Bow season opened last weekend to the incessant hum of mosquitoes and mid-summer temperatures providing a soul searching opportunity to those few folks out there in the woods.

Once you’ve spent a couple of archery opener weekends up in a tree—simply because the rules said you could—the epiphany that there are better places to be until both leaves and temperatures begin to fall brings a greater appreciation for good times ahead.

Bowhunting is tough enough under the best conditions. The whitetail advantage multiplies under a green canopy, where they can hide in plain sight while you merrily stink up the woods. Might as well spend the time pounding nails to hold a “hunter above” sign on your favorite tree.

Tree-stand perils

A half-century of experience brings a chuckle at the realization you can always find ways to make new mistakes. But a couple aspects of this sport are truly sobering and must be shared.

The other day I was tightening bolts and checking straps on tree stands out in the pole barn when thoughts turned to high school buddy Steve Derrickson, who died when he fell out of a tree.

This morbid thought path continued in pondering the life of Jim Helfrich, who also fell out of a tree. Helfrich spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

Dominic “Big Knobs” Culjan was a walleye guide, waterfowler and local legend down on the Illinois River back in the day. We all thought he was too tough to die when he walked out of the hospital two days after a treestand fall. His brother found “Knobby” sitting in front of the TV the following morning, dead from an embolism.

I could spend the rest of this space with similar accounts, but will not because a buddy from Evansville who is one of the best bowhunters I have ever known would not even consider heading out to the deer woods without a safety harness this season.

Years of treestand fall horror stories only brought a wry grin to his face until a strap gave way early last season and he plummeted over 20 feet, hobbling away with just a shattered ankle.

Please, just buy and wear a good harness if you’re going to climb up in a tree. A mistake made 20 feet off the ground will be paid for immediately, sometimes in full.

Late stage Lyme disease

A fishing trip with a colorful older gent named Bruce goads me into telling you about a more insidious peril: late stage Lyme disease.

Bartenders, barbers and fishing guides are privy to a host of closely guarded secrets.

Bruce used to be a fanatic duck hunter. Doctors said macular degeneration robbed him of vision in his dominant eye.

He knew in his heart the physician was wrong. Adamant demand for further testing revealed late stage Lyme disease took out his eye.

Last year, I guided a Dane County man and his two brothers. They had to help him into the boat.

Doctors had diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis years ago, before the spectre of Lyme disease was commonly known. His demand for further testing revealed the culprit for his woes was a nasty little deer tick.

My nephew, Darrin, married the love of his life a couple of years ago. Kirby has always been a gym rat, though she is not an outdoors person.

They were thinking about having kids, but some strange medical issues prompted Kirby to do some extensive research on the internet. Testing confirmed she had late stage Lyme disease.

Further researched revealed an 85 percent chance that Lyme would be passed on to a fetus, manifesting in a neurological disease like MS or ALS. The couple decided not to have children.

I guide a number of physicians and hold them in high regard. The topic of late stage Lyme disease usually comes up in a day out on the water.

The number of MDs in various stages of denial over this possibility is scary.

If you are suffering from a persistent fever, aching joints or any other medical problem that doesn’t make sense, you should insist on Lyme disease testing.

Hunting and fishing tips which often appear in this column will be of no benefit if you aren’t around to test them.

Stay safe out there in the deer woods this season.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at

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