Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2005

Man lucky to be alive after horseback hunting accident

Beth Bily
Last Updated: Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 10:14:23 AM

Talking with the Herald-Review from an intensive care room in an Idaho hospital doesn't seem like a circumstance that most would view as fortunate.

Howard Eichorn, 71, co-owner (along with his wife and sons) of Glen's Army Navy in Grand Rapids and resident of Hill Lake in Hill City, reported that he does indeed feel fortunate and is "doing as well as can be expected" after a hunting incident shattered his ankle, resulted in serious pelvic injuries, internal bleeding and three broken ribs.

His injuries came as the result of an accident which occurred on a hunting trip near Jackson, Wyoming Thursday, Oct. 13, the day after his 71st birthday and 51st wedding anniversary.

"At one point, I didn't think there was any way I was going to make it," said Eichorn of the horseback riding accident during his hunting trip.

Eichorn had planned the hunting excursion through an outfitter for elk and mule deer between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park for about one year. He arrived at a hunting camp which is located in a non-motorized area and required a 25 mile horseback ride into base camp.

On that ride, Eichorn's horse became "spooked" by what was likely the scent of a grizzly bear and reared back on its hind legs, throwing him off its back. Eichorn's foot, however, was caught in the stirrup of the saddle. The horse ran and Eichorn estimated that he was drug somewhere between 200 and 300 feet.

Trapped, Eichorn bounced off of numerous trees, enduring what he described as "excruciating pain" until a hard knock against one of those trees shattered his right ankle, but freed him from the stirrup.

The hunting party was 15 minutes away from base camp and others managed to get back and use a satellite phone to call for help. Soon after, a medical helicopter lowered a gurney into the trees, but was unable to land. Paramedics on horseback came to the scene, said Eichorn, started IV fluids and helped pull him out of the woods - an ordeal which lasted several hours - to a field where a fully medically equipped helicopter with night vision was able to take him on the 38 minute ride to the Eastern Idaho Medical Center.

It was on the helicopter ride on the way to the hospital that Eichorn's wife, Chris, still at home in Minnesota, received a garbled phone call from a paramedic at 10:30 p.m. informing her of her husband's injuries.

She managed to get to Minneapolis and take a plane that allowed her to arrive in Idaho by early afternoon Friday.

By the time Chris Eichorn arrived at the Eastern Idaho Medical Center, her husband had undergone surgery to place bolts in his hips and screws in his ankles to help heal his broken bones.

Eichorn reported to the newspaper from his intensive care room on Monday, "I'm on my way to recovery, but it's going to be long road."

Doctors, said Eichorn, estimate that it will be at least two weeks before he could make the trip home. It also will be six weeks before he is able to put any weight on his right foot.

But, he is making progress. On Tuesday, he was moved from intensive care to a regular hospital room. He also reported that he has been told that his internal bleeding is under control. As of Tuesday afternoon, Eichorn was getting ready for another surgery Wednesday to put a plate in his pelvic area.

Eichorn said that his faith in Christ has helped him get through the ordeal of the past few days. He is grateful for that faith, the other hunters at camp who pitched in to get him the help that was needed and the helicopter with night vision, which he credits with saving his life.

Family members in Grand Rapids are also grateful that his injuries, while severe, were not worse.

Eichorn's son, Rusty Eichorn, an Itasca County commissioner, said "I would say so," when asked if his father was lucky to be alive.

Rusty Eichorn was unable to join his father and mother in Idaho due to the demands of running the family business, but has spoken with him on the phone and hopes the family will be reunited in the near future.

"He's in our thoughts and prayers and we're hoping for a speedy recovery," said Rusty Eichorn. "We're anxious for his return."

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