"The pirogue was one Daddy had bought from a guy who made them out of plywood and then covered in fiberglass," he said. "It was a good boat to hunt out of, but it didn't have any built-in flotation.
"I was floating downstream in a pretty good current when I hit two cypress knees that were just under the water. They knocked two holes in the bottom of the boat, and that thing sank immediately. All I had time to do was grab my gun and bail out into deep water.
"It was 19 degrees that morning, and let me tell you when water's that cold it feels like lightning when you hit it. I had heavy clothes and boots on, and it was hard to swim. I thought, man, I'm going to drown, but I got to a log and rested a little while and finally made it to an island.
"I warmed up a bit, and some time later I heard a four-wheeler on the other side of the creek. But I would have had to cover a lot more water to get where it was, and I really didn't want to try it. So I yelled out, and the guy heard me and came over. It turned out to be Myron Adams, another member of the lease. He and Steven Weeks finally picked me up in a boat and got me to a road where an ambulance was waiting. By that time, my legs had turned completely blue."
Jim Dunegan also had a close call early in his pirogue-hunting days.
"I was drifting down Saline Bayou in a stretch of water I'd done a thousand times before," he said. "It was December, and one of those really cold days where the ice had formed along the water's edge.
"I came to a big cypress log across the creek and let the boat drift into it sideways like I always do so I could step out onto the log and pull the boat over it. But this time when I stepped on it that sucker broke slap in two, and I fell in the water. There was enough current there to sweep the boat in a circle, and I clung to its side unable to get back in it. Then I got a cramp in my leg and, boy, did it hurt. Then I got a cramp in the other leg and felt another one forming in my stomach, but I finally made it to the bank.
"I had some matches I kept in a plastic bag for times like this, and decided to make a fire to dry out, but when I opened the bag it was full of water. I wound up stripping all my clothes off and hanging them on some bushes and sitting there on the creek bank in my birthday suit until the wind dried them out enough that I could put them back on."
If you're going to deer hunt in a pirogue, there are certain safety items you should always have with you. A life jacket goes without saying, and make sure you wear it if you're in deep water or in a swift current. One of the best purchases I have made in recent years was an Onyx Flotation Jacket. It is a heavy camouflage coat with built-in flotation. The Onyx not only meets Coast Guard flotation requirements, but it also is as warm as an insulated coat, and it's a lot less bulky than trying to wear a traditional life vest over heavy clothing.
Also, be prepared in case you do have an accident.
"If you hunt from a pirogue, you inevitably are going to get wet and you need to have a way to warm up on a cold day," Dunegan said. "My advice for someone just starting out is to pack an extra pair of shoes, socks and a jump suit or some other simple warm clothing, along with some matches in a sealed plastic bag, and put it all in a trash bag within a trash bag."
If the worst happens, the bag will float and you can retrieve it, quickly start a fire and change into dry clothing.