper. Call your ex-husband because he can tell you how to get to the parking garage in downtown Baltimore. Don’t tell the boys yet.  Dry your hair. And make that dreaded call to your in laws.

My in laws weren’t home so I left this message:  I have to tell you-John has been in an accident. He IS FINE, really, I heard his voice. But he has to go to Shock Trauma. Again, he is talking, moving but they are taking him.  I am loading up now. I am sorry to leave this message but you have to know. I hang up and realize my words sound rushed and I’m out of breath.  I was lying to them. How did I know he was okay? But I couldn’t say or think anything other than he was fine. I feel like a jerk for leaving a message.

My mother in law calls me back. She is coming over. John’s aunt will pick up Savannah. They live 5 minutes from my house but it feels like an eternity before they show up.  Both Mother in law and Aunt get out of the car. Should Auntie take Savannah back to her house? Stay here? Did she eat?  I hand Auntie the keys telling her something along the lines of figure it out-I know my daughter is in good hands. I’m leaving I cannot wait anymore.  I couldn’t bring the words to my lips but I thought-He’s dying!  He’s dying! and I’m standing in my driveway. 

So we were off; my mother in law driving and me; the passenger with acid in her stomach, numb to it. Sitting, sitting , sitting, doing nothing, thinking, thinking, thinking. If he wasn’t badly injured, why Shock Trauma? Why the helicopter ride? God what could have happened?

We arrive at Shock Trauma.  I have to smile and ask questions, to figure this monstrosity of a building out. I can’t breakdown and after all, I know this is wrong. I’m here for the wrong person. I’m prepared to get pissed at these people.  They walk me and only me into the elevator.  I don’t know what floor we went to.  I don’t even remember what the person looked like that took me into the elevator.  We then exit and I immediately see the Shock Trauma floor and its’ patients; one man is totally nude, strapped to a gurney, wires and tubes attached and definitely unconscious. I’m mad for this person whose privacy has been taken away.  But I don’t have time to dwell on this.  I turn left. The lights are bright and in my face. As I walk down beside the hanging curtains, I hear my husband’s voice.  I know all my selfish thoughts and hopes of finding the wrong person, another John, someone else’s husband are gone. It’s really him. All his clothes have been cut off and just a sheet around his mid section. (He will later complain that it was an IBO World Championship shirt that he lost) Neck brace attached. A needle full of morphine sitting there. The yellow pasty color of pain on his face. Bruises are starting to bloom all over his chest.  God I’m going to break down but I can’t. The look in his eyes – the relief when he sees me. I touch his arm because that’s the only place I feel that I can safely touch.  I need to reassure myself that he is alive and warm to the touch.

John stays in that place for 4 more days. One cracked vertebrae and two compressed vertebrae requiring a total brace from neck to hip. The brace is on for three months.  It’s a miracle people say; no brain injury, he will walk, blah, blah. I can’t focus on that. I need to figure out how to get him into the house, where will he sleep, who will take care of him when I eventually go back to work. Does he still have a job?  I have nothing left for anyone or any sympathy. I’m on a mission to keep everything together. I don’t feel sad or lucky or grateful. I don’t feel.

The morning of the accident, he hunted all morning, got down and decided to move the stand. As he climbed up and onto the stand, the strap holding the stand broke, sending him down to the ground. He didn’t have a lifeline and hadn’t hooked up to the belt he had strapped to the tree.  He fell 20 feet.  When he tried to get up, he realized he was in serious trouble.  He put his hands on his knees and did a type of crab walk out of the woods to the nearest house only to discover no one was home.  Sitting on the front porch of that house, he thought he was going to die if he didn’t move.  His cell phone was busted. He then drove about 2 miles to the fire dept and waved the guys over to his truck as he could not get out.

Three months for him in a brace. He got lucky. Our family was lucky. He eventually made it back to work.  Yes he still has back pain but he’s alive.

So that’s my perspective.  I didn’t fall from the tree.  I wasn’t physically injured.  But I still have a story to tell.  When these accidents occur it isn’t just the hunter that’s affected.  This is my story of how NOT wearing a harness or using a lifeline affected all of us.  And I’m not even talking about financially.  Thank God that he survived and we were given the opportunity to learn from this. Neither of us hunt anywhere without telling someone else EXACTLY where we are.  The day of the accident no one, including myself knew where he was hunting. We use safety harnesses and lifelines. A foot doesn’t step off the ground without being hooked up.  Straps are constantly checked and no stand has just one strap.  We double up on everything.

