A local hunter is counting his blessings after a safety harness prevented him from falling 30 ft. out of a tree stand. The accident happened while he was hunting in West Feliciana Parish in October 2017.
Baton Rouge native James Howell wants to remind hunters to wear their safety harness. The very next day, he took down an eight-point buck with his bow and arrow.
“I try to be a godly guy, and I can’t help but believe He blessed me twice last week,” Howell told WAFB.
Just a normal hunt and then…
Howell lives and works in Breaux Bridge but hunts on land he leases near St. Francisville. On the morning of October 2, Howell had been sitting in the stand for about an hour when he shifted his weight and the stand collapsed.
He explained the top strap that secured the stand to the tree had come loose but the bottom strap was still secured. Howell said without the safety harness he “would have fallen face-first.”
Luckily, Howell was left dangling with his crossbow in one hand and his cell phone in the other.
At that height, both items would have been damaged if they fell. He called his hunting buddy who was able to get him to safety 30 minutes later.
He also managed to snap a selfie while dangling in the air for 33 minutes. Howell uses a safety harness religiously after he witnessed a friend fall out of a tree during a hunt a few years ago.
He does not use the harness that typically comes with a tree stand. Howell recommends buying after-market harnesses because they are of better quality and more comfortable.
Live to hunt another day
After buying his friend lunch for getting him out of the tree, Howell set up a tree stand at a different area of the property and hunted that afternoon without any luck.
He also set up a surveillance camera that transmits photos in real time to an app on his smartphone.
That night, Howell says he had trouble sleeping and kept receiving photos of deer at two locations on his lease.
Howell was having trouble deciding on which location to hunt so his wife recommended that he go to the stand on the west side of the property.
On the morning of October 3, Howell climbed into his stand 25 feet in the air, and double checked his safety harness and waited until daylight.
Around 6:40 a.m., just after daylight, he spotted some movement around a corn pile 25 yards from the stand.
Looking through a pair of binoculars, he spotted one of the bucks he had previously seen on the surveillance camera.
“After gathering my composure, I placed the crosshairs on my crossbow behind the shoulder, squeezed off a shot and the deer bolted.”
His blood trailing black Lab, Fender, tracked the buck about 60 yards away from where it had been shot.
The buck weighed 220 pounds and had 19 and a half inches of antlers still covered in velvet.
A local taxidermy shop is currently working to mount the eight-point buck. Howell has already eaten some of the trophy deer and says it taste great.
He had the deer processed into ground meat and cooked it in a taco bowl. Howell is proud of his trophy buck but hopes other realize the importance of safety.
“I want to urge every hunter to never get on a stand without a safety harness or life line,” he said. “I really feel my life was spared because I wore one.”