A man who loves his family, his grandchildren, and anything he can do outdoors.
That’s how Zach Rusk describes his father, Okotoks resident Chris Rusk, who was allegedly shot and seriously injured the morning of Dec. 15 while out hunting north of town.
Chris was bird hunting in a spot he knew well, at the banks of the Bow River near 80 Street E north of Dunbow Road, when he was allegedly struck by a shot from another hunter, Zach said, based on information provided to him by the RCMP.
According to AHS EMS spokesperson Adam Loria, the man was found in serious life-threatening condition in the secluded area when paramedics found him.
"We got the call just after nine o'clock in the morning," Loria said.
Loria noted the area was inaccessible by vehicle, so paramedics brought medical equipment and trekked through thick brush and terrain, where they found the patient suffering from life-threatening injuries.
“(Our paramedics) were able to assess, treat and stabilize as best they could at that location," Loria said.
“There was a fairly short extrication where they carried the patient to an adjacent open field where EMS worked with our partners to establish a landing zone for medivac."
While the first two nights seemed grim, on Dec. 17 Zach said the situation has improved for his father, who is surpassing initial expectations.
“News this morning is he's exceeding expectations in terms of recovery,” said Zach in a phone interview on Dec. 17, who added his father isn’t out of the woods yet.
Chris needed surgery on both of his eyes.
“The first night, they were able to operate on both sides and do everything they could in one sitting,” Zach said. “When originally, they only thought they would be able to operate on one eye and they thought it would take more time."
Chris had indicated he is feeling better.
"For a long time, he was sedated, but now he's able to smile and grin and give thumbs up, squeeze my brother and my mother's hand. He’s able to hear I believe, but he’s currently intubated and can’t talk,” Zach said.
He said he and his cousin visited the site where paramedics found his father, seeing blood in the grass as they came upon the scene.
“We knew what direction the shot came from — we knew roughly how far away it was,” he said. “So we were able to get ourselves a visual of the scene.
“We don't know exactly what happened, but we could see where the other guy was.”
He was told by RCMP that the man who is alleged to have fired the shot is remorseful.
The man, a 62-year-old from Calgary whose name has not been released as charges have not been officially sworn, has been charged with careless use of a firearm.
Zach said police told him it was the man that fired the shot that called 911.
"Ultimately, we already phoned the RCMP to tell the guy that he’s forgiven," he said.
Zach described his father as living for the outdoors.
“Him and my mom love hiking, biking, canoeing, anything he can in the world,” said Zach, adding that last year Chris and an old army buddy mountain biked the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from Douglas, Arizona up through the Canadian Rockies.
Chris retired five years ago from a 35-year career in the Canadian Armed Forces, including a 13-month tour in Afghanistan toward the end of that time.
“My two kids, his grandkids, are his pride and joy and he wants nothing more than to see them grow," Zach said.
"It's awful that this had to happen and I pray to God he's going to have some vision – I know he's going to be limited, but if he can have his vision somewhat, and some movement to enjoy the things he does.
“If not, I know he'll find another way, but that's sort of him in a nutshell.”