By Chris Avena
It was a beautiful day in the north woods of Montana. As most of us do to prepare for the hunting season, Todd Orr was out scouting for elk. Todd, a seasoned outdoorsman, has taken numerous elk with his handgun. Preseason scouting is second nature to him so being out in the woods alone is nothing unusual. However on this particular day, Todd had a life altering experience that would change his life forever. The following is a true account of Todd Orr's fight for survival!
Chris: Todd, you work for the Forest Service and you are a knife maker?
Todd: I'm a knife maker, Skyblade Knives. I build and customized them.
Chris: All right.
Todd: And I also work for the Forest Service, do all their trails engineering and I'm in the woods every day in Bear Country.
Chris: Do you ever run into anything dangerous while you're in the woods?
Todd: I see a lot of bears out there, probably a dozen bears every year. Occasionally a grizzly bear but a lot of black bears. But usually, they're running the other direction and or they look at you and they take off. It's not... it hasn't been an issue in the past but things changed about a year and a half ago.
Chris: Now, well, I know black bears are pretty timid. What happened to change that?
Todd: Well, ran into a sow grizzly bear with two cubs, that was about three miles back in the mountains just scouting for elk before hunting season. The sow and I saw each other about the same time. She was about 80 yards away, ran over the ridge, disappeared with the cubs. I thought this is great. I'll go up the other trail to the opposite direction and won't have an issue. I took a few steps, heard a noise, and turned. She had circled around the ridge and came in behind me. And I look over my shoulder. She's coming at a full charge 35 to 40 miles per hour and I just had a couple seconds to pull my bear spray and give her a shot at about 30 feet. She was right on top of me. She bit me five or six times in my right arm and shoulder, and then the bear spray got to her and she started coughing and choking and she took off. So at that point, I'm looking at my wounds, thinking okay I survived a grizzly bear attack. It's time to get down the trail. Get to the hospital, and get some stitches. I took off down the trail and about five minutes later, I'm walking along the stream and it's pretty noisy. I couldn't hear much, and I heard one noise and turned. Here she was again about 10 feet behind me. I had no time. I had a pistol with me but I had no time to shoot her. I had no time to get the bear spray and shoot her again with the bear spray.
Chris: Grizzly bears are big. How big was this bear?
Todd: Yeah. It's a full-grown female which in Montana is probably around 400 pounds, you know, it's hard to say for sure but she was a full-grown bear. It's on top of me, you know, it tear you to pieces in a hurry.
Chris: Now, they're silent.
Todd: They're very quiet.
Chris: They walked in, you didn't even hear it 10 feet behind.
Todd: I didn't hear I think until she was about 10 feet behind me. The stream was kind of noisy as well but there she was at 10 feet. No time to do anything. She knocks me down. I'm on my face trying to protect the back of my neck, and my face, and my vitals, and her first bite was in my left arm, and she broke the bone here and ripped two tendons out of my forearm and my whole arm just went numb and was useless. And so, I'm just sitting trying to keep in that position. She bit me probably 25 times on the right arm and shoulder. Bit me in the right side. I had a claw rake on my head about a five inch gash in my scalp. My scalp flopped over this side of my ear, and my blood is filled with eyes. I am just face down trying to protect myself and trying to ride through this and trying to block out the pain. I remember the pain from the first bite but after that it was like, I'm doing survival mode. I just kept telling myself, don't move, she's going to leave, she is going go back and check on her cubs. And so, I'm just trying to ride it out and ignore that pain. And I remember my other senses were heightened. I could smell her. How bad she stunk which is terrible. I could hear the crunching of her teeth going into the muscle which was a gut wrenching sound as she would bite, and then she picked me up and she'd just shake me. I was like a rag doll, and she slammed me down, and my face is getting smashed into the trail. And it just... I was helpless, nothing I could do, just completely helpless. And finally, I'm just staying in that position, and she stopped, and that was probably the eeriest part of the whole thing is her... she's standing on my lower back, she's got me pinned to the ground, I can barely breathe, and she's sniffing the back of my neck, and it's just like one bite into my spine and I could be over. She would sniff and I could feel the breath there. She just kind of nipped on my shoulder or my arm a little bit just testing to see if I was alive, or dead, or incapacitated and I just held my ground there trying to block it all out. And finally, it was quiet and then she stepped off and disappeared. I don't know if she's gone. I don't know she's 10 feet away. My eyes are filled with blood. I tried to reach for my pistol. I need to protect myself. I'm helpless right now. So, I reach in for my pistol and it's gone, it had been ripped off during the attack. There is nothing I can do to protect myself so I reached up, wipe the blood from my eyes. I looked in both directions trying to see if she was around. I didn't see her anywhere but I saw my pistol laying over on the side just a few feet away so,go for the pistol. I pulled it out of the holster hammer back but she was gone, nowhere to be seen.
Todd: Yeah, I picked myself up and head down the trail, and get to the hospital.
Chris: Now, you're bleeding profusely?
Todd: Yeah. I had probably 25 bite wounds on the right arm, broken left arm here, tendons sticking out. My face is covered in blood, and I'm just... my first thought was I just need to get down the trail away from this situation. So for probably five minutes, I headed down the trail. And then at that point I kind of felt a little safer, I'm like, all right, now I can slow down, take a stop here, and look at my wounds, and kind of assess the damage and see if I need some kind of bandaging here. I had number of puncture wounds but there were no artery severed and I didn't think I was going to have too much of blood loss so I'm like, I'm just going to continue down the trail and I get back to the truck. if I need to, I can do some first aid at that point. But it was also about a 45-minute hike probably three miles down the trail to get to my truck.
Chris: That was a life and death experience.
Todd: Oh, it was crazy, very scary and just something I hope I never have to go through again.
Chris: Your recovery?
Todd: Recovery.... Well, I got to the trailhead and had about a 30-minute drive to the hospital, had to drive myself to the hospital. I got in there to the hospital and it was probably seven or eight hours of two surgeons put stitches in my arms and trying to sew me back up and get me back together. And then the following day, I had to have surgery on this arm where the tendons were ripped out, had a broken bone.
Chris: Pins on your hands?
Todd: Yeah, But everything is working well now. I had surgery in here. They reattached the tendons. They got my wrist to work again. My fingers, I'm not a 100% in this hand and strength-wise and this doesn't quite open but enough that I'm doing most everything I need to do. I had probably four months of Physical Theropy, three days a week just to get this movement back, and it's tough but it's coming, it's still repairing even a year and a half later.
Todd: So, I'm gonna get there. I'm doing almost everything I need to do now. It's just a few things are a little slower with this hand but I'm back to shooting my bow and everything else I need to do. I like to enjoy being back in the woods again.
Chis: You're a brave man.
Todd: Thank you. Appreciate that.
Chris: Now, your knife company, what's the name of your knife company?
Todd: Skyblade Knives is the business. It's www.skybladeknives.com and I built custom knives, best stainless steel that's available. I have a lifetime warranty. I have 30 or 40 different hunting fishing models. A lot of custom designs. People call me and have a design they like or I can hand make them special. So yeah, people can find me there or they can find me on Facebook or Instagram. It is a great business and I am enjoying it. Back in the woods as well.
Chris: Okay. check out Todd's knives.
Todd: Yeah, skybladeknives.com.
This just goes to show that whenever we are going to venture into out into the woods, we need to plan for the unexpected. We never know what we may encounter on any excursion. How we react, just might save your life.