Nebraskaland October 2021

NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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62 Nebraskaland • October 2021 THE LAST STOP By Eric Fowler CAN YOU BITE ME NOW? Technology, including GPS, the internet and smartphones, has changed the way we do everything. Including the way we hunt. I never imagined that technology would almost kill me, though. Through the years, technology has given me topographic maps to find my way around the backcountry and satellite images to find good locations for deer stands and decoy spreads. And now there are apps that combine all of those. But one thing those apps won't show you is the location of really big rattlesnakes. In August 2019, I was on my fifth and final day of trying to fill my cow elk tag in the Pine Ridge in northwestern Nebraska. The next day, elk or not, I was headed back to Lincoln. I was beat and decided to take a power nap before taking one last walk. I woke up, loaded my supplies and pulled up my binoculars, looking toward the edge of a draw. "Holy cow!" Elk were on the other end of this pasture! My rangefinder said they were 1,200 yards away. My hunting app said that put them on the right side of the fence, but barely. Thirty minutes later, I was cancelling my tag. On the way back to the truck, I pulled out my phone to look at a satellite photo and see which finger I should take out of the bottom of the drainage to get me there the quickest. It was 70 degrees, and I had a lot of work to do to get that elk on ice. That's when I heard it: the distinctive buzz and hiss of a rattlesnake. I wish someone would have had me on video, because I would really like to know how high I jumped. And how loud I screamed. When I turned around, I saw the biggest rattler I had ever seen, coiled and unhappy. It had been sunning itself on bare ground. After taking a quick, really bad photo with my phone — I didn't have time to waste and wasn't about to get close enough to get a good one if I did — I was headed up the hill. I often wondered how much trouble I would have been in had I gotten bit. I was still more than a half mile from the truck and it was all uphill. I didn't have cell signal, and who knows how far up the hill I would have had to go to get it. And I was 24 miles from Chadron, most of it on dirt, including 2.5 miles of two-track ranch roads with two gates to open. I asked my doctor about it when I was in for a physical last spring. He said, "Probably a lot." If I didn't exert myself on the way up the hill, started driving and met the ambulance on the way, I might have made it. I'm not sure my elk would have, but if I had found someone who could go get it, at least I could have shared the waypoint with them. You hear of people walking into poles, holes and traffic and getting killed because they had their noses buried in their phones. I wonder if I would have been the first to die from a rattlesnake bite for doing the same. I know one thing for sure. The next time I plan a route, I will do it standing still.

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