Even after a week of contemplation, nothing about the episode seems real. Except the hole in Garry Rudd's leg.
A sharp stinging sensation "like an electrical shock." A thrashing sound in the bushes nearby. The glimpse of a man in a camouflage suit running full tilt in the opposite direction.
Only then did Rudd realize the awful truth. He had been shot by another bow hunter and left to fend for himself.
For Rudd, who has hunted with a bow for for 26 of his 41 years, Saturday, Sept. 14, dawned full of promise. From his camp at Laramie Lake in northern Colorado near the Wyoming border, he had risen early, pulled on his hunting gear and selected a route which would take him south along the edge of the lake. With the first rays of sun streaking through the surrounding evergreens, he already had seen several deer and was in the process of beginning a stalk.
"I was moving along very quietly on the outside of the willows around the lake feeling very good about the day," he remembers. "I figured with a little luck I'd have my deer early and get back home to my wife."
But luck and Rudd were to be stark strangers that day.
"I saw something flash through the brush, and at first I thought it was a bird. Then I felt the sting and saw this guy running away. I got a pretty good look at him. He was only about 60 feet away and running like a deer. I think he knew he hit me."
For any hunter, it is the most frightening--and disgusting--thing that could ever occur in the field. Mistaking another human for a game animal and shooting at him is the worst possible breach of the hunting ethic. Any hunter who would take a brush shot, firing blindly at an unidentified motion or sound in the forest, is considered the lowest form of outdoor life.
He also is a potential felon. Reckless endangerment, the act of threatening the safety of another person, is a crime punishable by imprisonment. To wound someone and flee compounds the felony. Whoever shot Garry Rudd and ran away is as much a fugitive from justice as an armed robber.
Because of the logistics, the distance involved, most mistaken-for-game incidents occur among rifle hunters, although the law requiring the use of flourescent orange has resulted in a drastic reduction. Yet this is the second time in three years that a Colorado bow hunter has been shot by another's arrow.
"Garry could have bled to death very quickly without assistance," said Bob Caskey, director of the Colorado hunter safety program. "If the shot had come in the side of the leg instead of the front and hit the femural artery, there's no way he could have stopped the blood on his own."
Chiefly through Caskey's efforts, Colorado recently began to require archers as well as rifle hunters to complete a safety course.
Still, the law didn't help Rudd. A Vietnam veteran once wounded in action, Rudd has received Emergency Medical Technician training and once taught first aid to Boy Scouts. As he demonstrated quickly, he is very capable of helping himself.
"I cut my pants open with my hunting knife and by then the wound was bleeding so profusely I couldn't tell much about it," Rudd said of the wound caused when the arrow passed completely through his leg. "Then I took my bandana and wrapped it good and tight right on the wound. By then it had begun to hurt quite a lot, but I wasn't so concerned about the pain as I was getting it taken care of."
The walk back to his Jeep was nearly half a mile, but, although he was able to further inhibit the bleeding with gauze and duct tape, his problems didn't end once he got there. The vehicle works with a clutch, and the wound was in the left leg.
"I mostly stayed in first gear until I got to the highway," said Rudd. "Also, I know how to jiggle the gears a little to get them to shift without the clutch."
Rudd originally had planned to go to a hospital, but he began having second thoughts on the one-half hour drive down the winding road leading to the nearest hospital.
"My wife is going to have a baby in a couple of months. I was afraid if someone called saying I had been shot and was in the hospital, she might get really upset. So I decided to drive on home."
Once there, Rudd waited several hours for his wife to return. By then, the pain had subsided and the bleeding had stopped completely, and Rudd confesses that he considered trying to hide the severity of the situation from her.
"After a while we took a look and I was amazed at the size of the wound. You could have dropped a banana in there."
The shot caused extensive muscle damage and ricocheted off the bone, but caused no permanent damage. After being stitched up, Rudd was back at work on crutches and by the end of the week was able to hobble around. He expects the leg to be well in three months, but the emotional hurts will take longer to heal.
"It really disturbs me that there's someone out there who could shoot me and leave me there."