The shot echoed off the canyon
September 13, 2011
“She stood there snorting and stomping,” Dan says to me, “Ready? Fire! … I shot! … I got my deer!”
Dan and I met Gary a few years ago at Pear Park Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Color. God has gifted Gary Sasser in amazing ways.
He has a beautiful voice, sings many specials at church, plays the piano with skill, enjoys fishing, and if you talk to him, I am sure he would share many amazing adventures with you! He is blind! Gary was born without eyes, yet still loves life and sees things in a way that you and I never will! He has an excellent memory and hears super well!
The story begins at the annual Pear Park Baptist Church men and boys retreat in June of 2009, when the men were sitting around telling hunting stories. Danny asked Gary if he would like to hunt. Gary told Danny, “If I had a chance to go on a hunt, I’d do it in a heartbeat.” Dan did a lot of thinking on that for a week or two and about two weeks later Dan called Gary and asked him, “Were you serious about wanting to go hunting?” and Gary said, “Oh yeah!”
Dan Bonnell is a serious hunter, but also a man who loves to see other’s dreams come true. He is a father and a husband. He has tried his best to make all his wife’s and children’s dreams happen! He had his children shooting guns early in life, hunting as early as the law would allow, and has taught them many survival skills. His son and daughter had killed rabbit, deer and antelope as early as 14-years-old. And elk came next. Then his son got a big bear at age 17! Debbie, Dan’s wife, loving the outdoors and hunting too, hunts with the family, and has killed elk, deer and antelope. Last year Dan surprised her by putting her in for the DOW Ladies pheasant hunt! The Bonnell family enjoys both the hunting together, and just being in the woods together. It is not just a kill that thrills the Bonnell’s; many times it is just the adventures that bring memories, and the chance to see the animals, their beauty, and learn of their habitat.
With Dan’s adult children now out on their own, their son logging in Montana, Dan decided why not make another person’s dream come true? Gary Sasser would be that person!
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Dan started checking into all possibilities and he found them. Dan built a gun with an off set sighting system for Gary. This way, Dan would be able to sight in on the deer, and tell Gary when to fire. They begin with a .22 rifle and a tripod. Some folk were hesitant at helping, but, Al Holiday, a Hunter’s Safety Instructor, agreed to have Gary in his hunter’s safety class, and he was very accommodating. He gave Gary the test orally. Gary listened very intently at all that was said, asked questions and passed with flying colors, and did great on the shooting test as well.
First step completed!
Next it was time to practice on the shooting range. They experimented with a .22 Rifle and a 30-30, but finally settled on the .243 Winchester and a tripod. Now it was time to go on that first hunt! This first hunt would happen that fall of 2009!
The following story is in Gary’s own words:
Well, I got my deer! Danny was able to get me in on the Hunter’s Safety class, which is quite a bit easier than I thought. I got a 100 percent on the test and did a pretty good shoot … A little while later we started going out on the shooting range, and we started out with a .22 rifle. Well, the first time I went, I pulverized a paint can, then the next time we went, we had set up some targets, and I was hitting about probably 90 to 95 percent of my shots.
Uh, probably a week later, we also got the 30-30, again I shot about 98 percent with the .22, and he (Dan) said, “I want you to shoot a few shots with the 30-30.” The next time we went out shooting, he informed me, that I was done with the .22 and so I was shooting all 30-30. The first time I was probably hitting 95 percent of my shots. The next few times, about 98 percent of my shots! Later September, uh, well, I took some milk jugs … you know water jugs, we blew them up … about six of them … it took me seven shots to blow them up.
In the meantime, he bought my first season tag, and got permission to take me into a friend’s private property. We went that Thursday afternoon in an unbelievable snow storm, but we saw five deer that night. We saw this one doe; she was standing out 75 or 80 yards out, just looking at us. Yeah, she kinda flickered her ears at us, we started walking you know, she took off and jumped the fence, but we saw her a couple of more times, and we thought, this hunt is gonna be a slam dunk!
We got out there Saturday morning, and uh, we kinda sat on the field, and didn’t see nothing! So we went and got a bite to eat. We come back and we kinda did some walking around, checking out different fields for deer sign. We decided to go up and sit on their other field. We sat up there until it got too dark, nothing came out, so we kinda packed up and came home. Then Sunday, we went out, did some walking around, went to church, and I sang a special. We stayed for the preaching, had lunch, went back out, checked several places and found some elk sign. We went back down, sat, well, we saw about eight deer come out across the creek from where we were sitting. Dan says, “Gary, you up to crossing the creek Tuesday?” and I said, “well, I don’t know,” and he said, “If you don’t have any rubber boots, I think I have some that will fit ya.”
