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Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > December 2004

HUNTER WHO LOST LEG IN ACCIDENT LAST YEAR BAGS A SIX-POINT BUCK

December 4, 2004, 12:05 PM

MAYBEE, Mich. (AP) -- A man who lost his leg in a hunting accident last year after getting trapped in a tree for 30 hours is back bagging bucks.

Robert VanAuker vowed to continue hunting after barely surviving the ordeal in the woods of northern Michigan in October 2003. During this year's firearms season, the 56-year-old Maybee resident shot a six-point buck.

"I wanted to show the world and myself that I could do it," VanAuker told The Monroe Evening News for a recent story. "It's very self-satisfying."

Doctors amputated VanAuker's right leg at mid-thigh after his rescue from the woods near Atlanta, which is about 220 miles north of Detroit.

He got stuck after the branches of the pine tree he was climbing gave way. He slid down, and his calf lodged in a V-shaped crevice of the tree.

VanAuker tried to cut off his leg with a hunting knife, but couldn't bring himself to do it. He was near death by the time a search party rescued him a day later.

He suffered kidney failure and other problems associated with bad circulation, but he has recovered and learned to walk and drive with a prosthesis.

He returned to his job at Ford Motor Co. in June.

"I'm getting better all the time," VanAuker said. "I've been very fortunate."

When he returned to the woods this year, Larry Gramlich, a friend of more than 30 years, went with him. Gramlich described VanAuker as an inspiration.

"The guy is unbelievable," Gramlich said. "He doesn't sit and dwell on it. I knew he was going to hunt again. I think it's outstanding he has that determination."

VanAuker climbed into his ladder-style tree stand the morning of Nov. 21 on a friend's property in Monroe County's Frenchtown Township and dropped the buck from 50 yards away.

"It was good to be back in the woods," he said. "There's nothing like it."

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