Atmore hunter lives to educate others
By By Adam Prestridge Special to the Advance
A flock of turkeys quickly scattered across the open field as Atmore resident Richard Taylor opened the iron gate leading to his favorite hunting spot.
As he stepped inside the gate, the brown-feathered game birds hurried to the woods where Taylor nearly plunged to his death.
It's been a long, hard-fought battle, but the 44 -year-old survived his hunting accident and is able to walk, contrary to most doctors' expectations.
Taylor believes his life was spared in order to help educate other hunters about hunting safety.
With the hunting season quickly approaching he revisited the site of his accident off New Searcy Road, close to Greenville, to share his story.
It was 5:50 on the morning of April 17. The sun had just started to creep over the horizon.
It was beautiful morning for turkey seekers.
Taylor arrived at his hunting spot to realize he had forgotten the folding chair he sits in while turkey hunting.
"I knew there was a chair up in a platform stand up in a tree," Taylor said. "When I got up the tree, I took the rope that we use to pull our guns up into the stand. I was fixing to tie on to the chair when a turkey gobbled close by. I didn't want to scare him off, so I folded the chair out and sat in it. After a little while, I was kind of sitting straight up in the chair, so I relaxed a little bit. When I did, I guess my foot pushed the chair back and one of the legs went over and when it did, I fell."
Taylor flipped backward off the stand and fell 20 feet to the earth and landed on his back. He was motionless. His back was broken, but he didn't know the severity of his injury. It was 6:15 a.m.
"I landed on an old limb that had a knot sticking up and I think that's what did most of the damage to my back," Taylor said.
Taylor said that he yelled for help, shot his gun and tried to get up all day, to no avail. To keep moisture in his mouth to help him yell for help, Taylor drank a half-full bottle of water his son left in the tree stand during deer season and ate grass. He believes the water fell during his fall.
"After I fell, I broke out in sweat," Taylor said. "I wanted to drink a little bit of it and make it last, but I couldn't. I drank it up before I knew what was going on."
Taylor was scared that he wouldn't be found until it was too late.
"I didn't think I was going to be found," Taylor said. "It didn't bother me that much that morning, but as the day progressed and I started coughing up blood, I knew I had
internal bleeding. I felt doomed. Especially when it got around 7 p.m. and it started to get dark. That morning I asked God to help someone find me. That
afternoon, I prayed to God to take me. That's how much pain I was in. I was hurting so bad."
Taylor lay on the ground for more than 13 hours before being rescued by Butler County Sheriff's Deputy Ronald Coleman, whose land connects to the land Taylor leases to hunt on. Coleman found Taylor at about 7:15 p.m.
"Throughout the day, I could hear dogs barking, people talking way off in the distance and hear all kinds of cars going by on the highway, That afternoon I heard a vehicle in the woods and I hollered and a little bit later Mr. Coleman came through the woods."
Once Coleman discovered Taylor, he radioed for help. Taylor was transported to L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital in Greenville, where it was determined that he had
broken his back in three places and had broken three ribs. One of his backbones completely crushed into his spinal cord and one of his ribs punctured his lungs, causing internal bleeding, filling his lungs 85 percent up with blood.
"I was looking bad, they didn't even know if I was going to survive because my lungs had filled with blood," Taylor said. "I swelled up and started turning
yellow. They said I looked really bad."
Taylor was transported to University Hospital in Birmingham where he stayed in the Intensive Care Unit until April 24 when he was finally stabilized. He later underwent surgery, where doctors inserted rods and screws into his back.
"When they were going to do the back surgery, they didn't know if I was going to be able to walk," Taylor said. "When I came out of ICU, out from underneath all the drugs that I could tell what was going on, I couldn't move anything. I could move my left leg a little bit and my right side I could only wiggle one toe. I didn't have any feeling or sensations. It scared me."
Following his surgery, doctors were still uncertain if the hunter would walk again. During his first day of rehab at Spain Rehab in Birmingham on May 6, Taylor forced himself to his feet on a walker and began his long journey to walking again.
"It was some of the most painful steps I've ever taken in my life," Taylor said. "It took everything I had."
Taylor left Spain on May 24, walking with two canes. He continued physical therapy at North Baldwin Wellness Center in Bay Minette, where he stayed for eight weeks.
"It's awesome what they can do with you now, putting you back together," Taylor said. "They said if it had happened five years ago, they probably would have just wrapped me up and sent me back home. I would have ended up paralyzed."
The Alabama Game and Fish Division Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will hold a Hunter Education Class at Lurleen B. Wallace Community College from 6-9 p.m. Aug. 25-27.
Taylor encourages hunters, experienced and inexperienced, to attend the classes to become more knowledgeable about hunter safety.
"I want people to understand that when you hunt by yourself, the dangers involved. We all take it for granted. I'll probably hunt by myself again, but I won't be in the predicament I was in again. That scared me to death. I never really thought about getting hurt. I knew I could, but I thought I'd be able to walk out."
Taylor, who has hunted for more than 30 years, plans to continue hunting once he has fully recovered. He was ordered to undergo four more weeks of
therapy earlier this week.
"I figured as the old saying goes, I was bullet proof. I've dodged the bullet a lot of times. I didn't wear my safety belt when I'd climb."