We went out again on Tuesday, and I was a bit worried about fording the creek, but it actually went pretty well, only to find out when we got over there, some other hunters had walked in. They weren’t being very quiet … so that kinda spoiled our hunt.
We went back out Wednesday … we kinda stood out there in the field, and these eight deer come out, to the tree line, and just stood there for about 10 minutes, then when it got about dark they started coming out, they saw us and took off. So Dan said, “O.K., we gotta set a blind up tomorrow.”
Well, I was less worried about crossing the creek that night. Because it was about a foot and a half deep!
Thursday, Dan told me he brought some camouflaged burlap. So this was the last night. We forded the creek, no problem, we got there. We got set up. Danny covered us up in burlap, then he said, “No, I don’t like this set up,” so he dismantled everything, and uh, moved us a little bit, and got set up again. He found this iron piece laying out there, so he moved it for me to sit on, and got everything covered up again. We probably had been sitting there about 30 minutes, when the lead doe started walking out. She stood there snorting and stomping her foot. Well, I didn’t say anything, but I was kinda wondering to myself, “What was that?”
Well, I thought it was a cow snorting. I was sitting there with the rifle on my shoulder, ready to go! I kinda heard Danny moving behind me. Then I felt him reach over, and click the safety. Well, I thought, “Here we go!” He said, “Ready?” and I put my finger on the trigger, and he said, “Fire!” and I shot!
I hit her in the right shoulder, and went through the other side, come out the last rib, and he said, “Oh, you hit her!” So we kinda dismantled everything, and I said, “Can we go?” and he said, “What?” and I said, “Can I go get my deer?” and he said, “No, we’re gonna sit here for a little bit. She’s gonna walk back in there and lay down.”
So, we sat there for a little bit, and I said, “Can we go now?” He says, “Well, come on Patience!”
Well, I’d shot her about 75-yards out. We walked out there to pick up her tracks, we couldn’t find any blood. He says, “Wait a minute, I know you hit her, cause when you shot, she tried to turn, like she was trying to get away from something that hurt her.”
We went on a little further, found her laying in the brush, deader than a doornail. Danny said, “Now, we get to work!” So he got his rope out, tied onto her and we started pulling her outta the brush. Bout that time, I heard some four wheelers coming down the road. And bout that time, the owner’s grandson’s pulled up. Well, I was sitting there waving my hat like this, as they were driving up. They told us they had been at their grandfather’s house, working on a truck, and they heard the shot. They just heard the one shot, so I guess they thought they better come and see if we had a deer down, or was trying to track a wounded deer. Well, needless to say, they found a deer laying there by me! So, we were having this discussion about how to get out. They said, “Well, why don’t we put the deer on the big one here, and Gary, we’re gonna put you on the other one, you can ride out!” They offered Danny a ride, he said, “No, I’m gonna walk out.” So we picked up the rest of our stuff, and they took me and the deer back to the truck, and Danny reached the truck after we got there. They stayed and helped Danny load it. They said, “Well, don’t’ worry about the gate, we’ll get it on the way out.”
We got off the mountain, called Danny’s wife, he handed the phone to me and I said, “I got my deer!” and she was quite excited! We got some good pictures, hung it up, skinned it out and as I talk to you, we’re in the process of wrapping meat! We’re gonna cook some steaks!
Dan had helped another person! Gary had a dream come true! Now he would look forward to every hunting season!
And so it was, on November 2, 2010, there they found themselves out in the woods again, scouting for deer and making plans!
“Stalking that doe was an adrenal rush! That was a rush! I was starting to feel the rush a little bit when he told me to open the door and get out!”
Debbie says, “Now today, you get to work at wrapping it, while you tell us the story!”
Yeah! Hey! This is my deer! So, I’m not gonna make everybody do all the work! I shot her! I field dressed her! Now we’re packaging her!
On Tuesday, before the season, we scouted the area where I got my doe last year. Then again on Friday we went back and saw four of them out in the field munching away! The owner had told us where he had seen them coming out, so we needed to go back and just kind of watch. We drove by and didn’t see anything, so we went down where I got mine last year, and we saw two of them down there.
