Hunter survives tree stand malfunction, sticks 135-inch velvet buck

Safety harness prevented 25-foot fall, Howell says

They say the Lord works in mysterious ways. For 30-year-old James Howell, divine intervention has already came into play more than once since bow season started.

“I try to be a godly guy, and I can’t help but believe He blessed me twice this week while deer hunting on my lease near St. Francisville in West Feliciana Parish,” Howell said.

On one hand, Howell, of Breaux Bridge, was able to put the crosshairs of his TenPoint Venom crossbow on a beautiful 8-point velvet buck on Wednesday morning, Oct. 4, that measured 135 inches of velvety bone.

On the other hand, two days earlier he came within a whisker of falling 25 feet from a deer stand that malfunctioned. Thankfully, he was wearing a safety harness that left him dangling — but kept him from crashing to the ground.

“Monday morning, Oct. 2, I crawled into a stand on our lease,” Howell said. “I was about an hour into the hunt when I was sending a text, then shifted my weight a bit and the stand just gave way.”

Fortunately, someone was obviously looking out for him. First, Howell was wearing his safety harness, which left him suspended from the tree. Secondly, sending a text meant he had his cell phone in his hand when the stand collapsed.

“The safety harness saved me from falling but because the bottom strap on the stand was still secured, so I was trapped between the dangling stand and the tree trunk,” he said. “Thankfully, I was able to call my hunting buddy who was at the club, and he came and helped me get down without any injury.”

On Tuesday, Howell walked in to another stand, put a trail camera out and hunted without seeing anything.

“I had trouble sleeping that night, maybe because of the near mishap I had or because of what my trail cameras were transmitting to my phone,” he said. “I have an app that sends a signal to my phone, sending pictures in real time of what is being photographed. I checked it and saw I had some good deer at two locations where I had cameras, one on the east side of the lease and the other on the west.

“After showing her the photos, I asked my wife her opinion of which stand I should hunt. She suggested I go to the west stand, so I got up, got dressed and headed to that stand.”

Climbing up 25 feet into the stand an hour before daylight, Howell made sure his safety harness was secured, then sat back and waited until it was light enough to see.

“About 6:40, I saw something moving around the corn pile I had placed 25 yards from my stand. My stand was in a big white oak that was raining down acorns, but the activity was at the corn pile,” he continued. “Using my binoculars, I saw one of the big bucks I had seen on camera. After gathering my composure, I placed the crosshairs on my crossbow behind the shoulder, squeezed off a shot and the deer bolted.”

Howell went back and got his blood trailing black Lab, and the duo found the buck only 60 yards away.

Heavy antlers covered in velvet stretched the tape inside to 19 ¼ inches, and the buck tipped the scales at a hefty 220 pounds and measured 135 inches of bone.

“As much as I want to share my success story with the buck,” Howell said, “I want to urge every hunter to never get on a stand without a safety harness or Life Line.

“I really feel my life was spared because I wore one.”

About Glynn Harris 508 Articles
Glynn Harris is a long-time outdoor writer from Ruston. He writes weekly outdoor columns for several north Louisiana newspapers, has magazine credits in a number of state and national magazines and broadcasts four outdoor radio broadcasts each week. He has won more than 50 writing and broadcasting awards during his 47 year career.