WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS CONTENT THAT SOME READERS MAY FIND DISTURBING
When Todd Pilgrim set out on a crisp, snowy morning to hunt bison north of his home in Whitehorse, Yukon, he had no idea that he would become the one hunted that day.
Pilgrim has been trying to kill a bison for 14 years.
“They’re so hard to get because they’re so smart,” the retired senior natural resource officer for the Yukon territorial government said.
Pilgrim told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview. “I have a lot of respect for them.”
On Tuesday, Pilgrim and his buddy Fred Mullett woke up early and drove to a hunting area located a few kilometres north of Twin Lakes. It wasn’t long before Pilgrim’s friend spotted a large bison standing approximately 250 metres away.
Pilgrim knelt down, steadied his .338 Remington Ultra Magnum rifle and shot his prey.
The bison didn’t even flinch.
The hunter said he believed the bullet might have “bounced off” the animal he estimates weighed at least 2,000 pounds. Pilgrim shot the bison two more times before it sauntered off.
“He walked into the woods as if I hadn’t even hit him. I know I hurt him,” Pilgrim recalled.
They waited 20 minutes before following the injured animal so they wouldn’t startle it as they caught up. Before long, Mullett tired of tracking the bison and returned to the truck for a break.
Pilgrim was determined to catch his first bison, so he continued alone, tracking the beast for another three and a half hours until he found a pool of blood in the snow.
“I was like, ‘Oh, yeah! He’s here somewhere!’” he said.
Pilgrim’s excitement quickly evaporated, however, when he saw a massive head and two horns charging towards him.
“It was just, bang!” he said. “He took me right out. I just seen a big flash of white!”
When he regained consciousness a few seconds later, Pilgrim said he was pinned underneath the bison as it tried to strike him with its horns.
“I couldn’t breathe because he was choking me. My mouth, nose, my whole face was covered in bison fur, chest fur,” he said. “I yelled at it, ‘You’re not going to kill me! I have a family. I don’t want to die, you son of a bitch!”
Luckily, the bison didn’t impale him and Pilgrim was able to squirm out from under its weight. Somehow, his gun fell out of the holster strapped across his back during the struggle.
With few options left, Pilgrim desperately ran through the snow towards a nearby tree with the bison in hot pursuit.
“I ran for a tree because I heard if you ever get attacked run for a tree because they can’t go around a tree very well,” he explained. “He was right behind me. His horns were almost up my rear.”
So Pilgrim and the bison ran in circles around the tree for what seemed like an “eternity,” until the animal gave up the chase.
“He got really mellow. I think he was tired. He looked in the other direction and when he took his eyes off me I walked over and got my gun about 10 feet [3 metres] away,” he said.
Worried that the bison might charge at him again, Pilgrim quickly took aim and shot the animal in its heart. Once it fell to the ground, he went up to it and shot it again in the head to ensure it was dead, Pilgrim said.
“And then you know what I did? I threw my gun down on the ground and I went over and gave him a big hug,” he said. “Poor guy. He was only trying to defend himself. He knew I was going to kill him so he was going to let me have it. I deserved it.”
When he reached the truck, Pilgrim’s friend immediately called for an ambulance and he was rushed to the hospital where he received 12 stitches for a large gash across his forehead.
The bison was retrieved from the woods and butchered by a few of Pilgrim’s friends who delivered the meat to his house the next day.
After 14 years, Pilgrim has finally killed his first and last bison.
“I’m in shock more than pain. I’m terrified still,” Pilgrim said. “I’m done bison hunting. I don’t want to do it anymore.”