By DAVID RAINER
Hank Mosley is convinced divine intervention is the only reason he survived a turkey hunting trip recently in Wilcox County.
The 27-year-old, known as Big Hank, said he normally has a hunting partner, most often his brother, Sam. But this day Sam had to go to Demopolis, and Hank was all by himself, hunting land near Pebble Hill that a friend, Johnny Webb, had given him permission to hunt.
“It started out like a regular turkey hunting day,” Hank said. “I didn’t hear anything at daylight. The turkeys gobbled late. I heard two turkeys. One gobbled several times, and the other one didn’t gobble but once. I walked toward the one that was gobbling good, but then he ended up stopping. I turned around and started walking toward the turkey that had only gobbled once.”
“I got up on a ridge and thought about picking a spot and sitting down,” he said. “When I do that, I look for a pretty tree, a big one where I can sit and be real comfortable. There was an old rotten pine log in front of it about six to eight inches in diameter. I kicked it and a piece of it broke. I moved that piece out of the way.”
Mosley was getting settled in against the tree when gobbling turkeys became the farthest things from his mind.
“I had my leg out after I got situated,” he said. “Then it felt like somebody flicked me with a popsicle stick with a needle on the end of it. I thought it was a bee sting or something, but when I looked down, I saw some leaves rustling. I pretty much, at that point, knew what happened. That pretty much told me I just got bit.
“I moved around to the other side of the tree, and that’s when the snake started rattling. I’ve heard them rattle before, but this wasn’t a very loud rattle. It was a real soft rattle. I moved about 10 or 15 yards away and sat down on a stump to call my brother.”
That was the first indication that a higher power was looking out for him that day.
“He was not hunting that morning,” Hank said of his brother. “Had he been hunting, he wouldn’t have answered his phone. I got him on the way to come get me.”
The second indication happened before daylight when Hank was parking his truck as he prepared to head into the woods.
“When I parked that morning, I looked behind me and decided I wasn’t far enough from the road,” Hank said. “I was trying to get my truck far enough in so nobody would see it, so I moved it another 10 yards. Where my truck was parked was about the only spot on the road that my brother could drive around and get to me. And I normally don’t take my cell phone with me, but I was kind of unfamiliar with the property. I took it with me to have something I could use to look up an aerial image of the property.
“There were too many coincidences for there not to have been a higher power looking out for me.”
Mosley said the whole experience was pretty much surreal, like it couldn’t have happened to him.
“I was wearing my regular leather boots because of the hilly terrain,” he said. “I had snake boots at the house, but I guess I got to a point where I thought I was invincible. You never think something like this will happen to you.
“I remember as I was sitting on the stump, I kept looking down at it. At first, it was just flowing a little. Then there was a little lump and it started to spread. Then my whole calf started swelling.”
In his confusion, Mosley reverted to a treatment that he found out later is no longer recommended. He took his belt off and tied it above the snake bite.
“They told me at the hospital that a tourniquet is not good anymore,” he said.
Mosley said he really didn’t get a good look at the snake either, probably because of its natural camouflage.
“My first thoughts were diamondback, but it could have been a timber rattler,” he said. “It had a brownish color and I could see black lines. I heard it rattle again. I saw the underside of its belly, and it was probably 4 to 5 inches wide.
“When my brother got there, I tried to get him to get the snake and put it in the back of the truck for identification. But the anti-venin they have now covers a lot more than a certain, particular snake.”
Mosley even had a snakebite kit in his turkey vest, but he forgot he had it until he was on the way to the hospital in Selma. His parents had called the hospital to let them know about the snakebite, and Sam transported Hank to a rendezvous with the ambulance.
“I didn’t have much pain until I was in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” Hank said. “They took a little blood and started an IV. When I got to the hospital, they monitored me for a while because the anti-venin can cause a really bad allergic reaction in some people, so they don’t give it to you right away.”
It soon became evident that the anti-venin would be necessary. At 11:30 that morning, 4 1/2 hours after the bite, Hank started the first dose of six bottles of anti-venin, which was administered by IV over an hour-long span.
When a vascular surgeon looked at the swelling in Hank’s leg, he recommended a transfer to the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) Hospital.
“If it got too bad, the swelling would cut off the circulation in my leg,” Hank said. “Then they would have to make incisions to let it continue to swell.”
After a couple of days at UAB with plenty of antibiotics, the swelling started to recede and Hank was allowed to head home.
Mosley said it really didn’t get to the point where he thought he might be a goner in the middle of the turkey woods.
“Had I not had my cell phone and had to walk out, it probably would have crossed my mind that I wasn’t going to get out,” he said. “But once my brother got to me, I was pretty content I was going to make it.
“I don’t want to sound cocky, but God was looking out for me. There were several things the good Lord put in order to get me out, to be honest.”
With two weeks remaining in the Alabama turkey season, Mosley said there is a chance he might get another chance to chase a gobbling turkey.
“If I get walking again, I don’t think I’ll be sidelined,” he said. “If I can, I’ll definitely be back – with my snake boots on.”