Surviving Texas-Size Stings

As we have examined over the last couple of months, defending oneself in Texas is not just a matter of surviving car jackings or home invasion. You must also contend with wildlife.

Some of the most insidious are small in stature but produce Texas-sized stings.

For starters, nothing frightens me more in the wilds of Texas than bees, particularly the deadly Africanized “killer” bees. These bees are spreading and have firmly established populations in the Brush Country and part of the Trans-Pecos and Hill Country.

The sting of one bee might only cause some pain (unless you’re allergic) but the wrath of a swarm could spell death.

In the spring of 2003, I had a truly frightening bee experience. While using a box call to lure in a lonely gobbler, I heard what I literally thought was a low-flying plane in the distance. All of a sudden, a shadow passed overhead and I looked up to see a massive swarm of bees less than 30 feet up. I remained calm, said a little prayer, and watched the huge swarm pass by.

After talking with ranch officials, I learned the Africanized kind is present in the area, and thanked God the swarm did not sense how frightened I was. In fact, I was filming a segment of a television program and once the bees moved a great distance, I told the cameraman to hit record.

“They say bees can smell fear,” I said.

“That’s not true!” the cameraman replied. “I was just more frightened than I have ever been as about 10,000 bees flew over our heads.”

A few years before, I guided my father on a hunt for red deer out in Kerr County. After bagging a big eight-pointer, we hoisted it into a strong oak and began to skin it. Suddenly, thousands of bees moved in, started buzzing all around us, and began to cover the animal. Dad backed his truck up under the deer, I cut the hoist down, and we moved more than a mile away.

Arizona State University researchers say most Africanized honeybee attacks can be traced to some provocation. It might be a kid tossing a stone at the hive, or some noise or vibration, such as that of a lawn mower, weed eater or tractor

“Once disturbed by something, Africanized honey bees can range quite far from the source of irritation, attacking anything that looks threatening.

Once the bees get riled up, the most important thing to do is run away as fast as possible. Do not try to retrieve belongings nearby. Do not try to stand still in an attempt to fool the bees.

That might work with a snake under certain circumstances, but honeybees won’t be impressed. Do not try to fight the bees. They have the advantage of numbers and the gift of flight. The more you flail your arms, the madder they will get. Just run indoors as fast as possible.”

Bees can attain speeds of 12 to 15 miles per hour, “but most healthy humans can outrun them. So, run!

When you run, keep running! Africanized honey bees have been known to follow people for more than a quarter mile.” 

ASU also recommends not jumping into water, as the bees will wait for you to come up. Anyone who receives more than 15 stings and/or has any symptoms other than local pain and swelling should seek medical attention immediately.

Another common sting for Texas outdoor lovers is the Texas bark scorpion.

According to Texas Agrilife, scorpion stings are painful and produce local swelling and itching that may persist for several days. 

“Reaction to the bite may vary based on sensitivity of the individual. Non-lethal stings may be mild to strong and produce edema (swelling), discoloration, numbness, and pain which may last for several minutes to several days. Deaths attributed to this species are not well substantiated. There are no scorpions in Texas that are considered lethal to man.”

The Mayo Clinic says scorpion stings are most serious in young children, older adults and pets. 

“In the United States, healthy adults usually don’t need treatment for scorpion stings, but if your child is stung, seek immediate medical care.”

Mild signs and symptoms might include:

• Pain, which can be intense

• Numbness and tingling in the area around the sting

• Slight swelling in the area around the sting

More-severe signs and symptoms might include:

• Muscle twitching or thrashing

• Unusual head, neck and eye movements

• Drooling

• Sweating


  High blood pressure (hypertension) or low blood pressure (hypotension)

  Accelerated heart rate (tachycardia) or irregular heart beat (arrhythmia)

  Restlessness or excitability or inconsolable crying (in children)

Many Texans are bitten by scorpions in their sleeping bags or in hunting cabins. A way to avoid this is to purchase an inexpensive handheld black light. All scorpions will glow a bright green when exposed to a black light. Simply shine the black light in your sleeping bag, tent and around your sleeping area, and you will detect any scorpion when the lights are out.

