Whitehorse Daily Star

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RECOVERING FROM THE ORDEAL – Todd Pilgrim suffered serious head injuries, among other things, after being knocked down and pinned to the ground by the bison on Nov. 7. Photo courtesy Todd Pilgrim

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Photo by Photo Submitted

A STORY OF SURVIVAL – Todd Pilgrim is seen with the head of the bison that came close to killing him earlier this month. He says his narrow escape has taught him how precious life can be. Photo courtesy Todd Pilgrim

Crushed under bison, man thought of loved ones

A Yukon man says he’s glad to be alive after surviving a harrowing bison attack.

By Emily Blake on November 17, 2017

A Yukon man says he’s glad to be alive after surviving a harrowing bison attack.

Todd Pilgrim is currently recovering at his home in Whitehorse after sustaining injuries from the first-ever recorded bison attack in the territory.

In an interview from his home, where he said he’ll be “laid up for the next six weeks,” Pilgrim recounted the incredible details to the Star. He said the experience has changed his outlook on life.

“I’m enlightened from this experience. I have nothing to complain about; life is precious.”

The retired natural resource officer said he’s been trying to hunt a bison for the last 14 years. On Nov. 7, he was determined to try again with the help of his friend Fred Mullet, “the bison whisperer”.

But after his experience, Pilgrim has vowed never to hunt bison again.

“I’m done hunting completely. I’m so done. I’m terrified,” he said.

That morning, Pilgrim and Mullet headed out for a bison hunt two kilometres north of the Twin Lakes campground on Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation land.

At around 10:30 a.m., Pilgrim said, Mullet spotted a bison at the end of the abandoned airstrip.

Pilgrim took three shots with his rifle, and said at least one hit the adolescent bull in the lung area. But the bull kept walking.

The pair tracked the wounded bison for about two hours while it kept a steady lead of 200 yards.

They took a break, and Pilgrim said he told Mullet to rest in the truck while he continued tracking. He was concerned for his 72-year-old friend’s heart.

Pilgrim followed the bison’s tracks for another hour until he found a fresh bed where it had laid down.

“I was so excited,” he said. “I yelled out loud, ‘holy cow!’”

But as Pilgrim’s eyes were on the ground looking for tracks, he didn’t realize the bison was hiding in the thick woods waiting to ambush him.

“I didn’t hear a single thing; that’s how good he was,” he said.

“Bisons are smart. I have so much respect for them.”

Pilgrim heard a crash through the trees. A split second later, he saw the bull charging at him from the side.

He was hit in the head and body, and was knocked unconscious for a few seconds.

When he came to, he said, his face was full of fur. The bison was sitting on top of him, pinning him to the ground with his rifle behind him.

“I was being pressed into the ground and my head was being crushed.”

Pilgrim said he couldn’t see out of his left eye, and thought that it had been injured. But his view was being obstructed by blood from a gash on his head. It later required 12 stitches.

“The blood was just gushing,” he recalled.

Pilgrim’s glasses had also been knocked off and stomped on by the bison.

While pinned to the ground, Pilgrim said the bull began trying to stomp him, but he kept his arms tight to his body.

“He never really got a good smack at me.”

The bull then tried to back up to take another run at Pilgrim.

“If he lined me up good, one strike and I’d be dead in an instant. I wouldn’t even feel it,” he said. “I knew that my life was at stake; I was shaking.”

In that moment, Pilgrim said, he was thinking of his two children and his mother, and how his potential death would affect them.

He grabbed onto the bison’s fur and lifted himself up, screaming obscenities at the animal for courage. He held on tight as the bison tried to shake him off.

Pilgrim said he pushed with all his might and was able to move the bison about half an inch.

Somehow, he said, he was able to get out from under the animal’s massive weight.

“When that bison was on top of me, some angel pushed it; I think it was Dad,” he said. “I got out of there because my father was watching over me.”

“I truly believe that, because there’s no way I should’ve got out of that. I should be dead.”

Pilgrim said his father started an outfitting business called Mayflower Adventures in Newfoundland.

When they would talk on the phone, Pilgrim said, he would always ask if he’d managed to hunt a bison.

After getting free, without taking his sight off the bison, Pilgrim said, he ran zig-zagging toward a tree.

“That tree saved my life,” he said. “I want to go back to that tree and hug it for a full day. I want to kiss every inch of soil that grew that tree.”

The bison was close behind – and began chasing Pilgrim around the tree in a “cat and mouse” game.

Eventually, the bull tired and walked away about 20 feet.

It turned around to look right at him, Pilgrim said, lifting its tail and snorting. He thought it was about to charge him again, but the bull’s tail went down and it turned to its side, looking away.

Pilgrim said his gun was 10 feet (about three metres) away, and he ran to grab it.

He engaged a cartridge in the chamber and aimed in the area of the bison’s lung.

When he fired, the bull went down.

Pilgrim ran over and took another shot at the bison’s head to make sure it was dead.

“I threw down my gun like it was a pack of Cheesies,” he told the Star.

