I first heard Michael Perry’s name decades ago while duck hunting with several buddies in west Tennessee. My friends bragged on Perry’s duck calling skills, both on the contest stage, as well as in the duck blind. Perry had become a local legend as a hunter before moving off to South Carolina to begin an off-shore fishing charter.
With Michael no longer being in my neck of the woods, I hadn’t heard his name come up in years. However, that all changed two years ago when he was involved in a gruesome treestand accident while visiting with friends and family back home in west Tennessee. Below is the story of Michael Perry’s treestand accident.
In early November of 2019, Perry made the long drive from South Carolina to west Tennessee to visit with his family and hunt a few days with old hunting buddies. “I was coming in on two wheels,” says Perry. “I was rushing in to town, excited to see my mom and dad, but also to get into the woods and climb a tree. A snowstorm was in the forecast, and the conditions were perfect for a classic November rut hunt.”
Perry spent time in town visiting with family before making the trip across the river to hunt public land with some longtime friends who already had camp setup and treestands in place.
Before hitting the woods, Perry got special instructions from his buddy, Jason, for the stand he’d be hunting for the afternoon followed by the words, “Don’t forget to clip in with your harness.”
The afternoon hunt started with a half-mile walk into a hang-on treestand set in the timber. Upon arriving at the tree, Perry realized he had forgotten his harness. He contemplated going back to the truck for it, but quickly decided to climb without it. “The stand was in good shape and had been hunted recently by the other guys,” says Perry. “Climbing without a harness is something I’d done for years. We never used them back in the early days, so I really didn’t think too much of it.”
Unfortunately, after climbing up the sticks and stepping over onto the treestand platform, the stand broke and collapsed like a trap door.
Without a safety harness on his body, Michael plummeted straight to the ground. And while any fall can be deadly in and of itself, this fall would be much different.
Directly below the treestand was 4′ stob that remained from a tree the guys had cut when clearing shooting lanes. It’s a move most every deer hunter has made countless times. You walk up, cut the tree or sappling off around chest high and move on to the next one. Unfortunately, this stob was left directly below Perry’s stand, and that’s exactly where he landed.
Falling feet first, Perry was impaled on the stob. The 3″- 4″ diameter stob entered just below his belly button, traveled up through his guts, and lodged against his ribs and back.
The shock of the fall, and the reality of what had just transpired, quickly set in for Perry.
“I couldn’t believe I had allowed that to happen,” says Perry. “All the shock and heartache I was about to cause my family and friends, was totally avoidable. All I could think was how bad I had screwed up, and now I was about to die.”
Taking a closer look at the situation, Perry realized he was standing on his tip-toes, with no ability to move from his current situation. He had a saw in his fanny pack, but in the fall, the pack was now laying just out of reach.
“There was a time when things just started to go black,” says Perry. “It was that life flashing before your eyes moment. Then things started to go black. I thought I was done.”
But then Michael had a talk with God. He asked God for this not to be the end. He asked for more time.
“And then it was like I had this unbelievable peace come over me,” says Perry. I suddenly knew everything was going to be okay. I didn’t know how, but I knew it was all going to work out.”
That was the moment Perry went from struggling to breathe, to regaining composure, breathing normal, and thinking straight. He dug his phone from his pocket and attempted to call his friend to let him know of the situation. And despite being on land where a cell signal is normally non-existent, Perry’s attempt to get a message sent out was successful. It was the first of many miracles that would unfold. Despite a few dropped calls and unsent texts, the message of his fall was reached by his friend.
Fortunately, Perry’s friend had a brother that was a local EMT in the nearest town. The rescue efforts were quickly enacted as teams turned their emergency vehicles toward the accident location.
Perry’s hunting location was deep in the backcountry on public land. It would take considerable time for rescue teams to reach him. Fortunately, his friend was closer by, and knowing the exact location, was able to get to him first.
And while his friend understood Michael was in an emergency situation, he had no idea how serious things were until he topped the hill and came face to face with Perry impaled on the tree.
The tree trunk Michael was impaled on would have to be cut to free him from the helpless, upright position he was in. Perry did his best to calm his friend down as he ordered him to cut him free from the stob.
Emergency crews would later tape the protruding piece of the stob to his leg to secure it as much as possible for the ride out. Removal of the stob from his body was a deadly move that would be left to the experts once arriving at the hospital.
Rescue crews secured Perry to the back of a John Deere Gator and began the slow and steady roll to the ambulance parked a 1/2 mile away. With a snow storm in the area, he could not be air-lifted to the hospital. It would be a long, slow ride through snow and ice to make it to the hospital in Nashville.
Fortunately, the team was able to get Perry stabilized while on the road to the hospital. He was also given the much needed meds to finally ease the pain he’d been in for hours. The meds knocked him out quickly.
“I didn’t wake up until 10 days later, after the first rounds of surgery,” says Perry. They were the first of many surgeries on his long road to recovery.
In fact, Perry just celebrated the 2-year anniversary of the accident that nearly took his life. He’s been through 15 surgeries in that time.
“I’ve really been blessed,” says Perry. “The doctors have done an amazing job throughout all the surgeries. Everything on my body is working as it should, and that alone is a miracle.”
Be sure to keep Michael Perry and his family in your prayers as he continues to heal from this accident and shares his story. He hopes the story of his mistake will help other hunters avoid climbing a tree without being connected to a Lifeline before their feet leave the ground.
Never leave the ground without wearing a harness and being connected to a Lifeline. You can find the Lifeline, as well as the complete line of harnesses from HSS, at www.huntersafetysystem.com.