RIGBY, Idaho Kym Savkranz had trouble believing what she heard when her dad called to say he'd shot his moose.
Her disbelief had nothing to do with the accident 11 years ago that left Pierre Savkranz without the use of his body from the chest down. It had nothing to do with her dad's confinement to a motorized wheelchair or the struggle he would endure to lift and aim a rifle.
It had everything to do with dad's teasing nature.
"I was always joking around about it, that I'd save this (hunt) for my mid-life crisis," Pierre said.
But something Pierre's excitement told 14-year-old Kym that dad wasn't joking this time.
In March, Pierre put in for a bull tag near Mesa Falls.
Mike LaFreniere agreed to join Pierre on the hunt should Pierre pull a tag a possibility both men considered a long shot.
Pierre, who had never put in before, was after one of 10 permits available in that unit for the season that stretched from Aug. 30 to Nov. 23. One hundred people put in for that tag.
We'll see, they thought.
In late May, Pierre opened a letter from Idaho Department of Fish and Game Bureau of Wildlife Chief Jim Unsworth.
"Dear Permit Holder," it began. "Congratulations on drawing a moose permit!"
"If I got one, it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Pierre said. "If I didn't get one, I'd have to wait two more years to put in again."
Pierre started by buying a Winchester 300 WSM. It's a lighter rifle with a synthetic stock that would prove easier to manipulate with the limited movement of his arms and hands.
Pierre, who was born in Sweden but moved to the United States at 3, enjoyed hunting and the outdoors his entire life.
Coming back from a hunting trip in 1996, Pierre fell asleep while riding in the passenger seat.
At some point after that the driver fell asleep, too.
The truck rolled once. Pierre banged his head and broke his neck.
He lost all use of his limbs and spent six months in hospitals in Idaho and Colorado.
"My health hasn't been the greatest," Pierre said last week, the 11th anniversary of his accident. "But I'd always wanted to do this, to get back sooner."
It wasn't easy for the Rigby rancher. Waking, pulling his body from bed, showering inside his custom bathroom, slipping into his clothes and climbing into his motorized wheelchair can take three hours.
That's three hours from the bed to the Cheerios on the kitchen table or the doorstep to wave his two daughters off to school.
On the morning of Oct. 19, Pierre and his friend Mike made off for the moose hunt at 11:30.
Pierre was driving his 1992 Ford van, a vehicle converted with hand controls and a wheelchair lift.
An orange tag dangled from the rearview mirror indicating that, because of Pierre's condition, he was allowed to hunt and fire from his vehicle.
In four previous expeditions, Pierre had come up empty.
"It was pretty desolate the whole time," he said. "The whole time, all we'd seen in five days was one cow."
On the drive north, they stopped at a U.S. Forrest Service office in Ashton and later visited with cowboys wrangling stray cattle along a dirt road. Both sources mentioned eyeing a bull moose inside Pierre's unit.
After driving the unit most of the afternoon, Pierre and Mike began to give up. A light snow covered the ground, and the rutted dirt roads were giving Pierre's van all it could handle. Mike turned to Pierre.
"About five minutes, we better turn and head for home," Pierre remembered Mike saying.
It didn't take two minutes.
"Right there, out of the windshield at 80 yards stood a moose in some sagebrush," Pierre said.
There was a problem, though.
The animal was on the passenger side of the vehicle and Pierre was in the driver's seat. It seemed Pierre might miss a chance that an able-bodied hunter could cash in by hopping out of the vehicle and positioning himself accordingly.
Don't worry, maybe he'd be back tomorrow, Mike was beginning to say. There were about 20 minutes of daylight left.
"He has an area where he can rest his forearm on the window sill and it gives him about a 10-degree or 15-degree arc outside the window," Mike explained. "Any other person like you or I could just rotate around 360 degrees to shoot, but Pierre's got 10 or 15. It all comes down to the orientation of the road."
Mike handed Pierre the rifle anyway, and the day improved. The moose crossed the road, lumbered around a bit and stopped just inside Pierre's arc.
"That's what we're after," Pierre said.
Mike covered his ears and eyes as Pierre squeezed off a single shot.
When he opened his eyes, the moose wasn't in view. It was on the ground 83 paces from the vehicle. Pierre had sunk a shot into the animal's lungs.
Standing broadside over the wheezing animal, Mike made sure the moose was dead and wouldn't suffer through the end. It was just getting dark when Kym Savkranz got on the phone with her dad. It was dad's familiar opener to a conversation.
"I used to joke around, and I'd call and say I got a moose," Pierre said.
"And I'd never believe him," Kim interrupted.
This time was different.
"I just kept saying, 'No I really did, I really got one,"' Pierre said.
The family joined Pierre and Mike at the moose, and 10 adults toiled until 11:30 p.m. to dress the animal, cool the meat and ready it for transport back to Rigby.
Looking back, Pierre remembers he was up until daybreak the next morning.
"It really took it out of me," he said. "I pushed it overboard, and I think I stayed in bed until 2 p.m. the next day."
Mike didn't get much more sleep, but Pierre's reaction made the long day worth it.
"He was like a kid," Mike remembers. "To me, that was what made it worthwhile, to see my friend be able to do something he may not have been sure he was able to do since the accident."
Even though it will be a year before Pierre's mount is ready and a couple of weeks before moose meat is on the table, Pierre knows he can smile now.
"It's a special memory that'll never be forgotten," Pierre said, sitting next to the rack and skullcap in his living room. "It's really fulfilling to be a quadriplegic, to push myself that much and still get a moose."