We had a nasty lightning storm come in last year. We decended a couple hundred feet and hunkered down. The linked article says fishing is #1 for lightening deaths. Anyone have any hair raising stories about lightning when elk hunting?
I'll bite, told this before but 2011 opener of Colorado elk I got caught at treeline by a storm that rolled in off the backside of the mountain. Made it back to the trees and hunkered down. Lasted about an hour and I had bolts coming past me into or up from a ravine a 100 yards away. Saw a couple tree strikes. I wanted to dig a hole and climb in. Remember thinking it would be like being bombed. Not fun.
I had a bolt touch the ground about 20 yards to my right while packing out elk in a hailstorm in WY. It was pretty hair-raising. Left a burn mark on the ground. I hit the deck even though the trail was mud. When it's that close, it doesn't sound like the thunder you hear from miles away. It's more like an explosion or what I'd imagine heavy artillery sounds like at close range.
Got caught in a thunderstorm while trailing a bear. Lightning hit a tree about 20 yards away while we were gutting. I have had 3 close calls but that was the closest. Lightning has a purplish color when it’s that close. You don’t want to see that color. And Ike - your description of the sound is spot on.
Scary stuff in the mountains. Like Ike says more like a bomb. I read somewhere the southwest part of Colorado is second highest lightening prone area in the US. Some areas you will see dead clusters of trees within 50 yards of each other from lightning strikes . Funny how it makes toothpicks out of pine tree's and scattered around 50/60 yards from the base.
I imagine it's the closest thing to being in a mortar strike as you can get without being in one. I am fearful of being caught above treeline in a storm.
I've sat through some pretty sketchy ones. I always think "bail get to the car", but know I can't outrun lightning. The worst ones I've been in were day trips to check a camera. Clear skies, good forecast. I run in to check the camera then trees started getting hammered around me out of blue sky then the storm hit. I just hauled ass out. Happened twice same camera.
I've worked ski lifts during bad storms. You can hear and see electricity run down the lines into the towers. Often you hear the buzz before the lightning warning will signal. It's rad to see, but spine chilling.
When you shut the lift down people get pissed off that they can't ride it in a lightning storm. I swear people go full r**ard when they put on goggles and strap planks to their feet. I hear messed up back country lightning stories all the time in relatively safe cover. Then these people want to straight up ride a floating electric chair.
New research reveals the U.S. states that experienced the most lightning strikes in 2019.
Florida led the way in terms of actual lightning density, according to the study by environmental measurement specialist Vaisala. In 2019, there were 228 lightning strikes per square mile, or almost 88 per square kilometer,7y in the Sunshine State, more than any other state. Oklahoma was in second place with 81.61 strikes per square kilometer and Missouri was in third place with 74.47 strikes per square kilometer.
“Even though Florida has 7 percent less lightning than average, it remains the lightning capital of the USA,” said Vaisala, in its report.
The data was revealed in Vaisala’s Annual Lightning Report.
Texas topped the list in terms of total lightning counts. The Lone Star State recorded the most total lightning counts in 2019 with 47,397,975, way ahead of Oklahoma and Kansas with 14,772,145 and 13,804,461, respectively.
Not hunting, but I’ve had two close strikes. One killed a pine tree about 30 feet from where I was sleeping. Scared the hell out of me even though I was in bed, in the house. The other when I was running through the rain trying to get in my truck. Hit so close it literally blew me off my feet like a big puff of hot air. That one didn’t scare me until after it was over. Too young, too dumb....
Was scouting once while it was raining softly and had a giant bolt hit on the hill above the elk we were filming. The bigger bull put his head up and was watching for over 30 seconds before it hit. The smaller put his head up and stopped chomping right before. I was standing on a bald knob about 800 yards out.
I was walking into a walmart type store when lightning hit my umbrella. The bolt came out my thumb. Lost the nail about 2 weeks later but nothing more... too close for comfort for sure.... I always say that was one of my lives used up...
