In Mark’s own words……They gave me an 80% chance I’d be dead in 2 years. Well, by my math the odds are not good to be hunting today. I was diagnosed January of 2017 with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I kept working my railroad job like I did for 26 years previous. Everyone was going, “What are you doing, wasting your last days working?” Well, I just wanted to be normal as long as I could. I think the guys at work helped me mentally, we’re a tight bunch of guys.
As it turned out, I worked till Oct. 15, 2017. Just in time for hunting season. The problem I had was adapting to my new limitations. Had to get handicap placards so I could hunt from a vehicle. Don’t see a bunch of elk from a vehicle. I did get a dandy whitetail doe. Figured that was my last hunting season.
Well, after you work somewhere for 26 years, People become family. This one guy in particular named Buck Tripp would stop by and buy me dinner regularly. Buck says at one of these dinners in September, “Can you still pull a trigger?” I’m looking at him like, Brother, you just parked in a handicap parking spot and I had to lean on you to get in this damn restaurant. He says again, “Can you pull a trigger?” I hold up my hand and pulled my finger. He says, “You’re good to go then.” I just let it go, never giving it a second thought.
About October 10, he comes and buys me dinner. There we are sitting and Buck says,” I’ve got our hunt all lined up! Fill you in on the details in a week or two.” I look at him. What the hell Buck, I can’t hardly get off the John. Buck says “I got this Bud, you only have to pack your clothes.”
I don’t like to be a burden to anybody. I have 4 kids and my wife and I hate that they have to tie my shoes. It’s only getting worse fast. Anyhow, Buck tells me like a week later we’ll be leaving on Monday the 29th. Now I’m on the hook! If you know anything about being a Montana boy, once you commit you’re on! The day draws near, I really have my concerns. Buck has already had to haul out one of his fallen comrades in a sleeping bag while in the Bob Marshal Wilderness. Figure if anybody knows how to deal with my dead ass, he does. I tell him, if I die his new nickname would be “One Way Tripp”! He didn’t laugh. Well, it’s Monday. We leave with my little scooter in the back. My portable bi-pap and clothes.
It was an extraordinary hunt! The guys that made it possible were up against my disabilities too. They wouldn’t give up, and neither would I. I really considered canceling the trip. Didn’t want to burden them with me actually dying on the trip. The thought crossed my mind a lot leading up to the date. Buck felt the same way I did, go out doing what you love. As of now, it’s a tough go to message even. Can’t speak. Can’t walk too far. These guys I trust with my life. The 838 yard shot was incredible. Let the guys fill in the gaps. I need to go hook back up to my bi-pap. Whew I can’t believe this really happened!
Enter in Broz….. Buck Tripp and I have been friends for several years now. Ironically more than one of the hunts we have done together were helping out friends. Our success rate is pretty darn good, we just work well together. Buck called me and asked “I have a dear friend who is fighting ALS, you think the ranch owner would let us take him on an elk hunt?” Buck isn’t the kind of guy who asks for help often, I knew this was very important. I told him I would ask the owner of the ranch I manage, Dave Greytak for permission. I called Dave and didn’t even get it all out of my mouth and Dave says, “Yes, you guys take him, and make it a great hunt.” I text Buck “It is on” and we set dates.
The day came and shortly after daybreak we were glassing the low hills and spotted a herd of elk slowly grazing up to timber to bed. We set up a small table and chair for Mark to shoot off. The elk were from 700 to 900 yards and we needed to shoot from where we were. It was then we realized, we were going to have to find some bedded elk as we just needed more time. As the herd moved up and away, we loaded up to move on. Not one negative word was spoken, and I think every single bit of disappointment in that truck turned into 100% determination.
More scouting and glassing and we tried sitting in a shooting house on the ranch for an hour or so. We had sand bags and rifles ready, but the elk stopped short of where we were. We still had a great time cracking jokes and warming up by the heater.
Click on photo’s for larger image.
We moved on and we soon spotted some of the bedded herd from that morning. Low and behold, we spotted a bedded bull under a tree.
We set the table up, got Mark into his chair and dialed in for the shot. But the struggle was real. Mark said we need the rifle higher, and for the second time that day we were faced with another dose of reality.
So off we went to do a little more prep for the next opportunity, if we would get one.
We left the ranch about mid day, stopped at my house and got blocks, a gun cradle, and some things to get Mark more in tune behind that rifle.