“I gave him a big hug. I said, “I’m sorry, buddy, I killed you. You gave up a good fight, man.’ ”

Pilgrim said he feels sorry for killing the bison and doesn’t blame it for attacking for him, as it was just trying to save itself.

Once the bison was dead, Pilgrim tried to find his way back to the truck, calling out for Mullet and “crying like a six-year-old.”

“Fred said it was the most eerie thing he ever heard in his life,” Pilgrim said.

When they found one another, Mullet first thought Pilgrim had accidentally shot himself.

Luckily, they had a satellite phone, and Pilgrim said an ambulance quickly arrived to take him to the Carmacks Health Centre.

Along with the wound to his head, Pilgrim suffered a concussion, damage to the muscles in his back and neck and a torn ACL.

Pilgrim said he is thankful for the care he has received in Carmacks and in Whitehorse.

He is also grateful to the men who spent all night processing the bison and who brought the meat to his door.

“I’m still alive for a good reason. It wasn’t my time to go. My life has so much purpose,” Pilgrim said.

“I am so happy that I’m alive, and life is so precious.

“Death is never far away for any of us.”

Comments (16)

Up 0 Down 0

Josey Wales on Nov 23, 2017 at 10:16 pm

Perhaps that bison was a YTG employee in another life?

Up 0 Down 0

Hi folks on Nov 23, 2017 at 7:45 pm

I am not sure I buy his story. He was supposed to be laid up for six weeks.
Last Monday he was downtown at the Liquor store and looked fine.
I have hunted bison and taken bison, this is not how they react.
It seems to be more fiction than fact based in evidence.
He is trying to write kids books, what away to get your name known with kids.
They had to cut him off on CTV because of trying to make it so surreal.

Up 6 Down 5

Groucho d'North on Nov 21, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Well it appears that Mr. Pilgrim not only acquired a freezer-full of tasty meat, he also learned who his true friends are to go and gather up and field-dress the bison and bring it to his home - we should all have such good friends. Mr. Pilgrim also has a story he will recite many many times in his remaining lifetime and I'm sure that he already has a deeper appreciation for his continued life each day, which retelling of his story will only amplify as he grows older and not as prone to adventure.
"Do not go gentle into that good night..."

Up 11 Down 7

City Councillor on Nov 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm

That poor man, he was almost killed and people are now questioning the way the article was written.

Yes it was not good English, Mr. Davidson. Why are you so critical, you seem to have a penchant for being pedantic. Please don't tell me you are a retired teacher with a big pension.

Up 8 Down 4

Orwell on Nov 21, 2017 at 10:12 am

@Dan the critique is obviously intended to be written poorly. You didn't read it that way?

Up 25 Down 6

Dan Davidson on Nov 20, 2017 at 4:06 pm

Agronment If you're going to critique someone else's writing, be sure you do better.
"This is a example of not good writing ..." Really?

Up 25 Down 2

Dan Davidson on Nov 20, 2017 at 4:03 pm

yukon56 - Did you actually read the whole story before you posted?
"He is also grateful to the men who spent all night processing the bison and who brought the meat to his door."

Up 12 Down 15

Agronment on Nov 20, 2017 at 2:08 pm

“The bison was sitting on top of him, pinning him to the ground with his rifle behind him.” This is a example of not good writing; the bison’s rifle was behind him? Clearly not.

Up 27 Down 4

BnR on Nov 19, 2017 at 8:24 pm

“I threw down my gun like it was a pack of Cheesies,” he told the Star
Wut? That's the single most weirdest thing I've ever read.

Up 9 Down 14

Mike Miles on Nov 19, 2017 at 7:02 pm

That bison almost won. Most animals live if they can and die is the must. Think Todd should see more of the silver lining and help to rehabilitate animals rather than shoot them.

Meek bison shall inherit the earth. Fighting bison may win some battles.

Up 36 Down 9

DRUM on Nov 18, 2017 at 8:21 pm

Enough already -went hunting - wounded an animal - he was a good hunter to follow a wounded animal that would be in a great deal of pain. Survival instinct.
He is lucky = great that he is not going to ever hunt again.

Up 21 Down 14

June Jackson on Nov 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm

Wooo..the bison almost won one! Maybe it's a surprise that the animal wanted to live.

Up 15 Down 9

Allan Foster on Nov 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm

This bison has been escorted into Valhalla by Erik Bloodaxe and
Baldur the Brave methinks.

Up 20 Down 12

Wilfried Scheuermann on Nov 17, 2017 at 6:49 pm

... and which episode in the Pilgrim saga do we read next week?
How I brought the head of the Bison back home? How the sutures
are being taken out? Back out of the hunting retirement next year?

If you think the Yukon News article can't be topped, the Whitehorse Star
exceeds by far.

Up 25 Down 8

Matt on Nov 17, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Moral of the story....either aim better or only shoot with cameras!

Up 17 Down 9

yukon56 on Nov 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

I can only hope the meat was harvested.

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