As dad and I left the truck, on September 29, 2012, it was the first time in four years we were carrying bows instead of rifles. Since my accident, we have paid tribute to the basin that left me clinging for life, for an annual celebration hunt.
Four years ago, I severely broke my leg in the Scapegoat Wilderness packing out a back country rifle bull, that I had killed. I was left on that trail helpless with a horribly broken leg, extreme shock, hypothermia, and not to mention in the middle of grizzly country surrounded by elk meat.
At the time, getting eaten by a grizzly didn’t sound that bad, but to make things worse, my dad had to leave my side to head out of the wilderness for help. (I’m sure he looked like speedy Gonzales jumping logs and debris.) I stayed strong to shake off the shock and after hours of distant hallucinations of helicopter whops, I was rescued and flown to St. Pats in Missoula. I am truly so lucky and everyone involved was my guardian angel that night! (The picture on the left was taken just moments before the accident occurred.)
Every year since the accident, dad and I have returned to the site on a hunt to say a prayer where the rugged trail took my footing away and the elk meat on my shoulders came crashing down. Thanks to a brave search and rescue crew, dedicated helicopter pilots and the man upstairs, not only do I still have my leg, but I’m more of an animal in the mountains than ever.
This year, the Scapegoat Wilderness is closed because a large wildfire, so we hiked into another area, near Avon, chasing the bugle, so many of us long for. I will admit I am absolutely beyond obsessed with hunting bugling bulls in the rut! Sometimes I feel like I would be more productive in life if my brain consisted of more than walleyes and bugles.
As dad and I approached the head of a remote drainage, we heard that eerie ground shaking bugle that makes even the most savviest of adrenaline junkies just about piddle themselves. Looking at each other with ear to ear smiles, we made a game plan and moved in on the beast. Inching our way down the mountain we spotted all his cows bedded in the timber.
I moved in as close as possible without alarming the cows and let a bugle roar. The bull instantly jumped from his bed and started smashing everything in his close proximity. It was so awesome to watch this huge bull uprooting jack pines from the ground while screaming his head off.
After a couple more bugles, dad cow calling behind, and waiting close to ten minutes he wasn’t going to budge. I quietly removed my boots and started the sock walk, to close the gap and to get a shot on this magnificent bull. It was too bad I had twenty plus cows to sneak past because the bull was so wrapped up in demolishing anything his horns could find. I could have walked in and blew my hoochie mama cow call right in his ear.
With the bull getting closer with every gentle step and things starting to look good…the forest erupted with elk and the closest thing I got to a shot was a bunch of white butts galloping through the timber. BUSTED by the law…the lead cow plucked me out and decided that she didn’t think I was a moving tree like I had anticipated. That poor herd of elk definitely believes in Bigfoot now…they will be telling their story on the next episode of Sasquatch Hunters.
As I made it back up the hill frustrated as heck and put on my boots, dad made it down the hill to me. “Damn that was close Trev, but what an awesome experience.” Dad was right on, no we didn’t arrow the huge bull, but we had had an amazing experience together, to celebrate four years from the day of my accident.
There we were, over four miles back into some of Montana’s most rugged country…a pretty distant thought four years ago, laying in a hospital bed after a huge reconstructive surgery. People often ask me, doesn’t your leg hurt when you’re out there? Well hell yes it hurts, but I feel so darn lucky to wake up every morning and stand on it that the pain is just reassurance that it is still there.
So cheers to titanium leg bones, strong recoveries and all the folks battling what I went through four years ago.
For all serious outdoor enthusiast this is obviously a risk we all take when in the field or on the water. We all hear horror stories of these accidents but think they could never happen to us. I can contest that even the savviest of mountain people can end up in a life threatening situation. Is this a reason to be worried…HELL NO! Just good precautionary advice to be as careful as you can and always be prepared for the trail less traveled.