Back on the mountain we went and again the bino’s became glued to our eyes. A few hours later we found some elk again, not far from the last ones. Problem was we were coming in from the other side and our vantage point was farther out. We found a good sized juniper bush to set the table up behind, added a few cement paving blocks for weight to stabilize the table and blocked my “Executive Order” 30 Nosler rifle up with some wood under a gun cradle to get it to Marks height. It was a strategic effort from all 3 of us, but we had Mark a better shooting platform. I ranged the broadside bedded bull at 838 yards and dialed up the scope. I took my best calculation for the wind through the ravine, and then up the hill to Mr. Bull. I dialed in the windage. I then went straight to the Zeiss Victory Bino’s to spot for the hit. Buck added stability to the table as Mark got ready. My eyes strained as it seemed like a long time, but I dare not even blink as I may miss the shot. Then when all lined up and stable, Mark broke the 1 lb trigger sending a 215 Berger Bullet Elk bound at 3100 fps. The herd jumped to their feet and fled… Yes even the chosen Bull jumped up and left. Then we heard the report come back “Whack”. But…the bull was gone. Was the report from hitting a rock or the tree behind??? We all thought it sounded good, but we were afraid to be too confident. 838 yards with a wind was not a shot many could make every time. We loaded all the gear up and got back to the truck. The feeling of hope in that truck was as strong as I have ever felt. I drove up a two track to the crest of the hill. We talked about the huge ravine behind the elk that they all piled into. Thoughts of “Will we be able to find blood?” “Was he hit good or even at all?” I remember saying ” I hope he is laying right over that rise out of our sight.” I crested the hill and had my Nightforce Spotter on the window before I even stopped the truck. I think I yelled out loud when I saw this pic below ” He is right there!!!!” “50 to 75 yards from where Mark shot him.”
What a beautiful sight!!!
Buck was out the passenger door and had his bino’s on the Bull in a flash. He confirmed what I was seeing through the spotting scope and slammed his bino’s down into the seat of the truck.
Enter in Buck Tripp… I slammed my binoculars down on Broz’s seat and ripped open the back door of the truck. The smile on Mark’s face and the look in his eyes was priceless. I reached in to shake his hand and leaned in for a big hug. He said “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it!” I said,” Believe it, Brother!” The emotions started to take over so I closed his door and got in the truck before anyone could see my eyes welling up with tears. When this all started, I had hoped for at least an opportunity for Mark to take a cow. Now here we were with a great bull down. As we approached where the bull laid, my mind was racing. Before the shot, I knew that this was probably our last opportunity. I’d been watching Mark all day. Even though he was still smiling and having a good time, I could tell he was wearing down. He was pushing himself hard. Jeff had promised us a 2 day hunt but I was sure that Mark was going to be too worn down to take another day of hunting. I’ve been on a lot of elk hunts, and taken many myself, but this hunt ranks right up there as one of the greatest, and was by far the most emotional for me. Mark’s will and perseverance was truly inspirational. He wasn’t going to give up and neither were we.
Back to Broz…. A conglomeration of “Hell Yeah’s” “Bull Down’s” high fives and you name it for the next few minutes. Then off to let Mark get his hands on his 2018 Montana Bull elk. Once there we didn’t skimp on pictures. This is a hunt we won’t soon forget.
After all the glamour shots were done, we field dressed and loaded Marks Bull and came down off the mountain. We met Buck’s son, Tanner, at his house and headed to my place to move the bull into Buck’s truck. Of course, once the truck was parked, we officially started the celebration of Mark’s hunt with an adult beverage of choice. This is what it’s all about. Great friends, real elk hunters, and the celebration of victory, even when the odds are stacked against you.
I love this pic. Genuine smiles , friends with full hearts and the faded image of the Long Range Only.com sticker and antlers in the back window.
I can’t leave out the fact that Mark’s phone was on fire once the word got out of his success. The texts, emails, and calls of congratulations came flooding in. There is no doubt Mark has a gaggle of true friends.
Later that evening, after Mark rested a bit, we all met over at Buck’s house for some food and one more toast to an awesome hunt. A true to life Montana elk hunt, that won’t soon be forgotten.
Here’s to you my friend! Broz
Go HERE to discuss this story , or Congratulate Mark on a job well done.