Wet in Arkansas

Editor's Note: This is an article about a duck hunting accident with one of our community members.

Duck Hunting AccidentIn 2010 we had 13 inches of rain in December. So when we arrived in Brinkley the first week of January we drove into Dagmar to check the water level. Water was already over most of the roads and a few were blocked off. As we were leaving, we could tell the water was still rising, and sure enough the next day the whole unit was closed. We decided that our best option was to put in on Apple Lake to get back to where we wanted to hunt. We had left early enough, or so we thought, because we knew that with this much water finding birds was going to be tough.

Once the boat was wet we punched in our numbers and took off. It was kind of rough going at first, blazing a trail through the woods and uncharted waters, but that was nothing compared to the Buck brush that we had to go through about thirty minutes later. In the ProDrive with me, was my brother running the boat, my nephew manning the GPS, and my Yellow Lab Doc, lending moral support. I was trying to keep us off the trees and trying to pick the path of least resistance, that Buck brush is tough stuff. Well about an hour later we finally made it to a boat lane. With the motor off, we could hear I-40 and within a few minutes we could see the headlights of traffic on the highway. Well we all gave each other high fives and a few sighs of relief, we had made it to familiar water and the sun wasn't up yet, we were in good shape. As we neared the highway I stood up to push us off a Cypress tree, and that's when it happened.

The boat went over a submerged cypress tree and lifted left, I went right in and time stood still. In mid-air I had time to both think of how cold the water was going to be, and to reach out and try to grab the side of the boat. You see when it's seventeen degrees outside and the wind is blowing twenty seven knots, you do not want to get wet. Well I got wet alright. I was able to grab the side of the boat but was not able to keep my head out of the water. It took a long time for my brother to figure out just what I was trying to do outside the boat. I even heard my nephew tell him to kill the motor, but it was too late, my waders had already filled up like a parachute.

Getting back into the boat was surprisingly easy once we got out of the full throttle. Now I have been duck hunting for the best part of forty years, I knew better. I am also a rescue diver and I know that I would not make it back to the hill if we had to go back the way we came. My only option was the highway and that's where I went. My brother in the meantime got on the phone and called every law enforcement agency in Arkansas and I believe a few in Missouri. Let me tell ya brother, when a tractor trailer goes by you at seventy miles an hour, it is cold, I mean real cold, it hurts. And nobody wants to stop for someone at five in the morning dressed in full camo.

One lady did just before I was ready to lay down and call it quits. She stopped her little car and it was filled to the top with Christmas presents and she started crying. I told her that I was ok but please call the police and give them the next mile marker because that was where I would be. Just a few moments later an Arkansas fish and game truck came by pulling a boat and I wish you could've seen the look on his face when he saw me, he was looking for me but it still took a second or two to register. That man hit the brakes and did the most remarkable back up with a boat I have ever seen, I mean sixty miles an hour in reverse with a boat behind him. Well he got me in the truck and cranked the heater up and off we went. He got on the radio and started cancelling the helicopter, highway patrol and everyone else within a three state radius. He was on the way to the hospital when I told him all I needed was a warm shower and just take me to the house which was only ten minutes away. News travels fast in the duck hunting community and by the time I had gotten a ride to the truck to collect my crew and rig the word was out. Stopping by my friend's beer store to grab a few things, I got to hear the story about some idiot falling out of the boat and almost freezing to death. We had a good laugh because everyone knows you don't stand up in a duck boat.