So please, learn from us.  I know all of the “safety talk” can be overwhelming, irritating, a pain and sometimes a bit “preachy”.  Your loved ones don’t want that call. You don’t want to get that call.  No one wants to suck it up, shove the tears away and be the tough one who is numb when all it would have taken was a lifeline and a harness to avoid this!  You and your loved ones don’t want to walk down that hospital hallway.  Trust me.

Hunting-it’s not just aim and shoot.

It’s ALOT of walking, setting up, and preparation. It’s alot of sweaty clothes and hot Saturdays dedicated to making the hunt go your way. It’s pruning trees, it’s getting poison ivy all over you, it’s dirty fingernails and muddy boots. For pete’s sake, why do it?  It’s also the quiet you can only find in the stand. It’s a bird landing on your backpack, it’s the outline of a spiderweb. It’s the bleat of a fawn, the grunt of a deer, the gobble of a turkey. It’s a Momma turkey with her 5 babies walking past you. Hunting-it’s the clean smell of the morning. It’s the world turning all around you and the creatures in it while none of them know you are there.


Marbled Orbweaver spider found on the Eastern shore of MD    Photo credit: JoAnn Herbert


Another pretty flower on the way to check cameras.  Photo credit: JoAnn Herbert



Pink flower

I have no idea what kind of flower or weed this is but had to stop and take a picture. It reminds me of the flower the elephant held in the movie, “Horton Hears a Who.” Photo credit: JoAnn Herbert


Update to the MD DNR Becoming an Outdoors Woman Workshop schedule

Beyond BOW Deer Clinic & Hunt at Blossom Point Military Base, 11/3/2017 – 11/4/2017

This particular workshop is for new/beginner hunters.  What a great way to get started!  Friday, 11/3/2017 will be spent going over deer hunting, safety hunting skills, and time at the range.  Saturday, 11/4/2017  you will be in a tree stand.  Apparently staff will be on hand to assist throughout the day!

Please note that the workshop is for doe only.  Cost is $60. Full details on what is included with the fees is listed on the application.

Valid MD hunting License required.  Lastly, all participants must pass shooter qualification on the range, Friday 11/3/2017.  Don’t let that stop you ladies!  You got this!

For more information call 301-791-4736, ext 103 OR email

Link to the registration page


Using the Maryland-DNR check in app!

The MD Department of Natural Resources is providing free app for Andriods or Iphone users. I have an Iphone and found the app by going into my App Store, searching for Maryland Access DNR and then downloading the app.

A link to more information regarding the on the MD DNR’s website can be found here:

Image of i-Phone display

Photo credit: Maryland DNR

If you are unsure of how to use OR if you even want to use this app, please view this brief video that the MD DNR has put together:


There is more to this app then just checking in a harvest.  There are state park directories, the ability to make park reservations (Let’s go RVing!), fishing locations, trout stocking, etc.  You can also purchase your fishing or hunting license directly from this app.  To be honest, I haven’t purchased from the app as there is something to be said to just getting your license in person, at the store.

Have a great season!

Maryland Natural Resources Career camp apps now available

Continuing a tradition of approximately 45 years, the Maryland DNR along with the MD Maryland’s Forest Conservancy District Board is once again offering a great opportunity  to get more young people involved in the outdoors while encouraging them to think about the future.  As a parent of a recently graduated high-schooler, I know first hand that teenagers can feel overwhelmed and not at all confident about where their life will lead after school.

If your teen has an interest in forestry, fisheries, wildlife or parks management, talk to them about attending a Natural Resources Careers Camp. The camp will run July 23 to 29 at Hickory Environmental Education Center in Garrett County, MD.

The camp will also features “College Night,” where representatives from West Virginia University, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland (GO TERPS!), Frostburg University, Allegany College of Maryland and Garrett College speak to campers about their programs.

The weeklong camp is only available for students entering grades 9 through 12 next year. Applications are available through the Maryland Forest Conservancy District Boards.  The application process appears to be very similar to applying for scholarships or colleges so that in itself is a great learning experience.

Space is limited to 42 applicants so register soon!

Some practical advice for the men who wished their wives hunt….