Well, we started back out and saw four of them just standing out there in the field.
Anyway, we got back there this afternoon; we got there plenty early, so we were just kinda poking around a little bit. Well, we got back down there on the field, and Dan told me, “Open the door quietly.” So, I opened the door and got out, and uh, he took me out on that field. Well, when we got there the wind was coming right at our backs, and I thought, “This isn’t good”. The wind started to swirl. Yeah, in this case the wind was blowing every which way.
Debbie asked Gary, “Did you use camoflauge this year?”
No, well, when we first saw them, we were kinda standing in the oak brush.
And we kinda got set up. He said there was about ten of them out there with a four point buck … I was worried about her catching our scent the way the wind was blowing!
Dan was afraid they were gonna go back off in the brush, in which case our hunt would have been over.
Dan kinda moved us out a little more in the open, well, because the way we were standing he wasn’t sure I could get a clean shot, well because uh, well there were some trees and brush.
They acted like they were gonna start back up the mountain. We heard them kinda splashing across the creek there, then they turned back like they were getting ready to go back up the mountain , heading back into the brush, and Dan says, “Gary I don’t’ know if we’re gonna get anything cause they are heading back off toward the brush.” Then all of sudden they just turned around and came back! And I don’t know what that was about, but I guess it doesn’t matter because well … There was this one doe and several more real nice ones. We had seen her last night, well; this was the same one we saw last night.
That buck walked right by us, you know, just looking at us and walked on. We were standing out there in the grass, and there was about ten of them and they were just running all over the place, and well, there wasn’t a problem in the world. This one doe that we had seen last night, she come almost walking right up to us! She really wasn’t sure what we were, uh, she was walking up to us, ah, little did she know how fatal that was gonna prove!
Dan put the sights on her; I clicked the safety, well, just at the last second she turned a little bit. Dan was afraid she was gonna come right up on us! Well, she kinda turned, Dan re-sighted, and he said, “Fire!” and I shot! He said, “Well you hit her!” It was starting to get close to dark on us, and he wasn’t sure where she went. Well, so we were kinda walking around there, I think it was almost like the blind leading the blind! We , ah, we had a hard time finding her, because she , ah, had run about another 40 or 50 yards after I’d hit her. When she died, she kinda rolled down in a ditch, so we just about walked right by her! We kinda turned around and there she was, laying there in the ditch. Once we found her, then o.k. now get to work!
This time I took out both lungs, right through the shoulder. Well, I could stick my finger through the exit hole! Uh, I thought the way I hit her she should have dropped right where she was standing, but Dan told me he has seen deer even when you blow out the heart, keep going a little bit.
So, Dan says, “Well, Gary, your gonna have to help me here.”, so we started dragging her out. I asked, uh, “How are we gonna get her outta here? Cause you can’t get the truck through that fence!” And he said, “We’ll get her out of here all right!”
Getting her out of there was a lot harder than I thought it was gonna be, cause we had to cross the ditch, then go through the fence. Last night when Dan told me where she was, I thought , well, if we get her , she will be easy to get out, we could just about drive right up to her, but well, it didn’t work out that way!
So, we got to the fence, he got her over the fence, he come back and got me, and then he went and got the truck. Uh, we dressed her out, between the two of us, got her loaded, and we tried taking some pictures. And, ah, dressing her out wasn’t any real big deal, yeah; I may have a little blood up to my armpit! But you know, she has to be every big as the one I got last year, if not bigger!
Debbie says, “Gary you scouted for two days, and here on the first day of the season, you get your deer! Gary, you’re getting too good at this!”
Gary says, “I could get too used to this!”
(He takes the bullet out of his pocket)
I stuck it in this little pocket here, well it fell out, and I liked to have not found it, and I told Dan, “I won’t lose this bullet again until it comes out the barrel of that gun!” I was as good as my word!
Debbie says, “I’m glad you got your deer, put another steak on the paper Gary!”
O.K., (feeling for one, picking it up and putting it on the butcher paper) that’s a nice one right there!
(Gary makes a sound, and Debbie ask him what the sound is.)
The shot! The shot kind of echoed off the canyon! (Then he makes the sound again!)
(Needless to say, we had deer steak for supper! Another dream had come true!)