Michigan Elk Hunt


Well-known member
May 19, 2016
Lake Michigan
I just finished one of the best elk hunts I’ll probably ever have. Being able to hunt with my 9 year old son was so much fun.

Michigan allows youth to apply for for elk and bear as part of the mentored youth hunting program. One day this summer, my wife came running into the house and told me that our son drew a Michigan antlerless elk tag. After I regained consciousness, I immediately started to panic because I knew the odds of him ever getting a tag again were very low. Knowing that hunting with a 9 year old in a place I’m not familiar with was going to be tough, I called around and found a local guide that was as excited as I was to take a kid hunting. I was pretty conflicted on hiring a guide but I wanted to give my son the best chance possible to make this a memorable trip. After talking with our guide Dennis, it was a no brainer. 37 years experience and a passion for elk that would rival most hunters.

Some of you know this already, but a couple months before the season, my son severely broke his arm. After sending him and my wife to the ER, I was laying in bed thinking about my little hunting buddy being all busted up and a sudden wave of panic came over me. I immediately texted my wife at midnight and asked her to confirm which arm was broken. Thank god, the news came back that it was his left. Ok elk hunt is still on 😂

After seeing multiple doctors and surgeons, he was all patched up.

After about 2 months, we finally had all the pins out and both casts off. He hasn’t been able to use his arm much but he can still shoot!
Michigan requires all elk hunters to take an orientation class. So the day before opening day, we attended a few hour session that was actually somewhat interesting. I was surprised how much he paid attention. Once complete, we pick up his tag and we were ready to go!
We headed off to the hotel to get settled in. I read some advice on here a while back to stay at a hotel with a pool when hunting with kids. That was 100% spot on.

Opening morning came early at 4:15. We hit McDonald’s quick for a grease bomb and headed to our meeting spot. After meeting up with the crew we we to our hunting area and waited for good light. After daybreak, we were headed into a small clearing very slowly. Out of the fog appeared a beautiful bull all by himself. After a long walk and not much other sign, we headed back towards the truck. We found a nice area of pines that offered good shooting vantage and took a seat for a while. Suddenly we heard a shot not too far off. I told Finnley to get ready in case something got pushed by us. After 15-20 min we decided we would head back to the truck. Only a couple minutes into our retreat, I looked over my shoulder and saw a lone cow moving through the pines. We got her and I stopped her with a call but every time, her chest was behind a tree. We backed out to the clearing to see if she would step out.
She was gone, clearly on a mission. We got on her track in broken snow and noticed a small amount of blood in her tracks. She must have been nicked in the leg by that shot we heard. After trailing her slowly for a long distance, we finally gave up. I was soooo bummed we couldn’t pull it together on that cow but knew we had lots of time to find another. By this time it was raining and the snow was a mess. On our drive out we saw some fresh tracks going into a very thick patch of timber. We spent most of the afternoon trying to catch up to different elk and ultimately never saw another animal.
We were having fun though!
Ok got backed up, I’ll try to ge this wrapped up.

After that near miss I was 100% sure that was the last cow elk left in the world and we’d never see another. I can be a little bit of a drama queen but I’m sure we’ve all been there. We went and got some good food and I had to laugh because my son looked at me and told me his ankles hurt really bad. I felt good that we had put enough miles on to start to turn this into type 2 fun and not an easy hunt.

Morning came early and we had a skiff of snow to help us out. We tried a similar plan to day one and never cut a track. However, we got a call and one of the other groups had spotted a herd trying to cross a road nearby but they turned around and ran back into the swamp. Side note, these elk will straight up dive right into a beaver swamp. I was shocked.

We sat on the edge of the timber for an hour or so to see if they would try to cross again. No such luck. One of our group was a young man with a bull tag so they decided to get on the tracks and follow. There was one huge bull in the group. We eventually moved about two miles down and tried to pick a spot where the elk might move through. I felt a little discouraged because there was two miles of swamp and brush between us and the elk and we could see a max of 40 yards in one small lane and less in other directions. What’s the odds they will move by us. We found a couple big game trails that can through the area and decided to sit on the intersection. Once set up, my so. Was begging me to hit my cow cow. Reluctantly, I blew a couple small mews. I tend to get antsy and I’m a bone head move, I walked a few yards away to look and see if we could get a better vantage in another spot. When I started to walk back, I notice Finnley had his head in the scope. As I walked up he held out his hand to stop me. He was as serious and focused as I’ve ever seen that kid. I immediately panicked because I was just standing there in the open like an idiot. I slowly dropped down and crawled to him. I peeked up and saw a big set of legs in the brush 30 yards out. I quietly cow called twice and another popped out and was looking right at us. I was shaking so bad I almost couldn’t get my binos out of the harness. My eyes were watering and I was totally falling apart. Thankfully my son was focused and was as still as a statue. All of a sudden….
I caught movement off to my left and saw a big cow step out 20-25 yards 90deg to where we were looking. Finnley was so locked on those other elk, I had to argue with him to look away. I was worried she would bolt because she was almost down wind. Luckily, her head was almost completely behind a tree. Once he saw it, he slowly walked around the tripod and got on her. I took my binos out and leaned out to confirm it was a cow. I told finnley it was a cow and all he responded with was “I know!” I reached up and took the safety off and told him to shoot when he was ready. We practiced a lot to get on target and shoot quickly. Kids tend to take a lot of time. He did perfect and the gun went off and the cow turned and crashed into the brush. I was a tad nervous because it was behind a little brush and the cow didn’t even flinch when he shot. We got up a few minutes later as went to look for blood. I took one step and the woods exploded with elk. It’s amazing how quiet they are when they are in Ninja mode and when they turn that off they sound like a truck driving through the woods. It took a long time to find any blood. I found one very small drop. And was a little concerned. The rest of the elk trampled the trail so I knew that could cover it up. Then I found a few more drops. I kept quiet and didn’t call finnley over and let him keep looking elsewhere. I kept loosing the trail and circling back. I was not going to screw this up!

I finally found a kicked up spot where I kept loosing the trail and found where a single elk broke off from the group. I followed the kicked up leaves and looked up ahead and saw a big yellow butt. I got down low and could see its head was up. I called Finnley over and had him finish her off just to make sure.


We walked up and he was shocked at how big it was. By now, they rest of the hunting group arrived. There were lots of high fives and my son sounded like he was accepting an academy award. He was thanking everyone for their specific role in helping. I was dying laughing.

We called it in and the DNR showed up very fast. After getting their info, they even helped drag! We got her in the truck and headed to the elk pole in Vanderbilt.

We headed to the elk pole and it was really cool to see all the other elk. There was another kid there that had also shot a nice cow. Really cool to see the kids getting out there. He even got to do an interview with Michigan out of doors. We were both so excited it was a dumpster fire so I’m not sure it will air lol.

I laughed so hard, we walked into the bar and the owner looked at Finnley and said, are you the kid that shot that elk? Finnley quickly corrected him and said, I’m not a kid, kids don’t shoot elk. I was dying. The owner didn’t know what to think but got a laugh out of it. We ended up getting some prizes for being the youngest hunter later on that night. We got up early the next morning and wished the other hunters in the group good luck and then turned and headed for home. I couldn’t have been happier!
Great story and thank you for sharing. What a wonderful experience for both you and your son. Congratulations.

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