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Injured Archer Rescued by Helicopter in Difficult Terrain: How It Happened

SAGUACHE COUNTY, CO — A hunting expedition turned into a rescue mission in Saguache County after an archery hunter was severely injured. Saguache Search and Rescue (SAR) was alerted about the incident around 11:30 AM on September 7, 2023.

The injured hunter was navigating over a downed tree in the northern end of the San Luis Valley near North Decker Creek in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains when an arrow dislodged from his quiver. The broadhead arrowhead pierced his right calf, embedding itself fully in the muscle.

SAR team members spoke with the hunter and his companion via cell phone to provide immediate medical direction. They advised the injured hunter to apply direct pressure to the wound and stabilize the arrow with gauze to prevent it from moving.

Saguache SAR activated ground personnel, who traveled as close as a mile to the survivor’s location. A medical team of four, including an EMT and two EMRs, accompanied by a Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officer, began hiking to the site. The team carried medical gear, a SKED stretcher, rope, and belay equipment.

An initial attempt by a Reach Air Medical Helicopter to locate a landing zone near the survivor proved unsuccessful due to difficult terrain. Eventually, a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter with hoist capability from the Colorado Army National Guard was called. The survivor was hoisted aboard safely and transferred to another helicopter, Reach 29, before being transported for medical treatment.

Lessons Learned & Safety Tips

This incident underscores the importance of safety precautions for archers and hunters:

  1. Secure Your Gear: Make sure all equipment, including arrows, is securely fastened before moving.

  2. Emergency Communication: Always carry a fully charged cell phone or a satellite phone for emergency communication.

  3. First-Aid Kit: Equip yourself with a basic first-aid kit that includes gauze, antiseptics, and other wound-care items.

  4. Know Your Location: Have a GPS device and ensure you know how to use it, so you can provide accurate coordinates in case of an emergency.

  5. Familiarize Yourself with Terrain: Knowing the terrain can aid in a quicker rescue, helping rescuers understand the complexities they may encounter.

  6. Never Remove Foreign Objects: If an accident like this occurs, stabilizing the object and waiting for professional medical assistance is crucial. Attempting to remove an embedded object may cause severe bleeding.

Saguache SAR thanked all who contributed to the mission, including the Colorado National Guard, Colorado Parks & Wildlife, and a Good Samaritan named Tipton.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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