One of the most frightening and least known Texas stingers is the box jellyfish. In the Texas Gulf, we have the four-handed box jellyfish. A couple of years ago,Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) biologist Jerry Mambretti made me aware of this species.

“Our gulf sampling crew caught four-handed box jellyfish, Chiropsalmus quadrumanus, a member of the class Cubozoa, in three separate trawl samples about two miles off McFaddin NWR beach,” Mambretti told me. 

 “Box jellyfish are known for the extremely potent venom produced by some species, including this species, which is normally found in the West Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific Ocean. Their sting is very venomous and dangerous to humans, especially children,” he said.

A study by William Guest noted that the species has been known to be abundant in the Matagorda Bay system since the 1950s and their presence has a lot to do with salinity levels.

 “The development of a large population coincided with drought conditions and high bay salinities along the Texas Gulf coast,” Guest wrote. “When bay salinities dropped considerably in 1957 the jellyfish disappeared. The jellyfish were found to be living on or near the bottom at all times and preferred areas of soft mud.”

TPWD recommends for most jellyfish stings to splash the area with salt water. Then apply a paste of unseasoned meat tenderizer.

Don’t press the skin. The pain should go away within an hour. Regular vinegar or a solution of one part bleach to 10 parts water will also work to alleviate pain.”

If you think you have been stung by a box jellyfish seek medical attention immediately.

—by Chester Moore




Tactical Air-Gunning

A valuable tool that needs to be in every shooter’s training regimen is an air gun clone of his defensive pistol.

There seems to be an airsoft or steel BB twin for every popular model pistol. Obtaining one gives you flexibility in training. For instance, I know several ranges that won’t allow shooters to draw from the holster on the firing line, but this is a big part of defensive pistol training.

However, practicing with a matching air gun at home you would be able to practice your draw stroke, shooting from a retention grip and point shooting with your holster.

Of course there are a few other realistic options such as the NLT SIRT laser trainer and some laser training cartridges that fit inside your actual handgun. However, those can cost as much as a real firearm, and using your real handgun isn’t as safe as using an air gun.

Air gun training isn’t a replacement for live fire or even dry fire, but it is a valuable alternative for certain drills. Air pistols such as the Umarex line have good quality matches to several Beretta, Smith and Wesson, Ruger, H&K, and Walther models.

Even up close it’s difficult to tell the difference between a BB pistol and an actual firearm. This means we should treat them with the same gun safety rules as actual firearms and never allow children to play with them (this is called good parenting).

An air pistol will fit your custom-molded holster perfectly. This allows us to instill the same muscle memory as we’d develop with our actual firearm. However the down side to air guns is that triggers, magazines, recoil and overall quality aren’t the same. However, I have found they are great for first shot drills, especially higher risk drills that require more in-depth training such as appendix carry.

Appendix carry puts the firearm right at 12 o’clock on your person. It keeps the pistol in a solid position where you are in better control and more aware of its position. It also gives you a less noticeable draw.

However this is a riskier draw because the muzzle of the firearm can easily point straight at one of your legs until you clear your belt line and begin to angle the muzzle toward the threat.

This is a perfect situation to use air gun training as I did with my Umarex Walther PPS. Practicing on my back porch, several dozen draw strokes on the move allowed me to train my hands, mind and eyes to form the correct grip angle and trigger position.

This also allowed me to safely identify any hazards of this carry position. I tried follow up shots, but this proved pointless because the trigger reset of the steel BB gun was very different from my real PPS. The main difference was there is two reset clicks for the steel BB pistol to fire, and if I pulled the trigger again after the first click it would only shoot air. Not a huge deal, but it shows the limitations.

Finally, if you opt to use an airsoft pistol that fires plastic 6mm BBs it will give you the option of force on force training (with eye protection). You can even set up training scenarios inside your house or around vehicles. Even valuable low light training is possible.

You might try partnering up with a family member inside the house while using safe backdrops such as a sheet or tarp and arrange your house as a “shoot house” complete with shoot and no-shoot targets. The possibilities only end when our creativity does. Stay safe, train hard, shoot straight.

—by Dustin Ellerman


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