By Michael L. Ritchie D.C.
The Shiras moose was closing in and the designated decoy diva was getting nervous. “What do I do now?” Steve Malek whispered in desperation. The Caller, Dr. David Riffel, replied “Isn’t this great?” The bull was now at 30 yards and had closed 200 yards rather quickly as it responded to Dave’s cow calls and raking. The bull was getting into a broadside position for me as I was snuggled up to some willow bushes about 50 yards in front of the callers. This hunt was happening so quickly and things were working so well that a 13-year wait for a tag would be over with at daybreak on the first morning. My quest for moose started with Dave and I applying for moose preference points in Wyoming with the dream of shooting a moose 13 years ago. Our plan was if Dave drew a tag, I would hunt with him acting as a guide and he would be the hunter or vice versa. We would share all the expenses and the meat when either of us killed a moose. Dave struck first when in 2005 when with less than max points “Lucky Dave” drew a tag and harvested a nice bull the first day of gun season. Who would have guessed it would take me 7 more years of applying before I would receive my notice from Wyoming Fish and Game with “Successful” written on the top of my moose application.
On this hunt, Dave and I would be joined by 6 other men, one from Chicago and the rest from Michigan. I had hunted many times with Dennis Fiebelkorn, Dave and Tom Walls in Wyoming and we knew what to expect from each other. The other 5 guys were an unknown quantity and I must admit that I was not happy to share my moose hunt of a lifetime with so many people. Dave assured me that his friends would be no trouble, as they were experienced hunters with many western hunts on their resume.
Tags were bought and plans in process. I had a choice to make–either stayed stressed out or to choose joy! So far the stressed-out choice was not working out so well as it was spreading like a virus to my buddies Dennis and Tommy. I’m sure they were stressed just noticing my uneasiness. “I’m just going to give it to God” I remember telling Tommy. “People are more important than my hunt.”
Advertisements - Click the Speaker Icon for Audio
The day of the departure arrived and Dennis and I were all packed, pulling out of my yard at 5:30 pm. Michigan time. We were pulling a trailer with all the gear for 5 people and heading west to Chicago to pick up a long-time friend Tom Walls. We decided to try to drive straight through to Laramie, Wyoming where we would meet the others at The Table in the Wilderness Ministries Centennial Lodge. They had left early to do some antelope hunting. From there Dave, Steve and I would drive further west to start my moose hunt with the rest meeting us 20 miles north for a cow elk hunt. Arriving at the Table In the Wilderness 24 hours later we were greeted by the guys butchering antelope and introductions were made all around.
Chet Decker is a Pastor from Warren, MI and executive director of the Hope Center of Macomb County (www.hopecentermacomb.org) He was traveling with his friends and co-ministers from the Hope Center–Tim Stockard and Rick. Dave Riffel met them when he had joined the Board of Directors of the Hope Center. Chet and his friends had driven out a day early pulling a side by side UTV and their gear. Steve Malek and Dave Riffel flew out in Dave’s private plane. Steve knew Dave from going to church together and this would be his first western hunt. Steve and his wife Robin are directors of Gateway to Glory Ministries (www.gateway2glory.org) which is a Christian halfway house for ex-convicts that need a place to live and get back on their feet. We were greeted by Craig Johnson of Table in the Wilderness Ministries ( http://www.twmcamp.net) who is the activities director. Craig was a familiar person to me as he spoke at our church as part of a Trail to Adventure Conference that was put on by Gerry Caillouette’s God’s Great Outdoors Ministries. Craig and his wife Louise heard the call of God to go into full-time outdoor ministry and joined Dan and Sandra Wahlgren (camp directors and founders) at the TWM. I was traveling with Dennis Fiebelkorn, who is a member of the Roscommon Baptist Church in Roscommon, MI. Besides being a full-time firefighter for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Dennis has been an essential part of the church’s outdoor ministries program. The church’s Centershot program (www.centershotministries.org) has seen God use our church people to teach the life long skill of archery and introduce them to our Savior Jesus Christ. Last but not least, my longtime friend Tow Walls, a General Contractor from the Chicago area who came to know Christ about the same time as I did, and is always an encouragement to me and a joy to hunt with. I realized that I was in the presence of men who heard the call of God on their lives and were living out the “Good works” that God had prepared for them before the foundations of the world began! David Riffel, D.C. was my chiropractor while I played football in high school and was a good example of a successful Christian man. Recently his ministry of healing has taken a step into hyperdrive as he is teaching a class on healing at his church which is attended by over 100 people. After reading Andrew Wommack’s book “God wants you well.” He has come to understand that God’s will is that we be well. He has become a bold witness for God and has seen many saved and healed.
