A Brush With Death - A True Story!

Discussion in 'Happy Trails' started by AZ~ThunderDan, Dec 29, 2008.

  1. AZ~ThunderDan

    AZ~ThunderDan Site Administrator Staff Member Super Mod Mod

    This subject came up on another chat forum recently and I was encouraged to re-post the story. It was originally submitted on the old AZOD board.

    Luckily I found the story again, which was archived on another forum (Arrowhead) that I frequently visit.

    It's a very long read, so grab your favorite beverage, pull up a chair, and keep in mind as you read it, that this event took place on April 22, 2006. There's another chapter to the original story, but I'll save that for later.

    Anyway... here it is. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I do sharing it.


    Yesterday started out like most days do for me. Coffee, forums, the morning news and my routine email check. I purposely surrendered the computer early, just so I could spread some chemical fertilizer on the yard and give it a much-needed first watering. Once that was done, and although it was already getting quite breezy, today seemed nice enough for me to load up the dogs and make a run out to lower Chevelon Canyon for some "leisure" arrowhead hunting. Hobo and Sheba (two of our dogs) were extremely excited to leave their normal confines of the yard. Both dogs immediately sensed what was up, and they eagerly loaded into the back of the truck. I had contemplated taking my camera for any "In Situ" pictures of arrowheads I might find, but after contemplating on whether to bring it or not, I thought, "Nah, it’s just one more thing to lug around". Making sure I had plenty of water for the dogs, and my trusty .45 Glock with me, we departed for our destination.

    As is normal during this time of year (in northeastern Arizona), the winds gale pretty strongly, so our ride out that day was extremely dusty. Go figure, as I had just washed my truck two days prior. Anyway, I'd previously decided that we’d run out to a place that the locals around here call "Goat Steps". This place lies about 1-mile south of Territorial Road in Unit 4B, and is located along the lower drainage of Chevelon Canyon, about 3-1/2 miles from its convergence with the Little Colorado River. Goat Steps is a truly magnificent place - riddled with hundreds of petroglyphs left behind by Anasazi Indians who had occupied this region some 700-1000 years prior. This place is the very reason why the current land-owner aptly named his place, the “Rock Art Ranch”.

    Once we arrived, I parked alongside the fence-line located nearest the canyons edge. The dogs and I took a drink of water and immediately began our short 1/2 mile trek toward the canyon. As we neared the canyons edge, which was still about a quarter-mile away, I noticed what appeared to be a big brahma bull lying in the drought-stricken prairie grass and among some small geologic limestone rock formations. While watching, I saw the bull stand up when we got within approximately 150-yards of him. After he got to his feet, I realized it wasn't a cattle bull, but rather, it was a huge buffalo bull! I immediately thought to myself... "How cool is this - it's not often one gets see any free-ranging buffalo." As we advanced, I soon realized all those rock formations weren't rocks at all. Rather, they were 12 other buffalo, who were also lying down. A few moments later, they all stood up and joined the first buffalo in a concerted "stare down" of me and the two dogs.

    By this time, the dogs had also noticed the buffalo. Being your typical uneducated city dogs, both of them quickly displayed an intuitive desire to get a closer look at these unfamiliar critters. Not knowing anything about the characteristic behaviors of buffalo, we continued walking (ignorantly) toward them, hoping to get a closer look. I remember thinking to myself... "Darn, I knew I should have brought my camera." After all, who would believe such a story - without any pictures to prove it?

    As we approached to approximately 75-yards of the buffalo, the entire herd huddled together and began a slow advance toward us. Not knowing any better, I thought they were behaving just like domestic cattle. I convinced myself they were probably thinking I was the local rancher and that I was coming to bring them some much needed dietary supplement. It didn't take me long to realize the buffalo were picking up their pace, and were now displaying obvious signs of aggression. Fear and adrenaline quickly filled my veins, and I could hardly believe what I was witnessing. At about 40-yards away, the entire buffalo herd (13 in total) began to increase their speed! Each one had now lowered their heads with an apparent eagerness to charge. In what seemed to me as a most unusual behavior, they began grouping together into a shoulder-to-shoulder formation. I thought to myself... "Oh, no, this is not going to be good."

