April Giveaway - My Worst Deer Season So Far

by Brad Onstad
(Champlin, MN)

Following is the deer hunting story for the entry into the April giveaway... I hope you enjoy it!


When I was 17, I was able to go to the family deer camp hunting for only my second time. The year prior, my grandma had passed away, so I was only able to hunt Sunday due to the funeral. Needless to say I was really looking forward to going for my first full year. That season, my dad (Pete) had invited 3 of his friends along for the hunt with myself, and it was a really great time. Cards were played and we ate great food. We all hit the rack early that night in order to get an early start on opener. We wanted to be to our stands at least an hour early.

I was going to be hunting with two of my dad’s friends, Bob and Merle, while my dad would be hunting approximately a mile away with the third friend Tom. As we wished each other luck and headed off in separate directions, I remember it being a very cold and still morning. It was a gorgeous quiet morning as we walked through the river bottoms to our tree stands. Around 10 AM Merle shot a nice buck. We waited until noon to start dragging since we had decided to meet my dad and Merle for lunch then. As we emerged from the river bottoms to the approach, Tom was walking in to meet us.

Merle asked Tom, “Well did you get anything?”

Tom replied, “Well, Pete shot at one, and then he got shot.”

Tom was always joking so nobody thought twice, however it was soon clear that he was not joking this time…
My dad’s stand was situated on the top of a ridge. Early that same morning a doe popped out towards the bottom of the hill. He shot at it once, and it disappeared.

Thinking he had dropped the doe, he then turned around to climb out of his stand when something hit him in the leg, and knocked him off his feet. As he was falling, his pant leg got caught on a tree branch, and stopped him from falling the full 15 feet to the ground. At this point he was still unsure what had happened. All he knew was that he was hanging upside down by his pants. He noticed that his leg took a 90° bend in a direction it should not be going, and blood was soaking through his wool pant leg.

He screamed for help at the top of his lungs. After several minutes, Tom was finally able to hear his cries for help, and ran over to help him down out of the tree. It was clear that a bullet had hit him in the calf shattering both the fibula and tibia of his right leg. Needless to say my second deer season was going to be cut short as well.

They rushed him to the hospital, and over the course of the next 3 months underwent 8 surgeries to repair the damage. The doctors told us they could have put a golf ball in the exit wound in his shin and it would have been flush with his leg. They also confided that they weren’t even sure if they were able to save it.

Not to be discouraged, by the next year my dad was back out in the woods hunting with a cane. 2012 will mark the 25th anniversary of that season and he still has a titanium rod in that leg today, but has made a full recovery.

They never did determine who fired the shot that hit my dad, but they were able to find a 5 inch diameter tree that the bullet went through before hitting him. The best they could tell was that someone was firing back up towards my dad, at the same deer he was shooting at. It was unlikely that they didn’t hear him screaming, yet they never rendered aid.

I have a family of my own now, and my dad hadn’t hunted deer for a number of years for various reasons unrelated to this story. Last year I finally convinced him to join me in northern Minnesota, with my brother and the rest of my hunting crew at my cabin for deer season.

Although none of the five of us fired a shot, it was one of the best seasons I have ever had, and he has told me numerous times how much fun it was. A new chapter is started.

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