Proving that your mind is more powerful than your body
Last May, I decided to put in for my Colorado big game tags. My father told me that I was crazy for putting in for the big tag that I did. I had accumulated 13 years of bonus points and the area where I applied for only takes six points to draw, but three years ago at the age of 19 I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). It was a reality shock, especially coming from a very decorated collegiate and freestyle wrestling career. I was always healthy and worked for the US Forest Service. When I was diagnosed, my world seemed to stop spinning.
But with the ambitious attitude I have, I told myself I can't live for what might be or might happen to me down the road, I have to live for each day. MS doesn’t stop me from pursuing my big passion. MS is only a part of me — not who I am.
We made it up to the mountain the evening before opening day. We quickly started to glass for elk in hopes of making a game plan for the next morning. Opening day, I was up at 5 a.m, ate breakfast and took my vitamins. It was a cold crisp morning on the third rifle season here in Colorado. I chose to make the long walk up to the glassing spot that morning to avoid scaring any game. My dad wanted me to ride a four wheeler due to the terrain and my walking ability.
“No way,” I told him. “I don't like to limit myself anymore that this disease already has.” Smiling, I looked at him and continued. “Dad, the things you thought you hated, you will never miss them until you can't do them, okay?”
I started walking up the hill to my glassing destination. We arrived about 6:10 a.m. and climbed on top of a rock pile so we were elevated to overlook the hillside. I was with my father and Joe, a pro staffer from Earn Media. We got situated up and glassed around for elk and waited. That morning and night we saw 19 elk, all a combination of cows, spikes and satellite bulls; no shooters at all.
I tried to stay optimistic about the hunt. I reminded myself that all great things are earned, not given. The second morning arrived and I was up early for breakfast and vitamins. We wasted no time scurrying up the hill. Like the day before, we got on top of the rocks to glass.
“Joe, listen,” I said. The bulls started bugling and the cows responded by chirping.
The elk were traveling through this section of public land, bouncing back and forth through private land. They started to move closer to our position and out of the timber. When the herd finally showed, there was 11 bulls and 51 cows that we could see. The bulls were busy trying to figure out which one was more dominate by shoving each other around. The lead cow started to go up and out of the basin, moving closer to private land and farther away.
We were busy sizing up all the bulls, managing to narrow it down to two. The biggest of the two was closing in on that 800 yard mark. I clicked my turrets over to the correct yardage. I do a lot of shooting at 1,000 yards with my 7mm mag. so I felt comfortable with the situation. I set up to take a 823 yard shot, planning to shoot once the bull stopped walking and turned broadside, but he made a hard left turn. I had no shot; all I could see was his hind quarters and massive antlers.
I dropped my head and shook it in disappointment as he is walked away into the timber. Joe let out a cow call, trying to stop the bull so that he would turn broadside, but he didn't stop. Before we knew it another big bull came tearing out of the timber to our far right; we had no idea he was there.
I quickly glanced over, trying to judge the bull, but he is bugling and running our way. I made the call I was going to take him so I hurried to get on him. If he hits the timber in front of us about 300 yards out I would lose him for good. I had my dad range in front of him about 50 yards so I could make adjustments. 433 yards is was the spot, I get set and take a deep breath. The bull crosses the mark and I touched off a shot; it was a solid hit in his chest. I stand up.
My hands are shaking and I give a round of celebration hugs. As we walked up to a giant old bull, I smiled with pure joy. I did it! MS cannot stand in my way — it’s only a part of me, not who I am.