Bow Hunter Impaled by Another Hunter’s Lost Arrow

A lone archery hunter’s life was likely saved by his rescue beacon after he was badly injured by an arrow in a remote section of Colorado wilderness last week. 

The hunter was impaled above the knee while hiking off trail, according to a member of Routt County Search and Rescue (RCSAR). 

The arrow, referred to as a “lost” arrow, was left behind by another hunter after an errant shot, RCSAR Vice President Harry Sandler told CBS4. No one knows how long the lost arrow had been there, but it’s the second year in a row that a Routt County bow hunter has been injured encountering one, Sandler said. 

In last week’s incident, the injured hunter sent an SOS on his rescue beacon and then shut off the device due to low battery power. An RCSAR team rode four miles to the Elk Park Trailhead north of Steamboat Springs, hiked 2.5 miles to reach the South Fork of Mad Creek, then bushwacked upstream and through dense timber and knee-deep swamps another 1.5 miles to reach the hunter’s last known coordinates.

Fortunately for them, he had not moved and was easily found.

A rescue team works its way toward an injured hunter in the South Fork of Mad Creek drainage last week.  Routt County Search and Rescue

Due to the difficulty of the terrain, the team determined carrying the hunter out on a litter was extremely difficult. A helicopter was requested and landed nearby. 

After transporting the hunter to UCHealth’s Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, the aircraft returned to the scene and lifted the rescue team out of the area and back to their ATVs, Sandler stated. 

Rescuers treat a wounded hunter who was impaled by a lost arrow last week.  Routt County Search and Rescue

Another archery hunter was injured last year near South Franz Creek and Mount Candy, Sandler said. North Routt Fire Protection District were able to reach that hunter by all-terrain vehicles. The injury was also an impalement above the knee. But unlike the recent injury, last year’s hunter left the arrow in his leg. Medics padded the shaft of the arrow and brought him out to an ambulance.

“With penetrating injuries it is never recommended to remove the object in the field,” Sandler stated, “it is best to let surgeons at the hospital perform this task. Leaving the object in reduces the chances of severe bleeding and additional tissue damage.”

Sandler suggested anyone – not just hunters – who are travelling off-trail in the backcountry during hunting season to supplement their first aid kits with a tourniquet and hemostatic gauze.

“In both instances, the hunters were walking off-trail in tall, dense brush which made seeing their feet challenging,” Sandler stated. “This obviously makes spotting a lost arrow quite difficult especially if it is camouflaged or hidden from view.”

Routt County Search and Rescue

“Hunters should also always carry the 10 Essentials and be prepared for rapidly changing weather as is common this time of year in the rockies,” Sandler continued. Regarding last week’s hunter, “having a PLB or satellite messenger likely saved this hunter’s life as he was alone, immobile and in an extremely remote area with no cell service.”

Sandler also relayed important advice for hunters. 

“While we know that it is not always feasible, bow hunters should make every effort possible to find a lost arrow.”

Reflective strips and brightly colored vanes help archery hunters recover errant arrows. Attached lights are also helpful, and even metal detectors can be used. More information on recovery techniques here.

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