Lightning will kill based on "step potential". Meaning when lightning strikes an area the voltage goes out from the point of impact in a sort of circular wave. So for example if say the lightning bolt is 1,000,000 volts then a foot from that point could be 900,000 volts then a foot from that could be 800,000 volts etc. so if you are away from the lightning bolt but your feet or the cows feet are in 2 different potential zones that's when current will flow. Sort of a bird on a wire theory. A bird on a wire doesn't get shocked cause the bird becomes whatever potential (voltage) that the line is. When the bird touches 2 different wires (be it voltage or phases) or one wire and the pole that's when it is in between 2 different potentials and current will then flow. When current flows that's when it becomes bad for your health ;)
I have one but it was deer hunting. I shot a four point muley and asked my buddy to remain with the deer and I'd retrieve the truck as quick as I could. On my hike back up I saw the storm brewing and started to get concerned about getting back out with the truck because the road gets very greasy with rain. My father was waiting for me and said to not worry ,we'd be ok. I made it to the deer and my buddy immediately jumped in the truck and wouldn't help get the deer in. He explained the tree he was next to was hit by lightning and he was scared.
Been caught above treeline a couple times. One really bad. Hair standing up, aluminum arrows sort of humming and really strong ozone smell. Ditched the bow and got in the lowest spot I could. A strike exploded some rocks on the same hillside...not smart.
We camp off of a Mesa because we hunt on State Land. When the storms roll off the mountain and onto the Mesa, they can be unbelievable. 2 years ago, a storm hit us in camp that lasted for an hour and must have been 10,000 lightening strikes, the sky never stopped flashing. I always head for my truck when in camp during serious lightening, but my buddies stay outside under the tarped carport covers we use. I think they're crazy, they laugh at me.
The link is a long article from NOLS on the subject for those that are interested.
The cliff notes version is to stay away from high points, things that conduct electricity and crouch on the balls of your feet in a small depression if available. I always laugh about the safety topic to "go indoors if there's lightning".
The pack-out from hell. Colorado in 2017. I'd killed a bull on a high spur off a bigger peak. No good way onto the spur, or a good way off. Thick vegetation and then steep slide rock.
First load off, we watched a storm approaching. Couldn't see lightning with it, so we didn't bother to do anything different. We got caught in the open on the side of the spur, very near the top. Steep shale-like slid rock above and below. Treacherous footing. Couldn't go up quick, and couldn't go down quick. We watched lightning strike the valley floor in front of us and lightning was very near striking the spur slightly above us. You could smell ozone. I've never looked DOWN on a lightning strike before.
We found a little depression, and just hunkered down and prayed. Luckily it passed quickly. Maybe 10 minutes. I don't think our bodies would have been found for a long time. Just a weird place to be.
Wyoming in 2015--Solo. Was glassing in the evening on a spur ridge. Ranger was parked near the peak of the ridge about 1 mile away. I watched storm clouds approach for over an hour across the basin west of the Bighorns. No lightning or flashes seen. It got close and started to lightning. I could have gone down, but it would have meant sheltering in tall trees.
I decided instead to race out to the Ranger, across the barren tree-less ridge top. Stupid.
One bolt cracked overhead and I felt the hair on my neck and head raise with static electricity. You wanna talk about fear giving you wings! I covered that ground quicker than I thought possible :)
Retired from a electric utility company and plenty of storm experience. That said in the eighties was out in Colorado hunkered down when a storm came back around. Lighening struck and blew a huge pine tree in to smithereens a 150 feet from me. Huge scare and a sulphuric taste in mouth. Had that a couple more times before retirement. The same year we were out a guide and a hunter was killed from lightening. Both separate cases and this was around the Flat Top area.
I’ve got more than I care to admit but a few stand out.
The first doesn’t involve me and goes back nearly 30 years when I first started bow hunting. Two close friends were hunting mule deer when one set off on a stalk. He got close enough to the buck that he decided to take off his boots for the final approach. About that time a flash storm quickly rolled in and he was struck by lightning. His friend checked him, was sure he was dead and went to the closest ranch. The rancher, sheriff and friend went out on what they thought was a recover mission and saw someone walking through the country. It was the hunter who was struck by lightning.
