DALLAS -- A 6-point elk from 185 yards makes for a nice trophy for any big game hunter.
But when that hunter is quadriplegic and confined to his wheelchair the story becomes much bigger than the trophy.
Mark Irick of Dallas and a contingent of his long-time hunting buddies were on a ranch in the Fox Valley area north of Mount Vernon, Ore. It was 4 p.m. Oct. 25 when Irick spotted his quarry in a group of elk.
As a disabled hunter, he remained situated in a van with his specially-equipped rifle. Unable to pull a trigger, Irick "sipped" on the electronic trigger mechanism and nailed the elk that weighed an estimated 770 pounds.
"It's a shot of which I'm proud," Irick says. The shot was well placed as the animal immediately fell to the ground.
Irick's wife, Sue, loaded his weapon and was the first to spot the large bull in the herd as well. He expresses appreciation to Chris and Joe Hayward who allowed him to take his shot even though they had a clear approach themselves.
When the hunters in the party came together, Irick recounted, "There wasn't a dry eye in the place as hugs were shared by all. At that moment, everyone knew anything is possible-including myself."
Joining in the celebration were all the hunters in the party including a number from the Dallas area: Gregg and Kris Brunner, Joe and Chris Hayward, Ted Johnson, Kevin Williams and Larry Hofenbredl of Grand Ronde and Steve DeShaw of Silverton. Guides were Jack Johns, owner of the ranch on which the hunt took place, and Dave Brinker of Dallas.
Irick is an attorney in private practice in Dallas and the city attorney for both Dallas and Monmouth. He was disabled while vacationing in Mexico in 1999. He and Sue live in rural Polk County.
Since becoming a quadriplegic, Irick relates "I have focused on learning to re-do, that is, learning what I can do not dealing with what I can't do."
He adds, "Any courage I have shown in the past three years I owe to a young lady of grade school age who showed hope and happiness despite not knowing if the leukemia she was fighting would kill her. If a child can show that kind of courage and attitude, I figure I should be able to deal with this."