Those of us who have disabilities should never give up on hunting dreams of a lifetime. Those dreams are possibilities.
This story begins with a lifetime of valuable hunting experiences. I was an active archer and with my brothers we had great success hunting several deer and elk. I am an active member of the RMEF and SFW. I was able to go on an elk hunt with my father-in-law on the famed San Juan Elk Ridge unit in southern Utah. I had always wanted to hunt trophy elk when the elk were in the rut. The hunt on the San Juan solidified my commitment to hunt trophy elk someday.
My dreams were shattered and the ODDS of hunting trophy elk was destroyed when I was involved in a horrific head-on traffic accident. On September 3, 2011, I was traveling home from work when another vehicle crossed the center line and crashed head-on into my vehicle. The driver of the other car was killed instantly and my condition was grave. I had a broken sternum, 90 percent broken ribs, a collapsed lung, punctured kidney, and various other problems, but worst of all both of my legs were crushed from the knees down.
I was transported by medical helicopter to a trauma unit in Ogden, Utah. After being stabilized, the prognosis was that I may never walk again. Months later (and several operations) I was faced with the decision to go forward with additional operations with limited prognosis for success, or amputate. With the support and encouragement of my doctors, I made the courageous decision to amputate my right leg below the knee. My left leg had a rod and multiple screws, but was savable. With the tremendous support of my family, I began a long and challenging recovery.
My dream of hunting trophy elk was put on hold but never left my thoughts. In 2013 I talked my father into putting in for the Utah elk hunt. My condition was ok, but not perfect by any means. I had eight preference points and my father had zero. The average points for comparison then was four for the draw. The ODDS are very poor because the maximum points would be 18 this year.
In Utah, the bonus point system requires that half of the available tags go to the people with the maximum bonus points and the other half go to the remaining applicants. This meant my father and I had very poor odds for success. I intended to apply for the San Juan unit where I had seen several large trophy bulls. I accidentally put in for the LaSal unit. What are the ODDS? We were successful. I immediately called my dad and he was surprised and elated. I then called my father-in-law to tell him I had been successful in the elk draw on the LaSal. He said he thought I had put in on the San Juan to which I replied I had no idea what happened.
I started to research the LaSal unit. I found that the bulls were very good and success was great. There were several roads and OHV trails. I contacted several people including my brother-in-law who lives in Fruita, Colorado. He sells wood to several cabinet shops through Moab into southern Utah and southern Colorado. He knew of a man in Moab who was an avid hunter and may know the unit very well and could give me advice. My hopes started to rise when I made contact with Ivan and he said he had hunted the LaSal Mountains all his life. He was willing to show me some areas but he was 77 years old. My dad is 65, and father-in-law, 62. I cannot walk up and down mountains with one fair leg and one marginal prosthesis leg. My ODDS for success were not bright; however, I was confident that my dream could come true.
My 2013 Utah trophy elk hunt was about to begin when the climate changed dramatically. The month before the hunt was extremely wet. The night before opening, it poured rain all night. The opening day of the hunt brought flash floods that shut down highway 191 with two feet of water running over the road. The ODDS were against us once again. The weather broke in the afternoon so we went to a canyon where we had seen several bulls the day before. Just before dark my father made a perfect stalk on a 340 class bull and he was successful in taking a magnificent trophy. I was able to watch all of the activity from a ridge nearby. We were out till midnight taking his elk back to our camp.
We took Sunday off and were back on the mountain on Monday. By this time more hunters had entered the canyon where we had seen these bulls. We had located at least seven good bulls but being able to walk up and down hills would prove to be a problem. After some bugling and cow calling I had a chance to pull the trigger on a superb six point bull at just under 400 yards. I was about at a half trigger pull when the bull dropped from my sight as another hunter shot and killed him. What are the ODDS? Hunting is always challenging, but hunting with a prosthesis adds another level of trials, but is not impossible. I was discouraged but had several days left.
When we got back to camp that night there were three bulls bugling behind our camp. I said lets go after one of them tomorrow morning. The next morning was clear and promising. We decided to limit the number of people so I went with my new friend, Ivan. We located the bulls but it was hard to keep up with them. The fallen trees and limbs would prove difficult to maneuver and I nearly reached the end of my endurance. Luckily, we were able to locate and get close enough to one of the bulls and call him into about 75 yards. He was a six point bull and gave me a perfect shot. I had fulfilled a dream of a lifetime even with a limiting disability. Never give up on your dreams. The ODDS could one day be in YOUR favor.
About the Author:
Justin Hobbs is 38 years old and has lived in Cache Valley, Utah all his life. Cache Valley is nestled between the beautiful mountains of Logan Canyon and the high peaks of the Wellsville Mountain range giving Justin ample opportunities for fun in the outdoors! He has been an avid hunter and skier, but has recently overcome the obstacle of a leg amputation. He has shown a positive outlook of life through all of his challenges and is looked up to by many as an inspiration. He has a wife, Emily, and is the father of two children, Jaden (son, 12) and Kylee (daughter, 9).