Now or Never
by Dan Gubler
As quietly and stealthily as I can, I moved up the hill to where Rick Crawford I was concealed behind cover. We had been waiting for the better part of an hour in position above a draw that had an incredible amount of elk sign in it. In preparation for the hunt, we had also cleared several shooting lanes out to about 400 yards. I had spent quite a bit of time with the range finder getting to know the lanes and the distances to various points. Would this preparation pay off?
I spent a few minutes getting comfortable resting my weapon on my pack in anticipation for a shot. I silently practiced aiming and imagining the moment. Time stretched, the evening sun passed below the distant mountains. Dusk approached quickly. Suddenly we heard what sounded like an axe biting into wood. The sound didn’t come from in front of us, in the anticipated shooting lanes, but from behind us farther up the spur on which we were situated.
Rick moved silently towards the sounds. I worried that we were in a bad position and that Rick was about to give us away with his movement. Slowly, he arrived at a point where he could glass the hillside. He motioned for me to move up to where he was. I decided to grab three extra rounds of .325 WSM ammo and place them in my mouth. With my rangefinder around my neck, I moved slowly up to Rick’s position. He pointed out the antlers of a couple of bulls coming down through the trees. The first wasn’t very promising, and the second, we couldn’t see very well. Suddenly, the second elk started “choppin wood” with his antlers. It was obvious. He was a big boy.
I asked Rick what he thought, but Rick couldn’t understand me with the ammunition stuffed in my mouth. The bull showed himself and Rick whispered, “He’s a shooter.” I took a second to range him, 192 yards uphill at an upward angle of about sixty degrees. Thankfully, the elk is broadside. I glanced around for something to steady my shot, but there was nothing. So, I dropped flat on my back and raised my knees up to get in a good shooting position. “Dang it,” there was not enough elevation. I placed one foot under the other, just enough! As I moved, the bull looked straight at me, broadside. It’s now or never. I took a deep breath, aimed, took up slack, the gun went off and …… nothing. The bull didn’t move. I broke every record ever set reloading my custom Thompson Center Encore pistol. The movement caused the bull to spin right, up hill quartering away. I placed the cross hairs on his exit hole and moved to the right six or seven inches and squeezed. He jumped violently vertical and moved behind a tree. He was hit hard.
Rick congratulated me and told me that he had never seen anyone reload a single shot so fast. I could hardly contain my excitement. This moment had been a very long time in coming. In fact I didn’t think it would ever happen. Rick moved up hill to the “spot” and I stayed put and guided him to where we think the elk would be. Rick arrived and found a large blood trail. Because of the waning light, we decide to leave him be until the next morning. Back at camp, I could hardly sleep. The hours conspired to drag on as long as possible. Finally, sunlight!
We headed back up the mountain with help from Aaron Gubler and Steve Hirschi. As we located the “spot”. We began to track. After about twenty minutes of tracking, the bull jumped up from his bed. My “sure shot” evidently was not as great as I thought. We pursued him for another half hour. I took a final shot. My elk went down for good. What an incredible trophy!!!
Finally, I accomplished one of my lifelong dreams. What made this so special was that a decade earlier, I didn’t know if I would be able to achieve this goal. On November 16th 2005, while on patrol in the Al Anbar Province, in Iraq, I was severely injured when an improvised explosive device, (IED) was set off under my feet. It left me missing the majority of my left arm, blind in both eyes, and with fractures and many shrapnel wounds to my legs, arm, and face. I spent the next year and a half recuperating at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. I was lucky that I survived.
It took me 19 years to draw a coveted premium elk bull tag in Utah. As I could only see out of my left eye and having only my right arm, I took up pistol shooting. My good friend, Justin Sip of “Justin Sip Custom Guns” built me a beautiful and accurate Encore Pistol. Finally, two other close friends, Michael Hirschi and Rick Crawford of “Record Book Outfitters” arranged for a whole army of people to come and help me with my hunt.
I want to thank those that gave of their time and energy to help me achieve my dream. Aaron Gubler, Steven Hirschi and Rick Crawford were serious pack animals. Thanks to a my crew of spotters which included Kyle Gray, Aaron Gubler, Steven Hirschi, Dennis Frochic and the guy’s from Avid Magazine, Justin Walker, Brandon Walker and Casey Stilson. These guys froze their tails off for me. Thanks to all the rest who made this possible including Richard Hirschi, Thomas Hirschi, Ben Bateman, Leo Gardner, Shane Snedeger, Christian Snedeger, Danny Blake, Willie Billings, Brad Anderson, Evan Ault, Brian Stratton, Legrand Hammon, Brian Cook, Marty Ellis, Ron & Sue Stratton, Kyle & Ashley Gray, Aaron & Mary Gubler, Steve & Julie Hirschi, Mike & Kristine Hirschi, Rick & Linda Crawford, Dennis & Lori Frochic, and Avid Hunting & Outdoors. Record Book Outfitters.
I extend much gratitude to you all for the love and support you have shown me. Indeed, my heart and soul are full.