    Much like what happens in a dream, time evolved into a surreal sequence of slow-motion. Realizing that I (and the dogs) are now facing impending danger, and perhaps even death, I immediately began thinking about what the safest course would be. After quickly assessing the situation and realizing we were standing in a wide-open flat, 200-yards from any means of safety, I made a split second decision to draw my .45 from its holster. Remembering that I didn’t have a round chambered, I quickly racked in a 230-grain hollow-point. Clutching my gun in my right hand, I began waving both arms in a jumping-jack fashion, and began yelling and hooting at the advancing buffalo. Well, needless to say, that was a complete waste of time! At a distance now of approximately 25 yards, the herd bull (biggest) made a bold charge ahead of the others. He snorted loudly and lowered his nose to within inches of the ground, indicating he was going to gore me and the dogs. It was then that I fired a warning shot - inches from his feet. BOOM! The dust flew, and for what seemed like only a second, the buffalo momentarily slowed their advancement.

    (to be continued)

  2. AZ~ThunderDan

    AZ~ThunderDan Site Administrator Staff Member Super Mod Mod

    After the shot rang out, Sheba, our Border Collie/Shetland Sheep dog, quickly dove for cover behind me, while Hobo, our Golden Retriever/Healer, began to run around in panicked figure-8 circles. The gunshot blast and flying dust slowed the buffalo for only a split second, but the dominant bull quickly led another aggressive charge. Fearing that I was ultimately going to die, I fired another warning shot at his feet, which was now at 15-yards distance! No reaction! After my third warning shot, which was now at a distance of 10-yards, I leveled off in a Weaver stance, and took aim on the bull's forehead. At that point, I had resigned myself to kill him. Thank God, at that moment, they all stopped!

    I can't recall everything that was running through my mind at that precise moment, but I can tell you all this. I had totally accepted the fact my days had finally come to an end. I was equally convinced that I was going to have to shoot several of those buffalo, in order to have any chance of survival. In a final and desperate act (wisdom?), I withdrew my aim at the lead bull and began yelling and waving my arms once again. After all, I didn't want to die, but - I also didn't want to deal with the consequences of illegally shooting a herd of buffalo either.

    Well, the third shot was too much for Hobo to handle. He took off running toward the truck like he was shot out of a canon. Just like in a cartoon, the dust (magnified by the 35-mph winds) was flying off his feet and made it appear as if he were running 100-mph. It was then that I remembered how deathly afraid of guns Hobo is. Fireworks and thunder scare him to death too. At this point, Sheba and I stood frozen, and now found ourselves in a face-to-face stand-off with 13 angry buffalo. The buffalo maintained their evil stare and were now stomping their legs up and down, and began to jostle themselves left and right, much like trotting-horses do? It was the craziest thing to witness, trust me. I quickly sensed that they were displaying "pack survival" behavior. I must admit here, their cold, dark stares, and their deep-throated grunts were very intimidating.

    In an unrehearsed and synchronized fashion, Sheba and I began to slowly walk backwards, toward the cedars and rock formations that were located some 200-yards behind us. The herd continued to slowly advance, but, thank God, they weren't displaying any more aggression. I quickly deducted that if we could slowly back away and increase our distance, that we‘d probably have a much better chance of survival if we could make it into the trees and among the rock formations. The last thing I wanted to do was turn my back on this potentially deadly situation. Over the next couple of minutes, and continuing to walk backwards, the distance between us and the buffalo began to increase. However, the herd kept advancing toward us, albeit much less aggressively.

    Once Sheba and I obtained a distance of about 50-yards from the herd, I spun around and made a frenzied dash for the trees and rock formations, with Sheba hot on my heels. (Hell YES I was scared!!) Once we made it into the cedars, I immediately scaled up a small cone-shaped limestone rock formation. I could only pray it was too steep for any buffalo to climb. This particular rock was about 8-feet above the alluvial plain surrounding the canyons edge. Having momentarily lost track of Sheba, I stood on top of the rock, totally scared to death - and trying to catch my breath.

    It was precisely then that my cell phone rang! I remember thinking, “Great, I wonder who this could be?” Well, it was Creed, calling to tell me that the Commission had just voted to accept the recent hunt structure guideline proposals! Creed opened his conversation by asking, “How are you, Dan?” Well... I can’t be sure what I said exactly, but I think I replied with something like, “I’m trying to keep from getting killed by 13 angry buffalo!” He laughed out loud and said, “Say what?” I briefly explained the situation I was in and what had just transpired. Creed laughed out loud some more, and after a few moments of listening to him, I began to laugh as well. Man, what a TV commercial this would make for Verizon!

    To get to the end of the story, I‘ll admit that I had some grave concerns as to whether Hobo had made it safely back to the truck or not. I was hopeful that he did, and that he would have sense enough to stay put if he did find the truck. Convinced that things were now safe, and having ended my phone conversation with Creed, I climbed down from the rock formation and found Sheba lying in the shade of a nearby cedar tree. I walked over to her, knelt down, patted her head and thanked her for staying by my side. I then gave her a much needed drink from the 16-oz. bottle of water I had carried in my back pocket.