For many years I didn’t hunt. Between kids, work, and my family needing to eat and have clean clothes, there just wasn’t time to hunt.  And at the end of the day, I was tired!  It didn’t help my disposition when I would hear things like the woods are so relaxing, etc. Yeah, buddy I’m sure the woods are relaxing – I wouldn’t know!

So now that I am fully ensconced in the hunting world and will NOT ever stop, I have the advantage of some hind sight. You know that whole-if I only knew THEN what I know NOW.  Hopefully, this can help some of my brothers in the hunting world who would like to have a hunting partner in their wife/significant other.  Some of these suggestions may seem obvious and might appear that I am suggesting you “baby” your baby.  Well guess what?  Every once in a while, we woman do liked to be pampered.  So here goes:

1 – Start in warmer weather. Spring turkey hunting is a great time of year.  Or shed hunting in March. Don’t expect your wife/girlfriend to get excited about hunting in the dead of winter.

2 – Take it slow.  Make arrangements for the kids to get picked up from school.  Both of you can take off work early, get some lunch, go sit in the woods.  No rush.  Just sit and watch. And let’s face it; that is really what most hunting consists of, a lot of sitting and waiting. If you can arrange a quiet afternoon it will earn you some brownie points.

3 – Don’t expect to be sitting 20 feet up in a stand.  I was deathly afraid of sitting in a stand for many years. And quite frankly it wasn’t worth my time to worry about getting over that fear.  But when hunting really took off for me I knew I had to.  But I first started sitting in a blind – in a chair – with a cushion.

4 – Make sure everyone is comfortable.  Make sure your wife/girlfriend is warm enough. Remember sitting in a blind or stand for multiple hours outside is not like taking a walk through the woods on a nice day.  And most people who aren’t used to hunting just don’t realize how cold you can get while sitting.  So even if it seems like overkill, make sure she has extra layers and gloves.  A seat cushion is much appreciated as well!

5 – Take snacks and a drink. Make a picnic out of it.  Seriously a little romance in a blind goes a long way, men.

Of course, hunting is not all about cushions, staying warm and enjoying the day. Some hunts are tough – they need to be tough to get at the big game.  Some hunts demand a lot of walking and sweating despite the fact that it’s 32 degrees and the sleet is hitting you in the face. But you had to go out OF COURSE because the wind was right. I get it-I’ve been there. It took me a while and now I fight with my husband over stands.  But she just isn’t there yet and that’s a good thing-there’s time to work on that.  I think that with time you’ll discover different views and approaches to your hunting just by including your partner.

So what do I do with a deer I’ve shot?

This was a question recently asked to me by a person who never hunted.  Her question was sincere but was quickly followed up by, “Do you just leave them in the field?”  That question was immediately followed by a look on her face similar to a person that just smelled bad milk.

I was a a bit surprised by the two questions and more than a little peeved. After all, to insinuate that I would shoot a deer and then just leave it lay there was insulting. What – I hunt therefore I’m a jerk? As I tried to prepare my answer (all the while I’m fairly certain I was sucking the air from the room with my attempts to calm down), I looked at this person and realized -she really doesn’t know, well anything, about where FOOD comes from.  I told her that no, to leave the animal there would go against everything I believed in. I take the deer to the butcher and they process the deer for me.

“The butcher? “she asks.  Dear Lord – give me patience.   Yes, you know, the butcher. I then asked her, “Have you ever seen the meat aisle at the grocery store? Where the pork chops and steaks are lined up and neatly packaged? Well a butcher did that. So I take my deer to a butcher and he processes the deer and I pick up the packages a few days later.”

After a few minutes of silence, she asks, “So there are people that do this? Butcher the meat?”  “Yes I say, where do you think it all comes from? If you eat ground meat from the store you are eating a cow that was processed by a butcher. If you eat pork chops, you are eating a pig that was processed by a butcher.”

This conversation ended at that point but it stayed with me.  I really wanted to yell at this person to wake up, grow up, expand your world. Is this what people think? Meat grows in white plastic trays.  When they grow big enough they are encased in Saran Wrap and slapped with a price tag? Perhaps that’s a bit melodramatic. But perhaps we’ve done a disservice to future generations-we’ve made it too easy. You want a burger? Just run down to the local fast food store. If people actually had to practice shooting a bow, zeroing in a gun, hunt, track, field dress, process their own food, actually work for it, they might understand and respect why hunting is not about killing.  It’s about life.

