For each group Luling’s Grant Authement brings out as a guide for Ryan Lambert Guided Hunting and Fishing, he has a cautionary tale to share.
“It doesn’t matter if you’ve been hunting and handling guns since you were little,” Authement, 23, said. “You can be as experienced as can be, but freak things happen. You just never know, and you can never be too safe.”
That warning doesn’t just entail preventing an accident from happening. In the case of Authement’s tale, safety also entails what to do once misfortune strikes.
The St. Charles Catholic alumnus was set to go hog hunting last New Year’s Day when he went to his grandmother with a special request: he wished to use his grandfather’s old 30-30 Winchester, which Authement hadn’t used before. After some prodding, his grandmother relented, and Authement headed off on his four-wheeler to Highway 3127, dragging a pirogue on a rope behind him in one hand while holding the gun in his other.
But when the pirogue got caught in some brush, he attempted to pull it free. The rope came undone, however, and the attempt caused Authement to fall forward with the gun in hand.
“I didn’t want the gun to fall on the ground,” he said. “I went to catch myself and did that with the gun in my hand. It was angled toward my other hand.
“The different hammer positions (of that particular gun), are a little different” Authement noted. “I can only think that when I relaxed the hammer, I put it in quarter-cocked position and not half-cocked. In quarter-cock, it looks like it’s not in the fire position.”
Though his finger was nowhere near the trigger, once he hit the ground, the gun nonetheless went off. It only caught a bit of Authement, but it was enough to do damage.
“I didn’t feel the bullet hitting my hand,” he said. “I put my hands on my shirt and saw blood all over it. I looked at my finger and it was dangling backwards, only attached by a little bit of skin and the tendon.”
While Authement felt some shock over the situation, he maintained enough composure to understand that time was of the essence.
“I ran about 100 yards back to the four-wheeler. I had a bag full of waters, and I used the bag to wrap my hand,” he said. “I tied it up. I didn’t want my finger to fall on the ground.”
He started driving the four-wheeler up the highway in an attempt to reach the hospital. Fortunately, he came across an airboat team that was about to lead a swamp tour.
Authement yelled to get their attention, and a tour guide was able to immediately bring him to St. Charles Parish Hospital and alert Authement’s parents.
A longtime fan of war movies and a Marine enthusiast, Authement said he developed a general idea of how he needed to act quickly to avoid permanent damage.
“I knew the quicker you act, the better chance you have (to save a wounded limb),” Authement said. “Every moment counts.“I didn’t panic. I’m not trying to sound like a tough guy, but the pain didn’t register until we got to the hospital.”
Once there was nothing left for Authement to do but wait, though, true worry finally set in.
“I’ve played guitar since I was 8 or 9,” Authement said. “That started running through my mind. It was going to be hard for me to swing a bat, and I was coaching baseball. So those emotions started running through my head.”
A thought was proposed that it was possible he might be best off by having the finger removed.
“They asked if I 100 percent wanted it reattached,” he said. “That it might be smarter to take it off and actually move my pinky over to give me a three-fingered hand.
“I didn’t want that at all. Even if it meant I wouldn’t have full or even much flexibility, I wanted to try and make it work.”
Authement’s parents were able to get him to a hand surgeon who was a family friend. He underwent two surgeries: the first was a six hour procedure to reattach the finger and insert a pin into his hand. The second was a four hour surgery where a bone was grafted from his hip to replace the destroyed bone in his hand.
The surgery was a success and since then, he’s made a tremendous recovery. He’s still able to play guitar, though he’s had to alter his hand positioning to compensate. He can’t completely straighten his finger, but otherwise it hasn’t prevented him from doing the things he enjoys.
“It looks a little ugly, but it works,” he said.
Authement said he’s been a hunting enthusiast “since the day dad let me have my Red Rider BB gun,” at the age of 10. But even with much experience in tow, he wasn’t immune to trouble.
“It was a real eye-opener, for sure,” he said.