“A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set.”
Wyoming (The Gaslamp Post) – No matter how old they get, you’re always going to view your children as children. When they’re in danger, your instincts kick in and you find yourself willing to face hell in order to save them.
A hunting guide had brought his father to the Absaroka Mountains in 2009 in order to give him the chance of a lifetime; a shot at a trophy elk. After years of trying, the moment was finally at hand as Ron Leming Jr. blew his call and the bull inched closer and closer.
His father Ron Sr. drew back on his bow from his tree stand and carefully took aim. Closer… closer… closer… This was really happening.
Ron Sr. had never bagged a trophy elk before, and it meant the world to his son that he was able to give his father that opportunity.
Arm surgery followed by a lengthy rehab and a lot of target practice had him feeling confident again, but this trip was the real test. “My dad has never had the experience of getting a big bull elk with a bow,” says Ron Jr., who has taken several trophy elk himself. “I really wanted him to have that.” Twice on this trip, he’d been within range, but both times, his arrow missed the mark.
“It was frustrating,” Ron Sr. says. “I got to wondering if maybe I was too old.” This time, this day, he hoped, would be different. As he rode out of camp that morning, he said a silent prayer in the half-light of a mountain sunrise: “God, guide my arrow today.” It was a hunter’s prayer, whispered in humility. “I would never pray to kill something,” the father says. “I just wanted to know I could still shoot well if I got the chance.” Within hours, that prayer would be answered in a way he never could have imagined.
All at once the bull unexpectedly spooked and took off like a bullet. As Ron Jr. looked around investigating what could have happened, he turned around and came face to face with a 500 pound grizzly bear. With no firearm or bear spray, and an arrow but no time to draw and fire, Ron Jr. decided he’d take his chances and make a run for it.
The first charge from the bear he was able to avert by quickly ducking around a tree, and then tried to use the ground he gained to put more distance between the bear and himself.
“I heard Ronnie yell, ‘Hey, get outta here!’ and from the tone of his voice, I knew instantly that it was a bear,” says Ron Sr. When he looked up, he saw his son running for his life, a few steps ahead of the attacking grizzly, and both of them coming his way. “My first thought was, That bear’s going to maul my son.”
There was no time to think or be scared; there was only a father’s instinct. “For just an instant, he was a baby back in my arms, and I just knew I couldn’t let this happen,” says Ron Sr.
With no time to think, and a quarter-ton predator with more teeth and claws chasing his son than he particularly cared for, Ron Sr. took his bow, pulled back full draw, quickly aimed, and released. The arrow was felt whizzing past Ron Jr. as he ran for his life, and in an instant, he then felt the bear grab him.
Struggling to protect his vitals, he rolled over onto his back and tried to use his arms to protect his head. The bears furious jaws gnashed into Ron Jr., with his vice-like jaws crushing his elbow and ripping his arms apart.
Unexpectedly, Ron Jr. was literally thrown back onto his feet by the force of the bear, and he again tried to run. Again, the bear locked onto him, this time clamping down upon his hand and back.
Witnessing this, his father ran at the animal in both horror and furious rage; his son’s screams drown out by the roar of the enormous carnivore. Using his bow like a club he began pummeling the massive animal, trying anything he could think of to get the animal off of his son.
All at once something unexpected happened; as dad thrashed the animal in the back of the head with his bow, the animal released his son. It then staggered off and rolled down a nearby hill until it finally collapsed.
An animal so enormous that it could take over 5 shots of 180 grain 30-06 to take down, Ron Sr. had unknowingly scored what they call a “million dollar shot.” In his haste and panic to save his son, his arrow had reportedly severed an artery near the bears heart, and it bled out until it became weak and then went off to die.
Shortly after witnessing this, everything went dark for Ron Jr. He collapsed under the weight of his extensive injuries and fell onto the blood-soaked ground. Surprisingly, the majority of the blood came from the bear.
Being out in the bush, miles away from any help, well out of cell range, and literally days before anyone would come looking for them; Ron Sr. made a fire and quickly formulated a plan to get his son to help. Taking a major risk, he decided to load his son onto a horse and make a 6-hour trek down the mountainside for help.
During the long ride out, Ron Jr. thought about his love for hunting: its risks and its rewards. “I don’t blame the bear,” he says. “Hunting is just something I’ve always wanted to do, and I know that someday we’ll go back, my dad and me, to see if we can get another shot at that elk he’s always wanted.”
He almost had that shot even as they rode off the mountain. “At one point along the ride, we heard a bugling elk,” Ron Jr. says. “We looked up, and there about a hundred yards off the trail was a pretty nice bull.”
With a smile, he told his father to get off his horse and go shoot it. “I probably couldn’t hit it anyway,” his father said.
To which his son replied, “If I got off and made it chase me, I’ll bet you could hit him.” They laughed, two men in the mountains, thinking about the shot of a lifetime—a father’s arrow that had saved the life of his son.
Ron Jr. is alive and well today thanks to not just his father’s quick actions, but the prayer his father had said before they had left. Believe it or not, God DOES hear you. Unfortunately because we are so fallibly human, we don’t always hear him when he answers.
Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.