I am headed to the Great American Outdoor Show!

I can’t think of a better way to start my week then to ditch the office, get in the truck and head off to talk hunting, guns and archery.  Hopefully by the end of the day I will have lots to report back on along with a sore back and an aching feet.  On the other hand, every time I’ve went to this show I have met some really nice people.  If you are there, look me up- stop and say hi!  I’ll be the one in the black Ladies In Camo shirt pulling a cColor-JoAnn-w-2015 deeramo wheeled backpack with one squeaky wheel!

Tree stands and me-not a match made in Heaven

I am terrified of heights. And while I know alot of people will sympathize and give me helpful hints, really I’m not listening. I can’t. Their advice will make sense, I’ll try it and then there I am again, stuck on the fourth rung of a ladder stand – sweaty palms clutching on with a death grip. People mean well but knowing myself,the only thing that would work for me is to suck it up, put on my big girl pants and just do it. Only I’ve said that multiple times as well.

Oh and to make this cosmic fear/joke even better, why should I just stop at being afraid of heights from a stand? Let me go whole hog on the whole height/fear issue. Walk up grandstands? Better just head on up and get comfortable in your seats; I will get there sooner or later-usually later. Drive through the mountains? You better knock me out or tie me up because I’m crying the whole way through.(Thank you IBO Worlds and Snowshoe Mountain for that enlightening experience.)

What’s your point JoAnn? Well since I bet alot of hunters or huntresses out there are like me, here is how I am SLOWLY working on getting over this fear. Or at least not letting it control my life anymore. Notice I said working on this because I’m not sure I will ever be totally over it.

1 – I am lucky enough to own a few acres and have a ladder stand installed on a tree in my backyard. Attached to the stand are two ropes; one used to hoist up my bow, the second is a lifeline rope with another smaller loop of rope with a prusik knot.

2 – I practice putting on and taking off my harness in my living room so I can do this as quietly as possible without getting everything tangled up.

3 – I then go outside to the stand. In regular clothes, I practice attaching onto the lifeline, climbing the ladder stand, getting to the top and hooking up the umbilical line to the strap which is located behind the seat. At that point I am double hooked-to the strap and to the lifeline. I do this step multiple times-it’s overkill, I know but it helps.

4 – After I feel semi-comfortable with the whole climbing and settling in procedure, I then repeat but this time I am dressed in my camo clothes along with any extras like a backpack. It’s kind of like dress rehearsal. I go to the stand, attach my bow to my hoist line. I then attach the umbilical cord of my harness to the lifeline. I climb up, anchor in and pull my bow up.I practice this multiple times to try to get as quiet as possible. I can play around with the option of hoisting up my back pack or climbing up wearing it.

5 – Lastly, after I am settled in and my legs don’t feel like I need to jump up and down with energy, I practice shooting from my stand. I think everyone should do this whether or not they have a fear of heights but for me, practice is even more crucial. It’s hard to concentrate on the shot when your entire body has adrenaline pumping through it and the deer isn’t in front of you yet.

For someone like me, I didn’t get through any of these steps the first time. I basically stood on the ladder rungs and sweated. Tried another step and there were tears involved. My husband’s hand on my ass while saying “Just go, You’re okay”, honestly didn’t help either. I did tell him what he could do with his hand and it wasn’t pleasant. At that point he left me alone. Although looking back he did hang multiple stands for me so I guess I should go apologize now.

I’m still really afraid of heights and that will never go away. But by chiseling away at that fear by little steps at least I can now function in a tree stand.

I wish you well this season!

Essentials for my backpack

Below are some things that are always in my pack. I just will not go into the woods without them – no matter the season.

Pack of tissues-especially during the spring turkey season!
Some wire ties for attaching a tag
Snips to take care of any branches I might have missed during the set up
Folding Knife
Pen for filing out tag
License and tags
Permission slips
Saline solution-nothing worse than a dry contact lens in the stand!
Reusable rubber coated Gear Ties
Pair of black Red Head glove liners-these work great to use in the dead of winter under heavy gloves or on the spring as a light weight option
Cell phone

Additional items will get added at certain times of the year for different seasons or my weapon of choice but there are some things this girl cannot do without!