Ian Haagen whispered to himself “bull down” and steadied a .308 Savage rifle in his hands.
More than 200 yards away, an elk bull stood alone in an open Oregon field. At about 750 pounds, it is a difficult animal to bring down.
But this is what Ian — a 15-year-old from Snow Shoe with autism and an insulin pump for his Type 1 diabetes — wanted for his Hunt of a Lifetime. The nonprofit grants children like Ian the opportunity to pick an animal to hunt or fish. With only three months of preparation for this moment, he pulled the trigger.
It was a clean shot.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” his father, Nick McCloskey, said. “I know grown men that can’t shoot that far. It was his first try. It was his first animal that he’s ever harvested. It was a big deal for him, and it’s just as big a deal for me. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
Ian’s mother, Charity McCloskey, got to experience the moment, too, because the Clarence Moose Lodge paid her way.
“I was watching the whole thing unfold,” she said. “I started crying. It’s not that I didn’t think he could do it, but I couldn’t believe it was happening. He just took his time and stopped. Then I heard him whisper, and he fired.”
There are no guarantees in hunting, not even when a kid goes on a Hunt of a Lifetime trip. It’s the experience and not the result that is the selling point, but Ian’s journey didn’t start when the family landed in Boise, Idaho, and drove five hours to Murderers Creek in Oregon.
He began practicing for his hunt at a sportsmen’s club in Snow Shoe, practicing as much as time allowed since the middle of the summer.
“He’s learned a lot more in the last three months, especially about gun safety,” Nick McCloskey said. “He’s been on the shooting range a lot and getting better every day.”
The practice paid off, and he will get to bring home more than an experience. After the meat is processed, it will be sent to the family as will the elk’s head to be mounted. Plus. he gets to keep the rifle.
“He loved it,” Nick McCloskey said. “He could have picked any animal in the world, and he wanted an elk. And he got it.”
“He’s a child with special needs, so I just try to get him to enjoy things in life,” Charity McCloskey said. “Don’t dread on things and enjoy what you’re capable of doing. I was really impressed. He showed everyone what he could do.”
Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928; @Shawn_Annarelli