David, Steve, and I left for western Wyoming for my moose hunt the next morning after a fabulous breakfast and arrived in the afternoon. Not wanting to waste any time, we quickly set up camp and went out hunting. The plan was to hunt the last 3 days of the archery season for moose and switch to rifle on October 1st if not successful with archery tackle. Checking out the area where Dave had shot his moose in 2005, we found little sign due to the drought that Wyoming had experienced this summer. We headed for the river and the willows that usually attracts the “twig eaters”. Glassing the willows from the hillside, I spotted a black silhouette which turned out to be a cow moose and her calf. Before sunset that night, we had spotted 3 cow moose and 3 calves but no bulls. I had always heard that if you called in the evening the next morning the bull would be waiting for you. We called and prayed that this technique would work for us. Arriving at the spot where we had seen the cows the night before we were greeted by a heavy fog and about four head of cattle. As the fog began to clear, eagle eye Steve spotted a dark creature across the river at about 500 yards. “It is a moose, a nice bull”, I excitedly exclaimed. “I will get close to the river and find a place to ambush him while you two set up in the open where he can see the decoy as he comes through the willows. When I’m in position start calling.” As Dave began to call, I could hear the bull walking through the river, but he would never cross it. Dave went back up on the high vantage point to see where he went. As he did so I heard an unmistakable “Urruh” from behind me and turned to see Steve repositioning the decoy and Dave running down the hill. “Uruhh, Uruhh”– the sound was getting closer so I quickly repositioned myself about 50 yards in front of the decoy and called and glassed to see if I could make out the apparent bull coming my way. The fog finally parted and a black figure emerged at 75 yards. The bull had a good-sized body, but one antler was missing. Being a meat hunter, I told myself that if my callers could get this bull to within 30 yards and broadside, I would shoot him. Dave and Steve were reeling him in like a Lake Erie walleye and I checked my HHA sight to make sure I was set at 35 yards, as it looked like he would pass by at that distance. Waiting for his front leg to expose his vitals I drew back. Much to my dismay, the bull caught my movement and started walking toward me. He had closed the distance to 20 yards and was facing me and all I could think of was the video of Dwight Schuh and Larry Jones with Dwight shooting his Shiras at 5 yards and almost getting stomped to death! I moved my sight to 20 and waited for the shot. Just at the right moment Dave called the bull and turned him so I drew for the shot and the bull saw me move again and did a 360 looking like he was ready to leave. He stepped forward with his left leg now at 35 yards, I centered my pin behind the shoulder and released. Everything happened so quickly that I had failed to move my sight and watched the arrow hit him lower than intended and realized what had happened. The bull ran off like a freight train and headed into the 10-foot willows leaving me wondering, “Had I made the shot?” Dave and Steve quickly came over and congratulated me and asked, “Did you make a good hit?” My reply, “It was a little low, but I think I heart shot him.” Only time would tell, so we began that torturous task of looking for the arrow and waited for an hour to make sure he was dead. We thanked God for the exciting opportunity and prayed for His favor. When we didn’t find the arrow and I could not stand it any longer, I said it is time to go look. So we began with the sparse blood trail and marked each spot where we found blood. As the blood trail increased, so did our confidence and 30 yards into the willows we found our bull. The arrow had been good and he lived only seconds after the pass-through heart shot. Excited and relieved, we thanked God and celebrated the hunt. This hunt would not have been successful without my divine callers. The timing could not have been more perfect and the decoy diva had done his job as well. All in all the hunt was very successful with my moose and 14 antelope taken during the week. All but one antelope were taken from the Table in the Wilderness ministries location in Centennial, Wyoming. My friend Tom shot a nice 13-inch antelope buck north of Rawlins and with bluebird skies and temperatures in the 70s, our cow elk hunt did not produce. Hunting is so much more than filling the freezer– it is spending time in God’s great outdoors, with friends and seeing new places that we have never seen before. Looking at some of our pictures, one person asked if we were on a hunting trip or a photography retreat. My answer was, “Yes,” because it was all that and more. I wasn’t sure how this hunt would turn out with so many people on “my hunt” but I was personally blessed to meet and spend time with people who had heard the “call” of God and by faith responded. This year the Hope Center of Macomb County is on target to distribute 2.2 million pounds of food to people affected by the downturn in the economy in South East Michigan. This only after 3 years in existence. Tim Stockard shared with me that every month in the entryway of their “store” they have 20-30 people make professions of faith or rededications. The Gateway to Glory Ministries has added a second home and has seen God reunite families and give jobs to people who are outcast from society. Steve Malek said that “before the house even opened a man was saved in the living room saying Gateway was an answer to his prayers.” Dr. David Riffel not only has been helpful on my hunt but has set the bar high with his involvement with the Hope Center and his teaching on healing. The Table in the Wilderness Ministries had their facility in the city limits of Laramie, Wyoming and needed a new location to become a true “wilderness” ministry. God blessed Dan and Sandra Wahlgren prayers by having someone donate 38 acres to the ministry worth 1.2 million dollars. We can only imagine what lives will be changed there. Tom Walls has built a construction business in these tough economic times as a result of him being a true Christian contractor. Dennis and I have partnered not only in hunting but in our church’s Centershot ministries which has grown from 2 when we joined in 2006 to 2800 churches in 15 countries. None of these men would take credit for the success of their ministries because only God can do such things! They were faithful when they heard the call of God and responded in faith. I just hope I was as much of a blessing to them as they were to me!
What is your divine calling?