Just three days into muzzle-loading season, 66-year-old Thomas Alexander had already dropped a buck in northern Arkansas. He planned to field dress the deer with his nephew, but those plans took a turn for the worse last Tuesday when he approached what he believed was a dead animal.
Not long after, Alexander’s nephew found him lying in the field with puncture wounds all over his body. He was cogent enough to call his wife, but stopped breathing on the way to the hospital, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and CNN.
The animal has not been recovered.
“I’ve worked for the Game and Fish Commission for 20 years, and it’s one of the stranger things that’s happened,” Keith Stephens, chief of communications, told Fox 8.
Arkansas authorities later announced that Alexander had pre-existing conditions that contributed to his death, but the incident should serve as a reminder for all deer hunters as rifle season gets underway in many states across the country.
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Injuries related to wounded deer are not uncommon, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Joe Dale Purdom told CNN.
Hunters will sometimes approach what they believe is a dead deer that is in reality only stunned or injured. Hunters will be struck or gored when the deer jumps up and runs away, but Purdom said he’s never seen someone die after the attack.
Best practice is to wait 15 to 30 minutes after the deer has gone down to make sure it’s dead, Purdom advised.
Stephens told Fox 8 that they aren’t sure how long Alexander waited before approaching the deer, but authorities say the man was an experienced hunter.
“I don’t know how long he left it there, but he went up to check it to make sure it was dead. And evidently, it wasn’t,” Stephens said.
He also reiterated Purdom’s advice to hunters who have just shot a deer.
“When you get up there, be really careful around it because it may not be dead,” Stephens said. “But if you let them lay there for a while and they don’t move, and he may have done that. We just don’t know.”
Injuries related to deer attacks are relatively rare compared to other types of hunting-related accidents (tree stands, for example), but this isn’t the first time a whitetail has turned the tables on a would-be hunter.
In 2014, a Louisiana man nearly bled to death after he approached what he believed was a dead buck. He told local media that he’d waited about 15 minutes after taking his shot and thought he heard the large animal crash down in the woods.
But when he approached, the buck lunged toward him, gouged his thigh, and flung him to the ground. The man was able to keep the buck from gouging his chest and face until the buck eventually got tired and trotted off into the woods—with the man’s rifle strap looped around its horns.
The man was flown to the hospital and lived. He later found his rifle but never saw the buck again.