    At this point, the buffalo appeared satisfied that we had vacated their domain, and feeling safe now, I decide "what the heck". I'll engage in doing what I set out to do in the first place. Yes indeed... I looked for some arrowheads! [​IMG] You all can applaud here if you wish. LOL.

    It didn't take me long to find an arrowhead, but, my concentration was being distracted because of the uncertain whereabouts of Hobo. For all I knew, he was somewhere in the next county by now. Content with finding only one arrowhead, Sheba and I slowly made our way back to the truck. We took a route that went widely around the buffalo herd, who were now feeding. We went up and around a distant sandy ridge and made our way back to the truck. When we arrived, there was Hobo, sitting like a marble statue under the tailgate of my truck. The look on his face was priceless. I swear, he was grinning from ear-to-ear. I loved him up a little and then jokingly called him a big "Coward", but - I don't think the name calling had any effect on him, but he was very happy that the "thunder" had gone away! He was calmed down quite nicely, especially now that my gun was holstered again and no longer visible under my T-shirt. I gave both dogs a well deserved drink of water, loaded them up, and we all three headed safely back home.

    To anyone who thinks buffalo are fearful of humans, or otherwise docile creatures, I've got some serious news for you. They can be some mean bastards when scared or made to feel threatened. After looking back at the events of yesterday, I'm now convinced those buffalo thought my dogs were predators (coyotes?) and that they were merely defending themselves, just as nature had taught them to do.

    Yesterday is not a day I'll soon forget. I thank God that the dogs and I made it home safely, and that I’m still alive to share this bizarre story. It's amazing what a guy will do to find a silly arrowhead, isn't it?! I just hope you all enjoyed this true story.

    Here’s the arrowhead I found that day. Hardly worth risking one’s life over, but – given the memories that are attached to it, I’ll for sure add it to my collection.


  3. rk

    rk I am NOT an Admin!

    Cool story Dan, I had not read that on AZOD.
  4. Dan - I don't check-in as often as I use to, but I'm glad I did today. Great story. Took a picture of this guy in Yellowstone last August, they can be rather intimidating.[​IMG]y!
  5. AZ~ThunderDan

    AZ~ThunderDan Site Administrator Staff Member Super Mod Mod

    Thanks Chief. I gotta tell you though, after looking at your buffalo picture, I got the urge to walk backwards and I kept feeling for my sidearm.

    Check back often, I'll try to get Creed to tell his story about the bear that crawled up in the tree stand with him.
  6. You guys are killin me! LOL Great story gets topped off with a hint about a bear climbing into the tree stand. Wow.

    Glad you made it out alright and I think I'll just buy my arrowheads at the archery shop. Great read.
  7. Damn Dan, I don't know if you know WAGS from the azhuntzone.com forums but that guy goes out every weekend looking for dangerous game to get into the middle of it seems like.

    I know the guy that owns the Rock Art Ranch and his family i will ask him if he knows anything about the buffalo and where he sees them if at all they don't stay on the ranch anymore the live in Joseph City on Randal street. But next time i am up there i will give you a holler and maybe we can go catch some pictures of them or something.

    Ok i did some searching on the internet and this is of one of the buffalo that the Baird Family has on the Rock Art Ranch out side of Winslow/Joseph City on Territorial rd enjoy.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: May 3, 2009
  8. AZ~ThunderDan

    AZ~ThunderDan Site Administrator Staff Member Super Mod Mod

    Nope, don't know WAGS, and I haven't been on azhuntzone in quite a while. Not to bad mouth the place, or the members there, but it's a little too rough around the edges for my liking.

    And yes, the buffalo that attacked me were located on the Rock Art Ranch and were owned by Brantley Baird. Brantley and I had a little face-to-face talk about the event, and the fact I almost had to shoot them in self-defense. He was very peeved at me being on his property, without first obtaining permission, but he later calmed down about the event and even offered me a key to his gate. It's all good between me and Brantley now, although... I'm still horrified by the sight of free-ranging buffalo.

    I still wish Creed would chime in and share his "bear in the tree stand" story. It's pretty funny...
  9. To tell you the truth i have been out there many times on that property and have never seen buffalo out there is seems strange to me that i missed buffalo i would imagine they would be something that stick out like a sore thumb worse than normal cattle even.
  10. AZ~ThunderDan

    AZ~ThunderDan Site Administrator Staff Member Super Mod Mod

    Brantley normally keeps them pinned up. The last time I spoke to him, they were in the exact same pen of the picture you posted, right next to the ranch houses.
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