Accidents happen.

October 13, 2014

vanderhaag_legends_2Outside the Walls, a blog written by Nick VanderWall, is sponsored by VanderHaag Car Sales, 1680 W. U.S. 10-31, Scottville; 231-757-2727;, Mason County’s premier car rental outlet and also Legends Taxidermy of Scottville; 231-757-9589; It appears here on the second and fourth Monday of the month.

It was a beautiful day  on Sept. 22, in 2002.  I woke up excited to go bird hunting that afternoon, but what I didn’t know is that I would have a life changing experience.

After church my family and I went home to the cottage and my dad and I proceeded to get dressed to go hunting with a family friend.  We picked him up and we left to hunt with our dog Maggie in the back excited as ever.

It was a perfect day to be out in the woods, I thought. The temperature was not too hot, but not too cold and hardly any wind. I even remember the sun glistening off the dewy droplets it left on the dying ferns.

We were tramping through the wet undergrowth getting our legs wet, but not minding at all because we had a few birds in the bag.  We entered a clearing and that is where it all goes dark.

My dad said, that Maggie went on point, so she was smelling a bird and ready to flush it.  My dad and the friend were up in position, but I was a little behind them because they were adults and I was in a thicker brambly area.

The bird broke flying over my dad’s shoulder and flying straight towards me.  Our friend turned, and shot hitting the bird, but hitting me as well from the chest up.

I was rushed to the hospital and air lifted to DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.  I was put in to surgery to try and save my eyes which didn’t happen.  I have very little site in my right eye, but nothing in my left.

I honestly don’t remember much from the accident for which I thank God.  I had a traumatic brain injury and lost feeling for a time on my right side.  My memory was affected from the accident, so I had to relearn everything from the ABC’s to brushing my teeth.

I currently have regained most of the feeling on my right side, and I live a pretty normal life.  I have a total of 140 plus BBs in my body, and most of them are in my head.

I had one BB on the lining of my heart, one on the lining of my lungs and six BBs in my brain.  I truly was close to death that day.  I credit God for saving my life.

I told you that story to let you know that accidents do happen while hunting, it comes with the territory.  I just didn’t think something like that would happen to me.

The rest of this article is how you can help prevent accidents from happening to you or a hunting partner.

The first and smartest thing to do when hunting with a gun is to wear hunter’s orange. You only need 10 percent of your body covered in orange, so that would be like a hat that has to be seen in all directions. Turkey and water fowl hunting are the only times you don’t need to wear hunters orange when using a firearm.

You should also wear safety glasses.  They probably wouldn’t have protected my eyes completely, but they would have allowed them to have a little more site than they have now.

The next thing to do if hunting with a group is to always have constant communication.  Let’s say there are three people in the group. The first thing to do is to set up lanes for shooting.

The hunter in the middle shoots only in the middle. The hunter on the right shoots in front of himself and to the right, and the hunter on the left shoots in front and to the left. I hope this is common sense, but it is always good to go over the basics.

Now if you’re deer hunting you want to keep up communication as well.   You can text or use a walky-talky to let them know you’re coming out of the woods for lunch or to leave.  It is always good to check in from time to time and agree on a time for lunch. This is what my family likes to do.

Another idea for your deer blinds is to put reflective orange on the corners, so that other hunters know a blind is there.

I always tell people taking hunter safety to visualize beyond the target.  This helps to see what potential harm could be beyond the deer or bird.  You could see a rock which would make the bullet rickashay or a person that you could have shot.  That is what our family friend forgot to do.

Lastly is to not hunt impaired.  You don’t want to be hunting while drinking alcohol or smoking any illegal substance. This can seriously affect your judgment on shots.  Now some legal drugs that you take can also have an effect on you, so be careful when taking anything. This could be the thing that saves a life.

I want everyone to know that I forgave our friend who shot me and I still talk to him to this day.  I knew accidents could happen I just didn’t think something like that would happen to me.

I have explained my accident to you in hope that you take these steps to heart and try to prevent accidents while hunting next time.


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