The second was up in the Ruby Mountains. We had lightning storms nearly everyday and it rained fairly hard most afternoons and nights. There were 6 of us in four tents camped in a glacier cirque about 1,000 feet lower than the ridge tops. One night a lightening storm and heavy rain moved in after midnight. We could hear lightening striking the ridge tops above us for a while and then a combination of the wet soil and what we presumed was a direct hit broke a boulder the size of a pickup truck loose near the ridge top. We all listened attentively in our tents as the rock roared down the mountain side until it came to a stop about 300 yards from our tents. I was looking outside ready to run but it was so dark you couldn’t see a thing. Once it stopped 6 scared hunters let out a collective whoop of relief. I can only imagine what the pack string was thinking.
The last was also in the Rubies about 10 years later. This time we were again in a glacial cirque and had just had the wind blow up a stalk on one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever seen. We were sitting on the hillside licking our wounds and about 800 feet below the spine of the mountains looking at into the valley to the west as a storm quickly built. It literally came up the canyon from the valley as lightning came out of the top of the clouds and arched across over our heads and struck the ridge behind us. In seconds we were in the middle of the clouds then they lifted past us and things got really crazy. There must’ve been 6 - 8 more strikes within a 1/4 mile of our position. The storm only lasted 15 to 20 minutes and we made our way back to camp which was at a much lower elevation. That night was the most horrific lightening storm I’ve ever been in and as soon as it would light up the tent the thunder would hammer through the mountains. It continued through the entire night and we had a short break in the morning that allowed us to backpack out and at least get past about 2 miles of trail that ran the crest with only a few strikes. By the time we made it to the truck it was back at full force and continued the entire 5 hour drive home.
Wasnt hunting. But when I was in high school few buddies and I were above timberline. I was about 500 feet above my buddy. Watched a big bolt of lighting blast him. Smoke came off his body and He tipped over. I ran Down to him and his eyes were rolled up in his head and he was blue. Friend gave him Cpr and brought him Back to life. Crazy experience
Worst I been in was the storms of 2012 in Colo. lots of thunderstorms and flooding. Had a bolt of lightning hit about 50 yds away as we were crossing a pasture in the dark. Came out of nowhere, hoped it hit that mean steer we had to dodge but no such luck. Later that day watched a big storm stall on the ridge across the valley, dozens bolts and double bolts, even saw a Red bolt. This bolt was bright red , a true WTH moment. Anyone else see a Red bolt?
A real good friend to a buddy of mine has been hit 3 times by lightening over a span of 4 years. I met the guy a few times - good person.
First time he was playing softball and leaning against the fence - a bolt hit the other side of the field and followed it to him - knocked him to the ground. He went to the hospital with minor burns on his hands.
Second time he was playing golf - hit him pretty hard that time, he spent a few days in the hospital, lucky to be alive after that one.
I heard that he was hit again, he wasn't killed, but I didn't get any details.
Bad enough to think about being hit by a bolt from the sky, but I've come across trees that literally blew up. I've seen 2X4 sized splinters 150 feet from the stump, driven in the ground so deep that you couldn't hardly wiggle them. Can you imagine how it would feel to be stuck with one of those missiles.
I've seen several small groups of trees in several states on prominent ridge tops or points where it seems half the trees had been struck by lightning in the past. Some lived, most didn't but it was really cool to see how the lightning always followed the grain down the trunk, especially on big old twisted pines. The other thing of note is I'd always look around and think what a horrible spot it would be to be taking shelter in a lightning storm.
One time we were elk hunting the Flat tops on the China Wall. Spent the day packing in to the Flat plateau and were looking into the amphitheater we planned to hunt. We were going to drop down into it just before dark to set up camp but, wanted to glass first to try and locate some animals. Sat down and glassed for a while and spotted a herd with a couple of good bulls. They were clear across the valley on the other side. They suddenly started running. Thought something was chasing them into dark timber when we realized it was a storm. We were too far out on a point to make it to the trail down and beat the storm so we set the tent up there and just as we got it set here came the most god awful lighting, wind , rain and hail storm. It blew so hard the rain blew thru the fly and tent and eventually broke the fiberglass tent poles. We put trash bags over our sleeping bags and crawled in them. Nothing on the top was over bush height and to stand up we would have been the tallest thing there. The lightening was unbelievable and lasted till almost daylight. I'll never get caught like that again.