This past weekend I put myself in a painful, near life changing predicament while cleaning my room. Yes, I know. Cleaning one’s room sounds far from dangerous or problematic, but I managed to disprove that notion. However the situation, which I will describe in detail momentarily, did provoke some blog worthy thoughts that I believe could benefit many hunters, and perhaps reduce the risk of you losing a wounded deer this fall.
While I was cleaning out some old desk drawers, I found an old, out-of-date Epipen that caught my eye. As a seasonal allergy sufferer, I’ve always carried an Epipen in case of allergic reaction, but it 6 years of doing so, I’ve never needed one. For some reason, however, my curiosity peaked when I found this one and I felt the need to see how it worked. After unscrewing the cap and giving the device a thorough inspection, I inadvertently applied some pressure to the “wrong end” of the pen and into my thumb pierced a two inch long needle and a 6 year old dose of Epinephrine. I immediately jumped up, screamed a few explicit words and found that the needle was stuck in my finger. After a deep breath, I tried to pull it out, because after all, the needle of an Epipen is supposed to automatically retract after injection. After another deep breath, I tugged a little harder, and even gave the pen a little jerk to free my thumb. Nothing. Numbing with pain I went to show my mom who, like all mothers do, screamed with horror and decided that we had to rush to the Emergency Room as quickly as possible.
Now, I’ve had enough broken bones and stitches in my life that I have developed a rather admirable tolerance for pain, if I do say so myself. My primary concern was to just get the needle out of my thumb as quickly and painlessly as possible, and I figured all would be fine. I didn’t particularly enjoy looking down at my thumb and having a needle stuck out of it. However, on the way to the ER my hand and thumb in particular, had turned a sickly pale white. So I casually and half-jokingly asked my mom, “Are they going to have to cut off my thumb?” She shook her head no and that thought never crossed my mind again, until aboutan hour later.
My broadhead of choice, the Thunderhead Edge by NAP!
The Emergency Room doctor managed to pull the needle out of my thumb without much problem and I was relieved and ready to go home. It turns out that the needle went in my thumb, hit the bone and bent to a 90 degree angle, which is why I couldn’t pull it out myself. But a larger problem ensued. It turns out Epinephrine is safe to inject anywhere in the body except fingers, toes and the tip of the nose. Well, last I checked my thumb was a finger. Epinephrine cuts out the flow of oxygenated blood and prevents healthy circulation, which is why my hand went white almost immediately. After the doctor told me there was a legitimate chance I could lose my thumb, I realized this was more serious than I thought. He then reassured me that as long as I got a shot of anecdote within 12 hours, I would be fine, but that too was extremely painful.
The decision was an easy one and as I laid in the Emergency Room bed waiting for the shot, by bowhunter brain kicked into gear. I began to wonder how a deer must feel when they get shot by an arrow that doesn’t penetrate well requiring them to run through the timber with an arrow stuck in their side. I can now attest that it must be extremely painful and uncomfortable. But bad shots happen to everyone, right? Once the arrow is released there isn’t a whole lot we can do is there? Yes, of course there is.
Bad shots, just like my accident (although my accident was the result of sheer stupidity and curiosity), do and will happen to every bowhunter at some point in their career. There are two variables that we can control before the shot.
Is this an ethical shot? I vote no! Even though this buck was just 15 yards away when I snapped the photo, he is quartering too much for an ethical shot.
First, it is critical to know the importance of good shot placement. This means a thorough understanding of a whitetail’s anatomy and thus which shots will result in quick, clean kills. Broadside or slightly quartering away shots are ideal on whitetails. They reveal the entire chest cavity which will allow a well-placed arrow to pass through the lungs and/ or heart. Quartering to shots are ill-advised simply because the window in which an arrow can pierce the vitals is much smaller. Too often a hunter takes a shot on an animal that is quartering to them too strongly and the arrow hits the shoulder blade, penetration is minimal and the animal is never recovered. While it may seem like a weak analogy, let’s compare the shot on a whitetail to my thumb injury. Obviously, the needle wasn’t well placed. Epipens are actually to be injected in the thigh, where the Epinephrine is safe to do its job and where pain will be the least. An Epipen injection in the thigh is synonymous with a double lung or heart shot deer. A broadhead that passes through a whitetail’s lungs almost always results in the animal expiring in less than 15-20 seconds and the animal is almost always recovered. An Epipen injection in the thumb is synonymous to shooting a whitetail in the paunch, brisket or shoulder blade. Penetration will be minimal and the animal is likely to suffer a painful death, or never be recovered by the hunter.
The second variable we can control is what broadhead we shoot and how sharp they are. A strong, sharp broadhead that cuts through the air like a dart increases shooting confidence and also results in bigger blood trails and thus quicker recoveries. I started using New Archery Products (NAP) broadheads during the 2010 season and they really opened my eyes to what a quality broadhead is capable of. I harvested two whitetails this past season with the Thunderhead Edge, a hard hitting broadhead with serrated blades for maximum sharpness and devastation to blood vessels and arteries. Both shots were pass throughs and the deer expired in less than 10 seconds in both instances. I also filmed Todd Graf harvesting an adult doe with the Spitfire Maxx, an expandable broadhead that buried itself nearly 6 inches in the ground after the shot. In mid-October I filmed Jeremy Enders’ harvest a doe with the NAP Nitron that quickly passed through his first ever whitetail and buried itself 6 inches in the ground. That doe made it less than 40 yards before tipping over. Finally, I didn’t film Justin Zarr’s Halloween morning buck, but accompanied him on the massive blood trail his Nitron tipped arrow left that lead to an easy recovery.
While this yearling buck was certainly no shooter at the time, he did present an opportunity for a perfect quartering away shot. By aiming at the opposite side front leg, an arrow would easily pass through both lungs and result in a quick recovery,
Granted the above examples were the result of well-placed shots, the damage done by NAP broadheads was undeniable. Unlike cheap, dull poorly made broadheads, NAP broadheads strike quickly and cleanly and blast through hide, flesh and bone. The needle of the Epipen that nearly cost me my thumb was not the most durable made product. Then again, it’s not designed to tear through flesh and bone, but I think a parallel can be drawn here. When you shoot a whitetail, do you want your broadhead to bend, brake or deflect when striking bone or rib cage, or do you want it to blast through like an NAP broadhead? Like the decision to keep or lose a thumb, I think the answer is an easy one.