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My friend Dan Marsh is a veteran bowhunter. He started back in the 1960s, long before archery hunting enjoyed its current popularity. Dan has taken many whitetails with recurve and compound, as well as muleys and bears. In short, he’s no rookie.

Dan makes an annual trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota each fall with his nephew, Murray, and good friend, Gar Holley. The trio spends a few days ground-pounding for mule deer. And on one particular stalk earlier this month, Dan nearly lost his life.

“I was slipping up on a doe. I’d seen her walk into some cover and bed down—and I nocked an arrow as I approached the spot,” Dan recalls. “As happens so often out there, the doe eluded me. I decided to head back to the truck. But I did not put my arrow back in my quiver right away. After walking about 50 yards or so, I tripped, fell, and somehow put the nocked arrow right through my neck. The broadhead missed my carotid artery by about one millimeter, but, of course, I didn’t know it at the time.

“I stumbled to my truck, unscrewed the broadhead, which was sticking out of the right side of my neck, and pulled out the arrow. I held a towel on my neck and called Murray and Gar to help, by hollering and hitting the horn. At Custer Hospital, the doctors took an MRI and then sent me by ambulance to Rapid City to get sewn up. The unanimous consensus was that I was extremely lucky.

“So now I must try to translate my luck into something useful. My message to all bowhunters out there is this: Don’t ever walk with a nocked arrow. You may have to take a few steps while stalking—when each step is carefully planned—but while walking casually in the woods…quiver that arrow first. Always. Please.”

If any of you are thinking, “What a stupid move, walking with a nocked arrow. The guy deserved it,” I’d argue for some empathy. Sometimes accidents happen even to those who know better. All it takes is a moment or two of carelessness. Yes, Dan got lucky that day, squeaking miraculously out of a mishap that could have killed him. I’m grateful for his luck and that he has the courage to tell his tale on the chance that it may benefit others.