Editor’s Note: According to Mossy Oak Pro Brenda Valentine of Puryear, Tennessee, known as the First Lady of Hunting, “I don’t let much grass grow under my feet. If I’m not flying on an airplane, driving somewhere in my truck, using my tractor to turn dirt or bush hog weeds, riding my horses, tending to my garden, spending time with my four grandkids, testing new outdoor equipment, writing a column for ‘Turkey Country Magazine,’ being at a Bass Pro Shops grand opening or representing the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) somewhere, I’m hunting.” But for Valentine, this schedule is greatly-reduced compared to her earlier years in the outdoors when she traveled all over and out of the country gathering content and video footage for three different TV shows at the same time. If ever someone has lived and still lives the Mossy Oak lifestyle, it’s Brenda Valentine.
I’ve been the First Lady of Hunting, which is a registered trademark, for the last 16 years and have been a Mossy Oak Pro for at least 14 years. I’m been the official spokesperson for the NWTF for the last 8 years, and I’ve been sponsored by Bass Pro Shops for 19 years. I was the very first Pro Staff person to start working with Hunter Safety System. When I first heard about the company, I just had fallen out of tree. I told the company I’d like to study the product because I certainly had a real need for a safety harness. Actually I thought I’d killed myself when I fell out of that tree stand so many years ago.
I was hunting near my home and was using my climbing tree stand to climb a big red oak tree. I was trimming limbs off the tree as I climbed it. I had one of those old-style safety harnesses that went around your chest but didn’t have leg loops. But I failed to attach the harness to the tree, because back then you didn’t attach yourself to the tree, until you were at the height at which you planned to hunt.
I was about 12-feet high. To continue to climb the tree, I had to saw through a limb about 12 inches in diameter. The top of this limb was pulled down by some vines. So, when I finally sawed through the limb, the limb sprang toward me, hit me in the chest and knocked me backwards. However, my feet still were in the straps on the bottom of the climbing tree stand. This tree stand was one of those where you put your feet in the straps on the base of the platform, bear hugged the tree, pulled your legs up to pull up the tree stand and then pushed down to lock the stand back into the tree. When I got knocked off the tree stand, I dangled upside down with my feet still attached to the stand. I had the breath knocked out of me too. I couldn’t sit up or find anything to pull myself up with to get back on top of the stand.
My first thought was that I had broken both of my ankles. Since I was upside down, I’d pass out and then return to consciousness. I tried to understand what was happening, and my next thought was, “I’m probably going to lose my legs, since I don’t have any circulation from my knees down.” I struggled and struggled to get myself back up on top of that platform, because I realized no one knew where I was hunting. I had neglected tell anyone or leave a note.
I finally took a deep breath and thought to myself, “I’m going to die right here, hanging upside down from this tree stand.” However, I wasn’t really that afraid of death. But when I began to think about my family finding me after the crows and buzzards had started eating on me, I knew I had to get out of that tree stand.
I gained enough strength to start swinging back and forth and got hold of a vine hanging down off another tree. I had a little pouch on my climber, and I knew there was a small knife in it. I got hold of the little pouch, ripped it open, removed the knife, opened the knife’s blade and began swinging back and forth once more, until I came up high enough to stab between the place where the strap was attached to the platform and then went around my boot. Then I’d fall back down, regain my strength and make another giant swing to stab the strap. The strap finally broke, I fell backwards, and I dropped the knife. Dangling now from one leg, I thought, “Oh, my goodness, I’m in worse shape now than when I was hanging by two legs.” I continued to swing and wiggle, until I got my foot out of my boot that was still attached to the tree stand.
Once I hit the ground, I laid there for awhile, realizing I couldn’t walk. So, I crawled 1/2-mile back home on my belly. I banged on the back door until my husband left the football game he was watching and carried me to the hospital. Luckily I only broke three ribs, however, I had stretched all the tendons and ligaments in my legs so badly, and my ankles were to swollen, that I had big blobs of gelled-up blood in my ankles. After my recovery, I repaired my tree stand and went hunting again from that stand before the end of the season. However, this time instead of wearing boots to hunt, I wore tennis shoes with no strings in them. I also kept a knife on my belt.
From that experience, I learned the importance of always being attached to a tree, whether I was climbing up or down. I also learned not to saw limbs that could kick back and knock me out of a stand. Some lessons we learn easily, other lessons we learn only through pain and suffering.
For more information on Brenda Valentine, visit: https://www.facebook.com/brenda1valentine, https://www.facebook.com/BrendaValentineFirstLadyOfHunting and www.brendavalentine.com.
To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.