For 40+ years, Paul Meeks of Tallulah has preached and taught and planned for hunter safety. Paul is the founder and developer of API Outdoors, which became the country’s largest producer of tree stands, in fact, he invented one of the first climbing stands for deer. In 2020, he was inducted into the National Legends Hall of Fame and is also a member of the Louisiana Chapter. He is also owner of Great Day, Inc., a manufacturer of specialty accessories for all-terrain vehicles and is a regular speaker at hunters and wild game banquets and events.
Even more importantly, Paul is a veteran deer hunter, harvesting more deer scoring 150 or better than most people have even seen. He never misses a season and loves to hunt in other states, like Kansas. Everybody is aware of the caution you must take using climbing and ladder stands, but nobody gives much of a thought to deer hunting out of big box stands. You can’t count Paul Meeks among them any more. This season, he had a painful experience with a box stand that could have been tragic. Here’s Paul’s story. It’s worth reading for anybody that hunts in a box stand — especially younger hunters who think this can’t happen to them.
“For me, 2020 had a rough start. After at least 3 to 4 years of dealing with painful issues with my neck, my doctor scheduled me for surgery on April 7, 2020. Then the COVID pandemic hit and the surgery was postponed to October 13, 2020. The estimated recovery time for the extensive neck surgery was 6 to 8 weeks. There went early bow season! Finally, recovery time was up from the neck surgery, but early bow season in Kansas was over. I had, for 20 years, enjoyed the same awesome bowhunting in Kansas by being there the first or second weeks of November. Too late for that!
My son, Ilar Paul, and I decided to get Thanksgiving behind us and go right after the Kansas gun season. We headed to Kansas on December 13. The weather was always rougher in December and sure enough we hit snow in southern Oklahoma—knowing it was going to be worse in Kansas. We made our first hunt the morning of December 14. Had a good hunt despite the cold. We were hunting from commercially made elevated box blinds which helped cut the cold and wind. The next day we decided to make it an all-day sit. Saw several good bucks but none we wanted to shoot. That afternoon the sun came out and the snow melted a little creating some icy footing.
On the morning of the 16th, we again decided to stay all day—expecting the deer to be moving in the better weather. We left the truck at the edge of the property and took the Polaris Ranger to our stands. I dropped Ilar off at his stand and reminded him that I would see him at dark. Our stands are about 400 yards apart.
I parked the Ranger, gathered up my equipment and headed for my stand. It was a beautiful morning and there wasn’t a thought in my mind of any danger with getting into my stand. I did notice that the snow had hardened in places on the ground but didn’t cause any problems walking.
When I reached the stepladder of the stand, I proceeded to climb up with no problems. The stepping onto the platform was easy. Next, I had to step to the right side of the platform to reach the top doorknob. Unconsciously, I leaned against the handrail on the right side of the platform. In a second’s time, the handrail gave way or bent just enough that I lost my footing on the icy platform. Before I knew it, I was hanging upside down over the edge of the platform supported by only a one-handed grip on the handrail. I could feel my grip on the rail slipping but there was nothing I could do. Next, I was falling toward the metal braces that were attached to the blind’s legs!
Immediately, my left side was on fire with pain. When I decided I wasn’t dead, I tried to move. I couldn’t—my clothing was hung on the metal brace that ripped through my ribs. At that point I tried to gather my senses as what to do. Fortunately, I could reach my cell phone and called my son. He was there in just a few minutes and put me in the Ranger and headed to our truck. We headed toward Anthony Kansas—hoping there was a hospital there. Fortunately, the Harper Medical Center was open and immediately got to work with pain control and testing to establish the level of damage. In just a short while, it was determined that I needed to be moved to the Trauma Center in Wichita Kansas. At the St Francis Ascension Trauma Center in Wichita, the Trauma team decided to place a titanium plate in my side to be attached to 5 of the 7 broken ribs.
I am back at home (at Shiloh, my hunting camp) and am prepared for a long recovery to be ready for turkey season. I want to give credit to God for His presence through this whole ordeal and the miracles that I know he performed!
One last note and warning to my friends who are now committed to hunting from elevated box stands: Do not be lured into believing that there is no need to practice good safety precautions!”
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