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Staff file photo by Robin Rudd / Watching your step is part of any venture into the woods, but eventually we all seem to find a way to fall down if we spend enough time hunting, fishing or doing other outdoors activities, writes "Guns & Cornbread" columnist Larry Case.

It has been a while, but we have talked about this before: Falling down is often a big part of the life of a hunter, fisherman or outdoorsman.

(Do I have to continue to put in the disclaimer about when I say fisherman or outdoorsman, this means the girls as well as the boys? OK, just checking.)

Anyway, those of us who tramp the trackless wastes are often well versed in the fine art of falling down. Those of you who don't hunt and maybe do not spend much time in the woods and other wild places may not understand how you could fall so much. But take it from me, it's pretty easy.

Let me recount one of the best falls I have had in some time.

I was coming down a steep bank (we have a lot of those here in the Appalachians), and I had accomplished it all save for the very last foot or two. I was congratulating myself on a job well done when the fall gremlin sprung his trap. The ground was slick, and for some reason I was wearing boots with very worn soles.

Before you could say compound fracture, both feet went airborne and I proceeded to do a fall that was at least a Category 5. Horizontal to the ground, I hit with what seemed to be a force equal to a medium-sized train wreck. My head hit a split-second later, and I laid there watching all the pretty stars floating around.

Hunting and spending a lot of time outdoors sure is a lot of fun.

For the purposes of this little sermon, we will keep our discussion in the realm of taking a fall while walking in the woods. Falling out of a tree stand, falling off the tailgate of a moving pickup truck, and falling out of a fishing or duck boat are in a completely different category and will be addressed at another time.

As you might suspect, there are all manner of falls for you to beware of. One of the most notorious that plague outdoorsmen is the dreaded branch hiding under the leaves. What are the components needed for this nefarious trap that lies in wait for sportsmen?

A hillside is the best location, and the steeper the better. Any smooth branch, stick or small log will work; this is carefully hidden under the leaves, and it lies perpendicular to the slope. Dry leaves will work as they slide nicely, but to accomplish the maximum velocity and the best fall, nothing beats several inches of wet snow concealing the stick or log.

The unsuspecting victim steps onto the branch, and the fun begins. Your weight is on the foot in question, and the length of your slide downhill is limited only by the length of the branch, the degree of the slope and the victim's ability to remain upright while plunging downhill. The slide almost always ends in a hard fall, and hitting a tree on the way down adds to the score of the fall. Any yelling and/or caterwauling during the event is considered a plus, too. The actual verbiage to be used during a fall is a matter of personal preference. The old standards of "Aiiieee!" and "Araaggh!" are favorites, and the use of any profanity may be gauged by the company you are in or your lack of control at the time.

Immediately after any fall, there is generally a short pause where you take stock as to what the damage from this latest incident may be. Easy, polite tumbles where you simply topple over (sometimes for no apparent reason) are usually laughed off and you get up quickly, especially if there are any witnesses. A hard fall, such as a bad stick under the leaves incident or something that entails a lot of air time, may require more contemplation.

There is no shame and no penalty for simply lying there and determining if there is anything broken and whether there will be a need for calling any EMS units to the area. Getting up after a good fall may in fact be as hard as the actual fall. Excessive groaning and/or whining is allowed but considered bad form.

There are, of course, several varieties of different falls we have not covered here. An excited hunting dog on a leash circling several times and then pulling you down is an old favorite. Likewise, the time-honored practice of stepping into an unseen hole with one leg while the other tries to continue walking is great fun.

Don't let the fear of falling keep you from engaging in any hunting trips or outdoors activities. Falling down in the woods is a part of life, just like missed shots at turkeys standing still and coughing just as the big buck is about to step out.

It's going to happen, so just go along and enjoy the ride.

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Contributed photo / Larry Case

"Guns & Cornbread" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at larryocase3@gmail.com.

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