PEAX Equipment

WI ELK, the story of a once in a lifetime hunt

WinkB

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2018
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110
Location
Wisconsin
I thought I would share our experience when it came to a one in a lifetime hunt for elk in the state of WI.

For those of you who don’t know there has been a reintroduction effort for elk in the state that started back in 1995 and has been significantly funded by the RMEF and private donations to establish a sustainable elk herd in the state. The elk were reintroduced into the norther part of the state initially and were given the designation of the Clam Lake herd. The current defined range for this group covers approximately 1,600 square miles over a mix of state and national forest along with private tracks. Over the years this particular herd has grown to approximately 350 animals. More recently the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has started a second herd in the state in the area of Jackson county which is currently estimated at around 150 head. The original management plan called for a limited hunt if they were able to meet population goals and general sustainability. Five years ago the DNR had determined the heard size was adequate to allow for the first limited hunt. Yearly the DNR will determine the total number of tags that would be offered and individuals can apply for a once in a lifetime hunt of the clam lake region for an application fee of $10, and if drawn then you pay for the tag. The number of tags that has been offered to state only residents has been right around 4 each year. So as you can see the number of folks who have had an opportunity to hunt these animals has been very small so far.

I will try and tell the story of our experience but If you have any general questions about what is all involved with this hunt please ask and I will be happy to share what I can.

On to the story:
For those who know me, they know I am often found in some very unique circumstances, and this one isn’t any different. I was driving down the highway in northern WI going to help a friend fix his tractor when I smelt the very distinct smell of structure fire. Anyone in the fire service knows what I am talking about when they roll up on a working structure fire. I start looking around and I see a home just off the highway that was fully involved and no one appeared to be there. I quickly pull over, found the home owner, and made sure that everyone was out safe. The local volunteer fire department was not on scene yet so we quickly tried to save anything we could and when they showed up I spent the next couple hours helping them put out the fire. Those of you who are on volunteer departments, you know how hard it can be to get trucks and people on the road on a weekend in rural communities. You take as much help as you can when your resources are limited. The fire is out and I leave them with my contact info in the event they want a statement and first in report as to what I saw when I got on scene. Now back to fixing tractors, I take off and head on down the road to help my buddy out.

A few days later I get a voice mail that just says hi this is xxx, I got something I want to talk to you about. I figured it was related to the fire so I give them a call back. When the individual answers the phone he says this is the WI elk biologist and I was hoping you would be calling. He then states that I was drawn for the tag. I almost dropped my phone, I was just besides myself and couldn’t actually believe that I was drawn. This is better than wining the lottery I told him. I always looked at the application fee as a $10 donation and it was something that you just dreamt about like what would you do if you won the lottery. I was so excited I could barley contain my self I am walking all over the house talking to the DNR and my wife is looking at me what is wrong with you and who are you talking to?

I eventually get off the phone, tell my wife and daughter about the call, everyone was very excited. Then it hit me, this is a once in a lifetime hunt, you only get one change what are you going to do to make this happen. My first thoughts were based on some statements that @Big Fin has made in some of his videos. I get more enjoyment out of watching others fulfill a dream or harvest an animal than I do in the harvest. In my mind a decision was made, I need to transfer this tag. In the state of WI under certain circumstances you can transfer your tag to a youth or others under a very narrow set of criteria. I asked the DNR if I could transfer my tag to my daughter and allow her the opportunity in my place. The DNR said that was a good question they never had anyone do that before but way the current law was written I should be able to do it. In the background I worked with the DNR to allow the transfer to happen and kept my daughter in the dark. For the next several months we scouted, and spent as much time out in the woods as possible. I kept telling her that she needed to come along in the event I got hurt or couldn’t go because of work and that I needed a backup person. Additionally she was asking how much time she could take off school to go along so she wouldn’t miss out on the hunt.

For my daughters 16th birthday she got an envelop from me, and with a very puzzled look on her face she opened it and was the paperwork all filled out for the tag transfer, and all she had to do was sign it. It was a very overwhelming moment and a very exciting moment for everyone. She knew that if she signed it we both would be out of the running for an opportunity to hunt elk in the state ever again after this season. The way our system works if original individual transfers the tag they then become ineligible for any future tags as well.

Now things are getting serious. We need to find and elk and see if we are luck enough to harvest one, and if so, she would then become the first youth in the state to ever harvest an elk. If there is interest in this hunt I will post about it and let you know if we were successful or not.
 
I thought I would share our experience when it came to a one in a lifetime hunt for elk in the state of WI.

For those of you who don’t know there has been a reintroduction effort for elk in the state that started back in 1995 and has been significantly funded by the RMEF and private donations to establish a sustainable elk herd in the state. The elk were reintroduced into the norther part of the state initially and were given the designation of the Clam Lake herd. The current defined range for this group covers approximately 1,600 square miles over a mix of state and national forest along with private tracks. Over the years this particular herd has grown to approximately 350 animals. More recently the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has started a second herd in the state in the area of Jackson county which is currently estimated at around 150 head. The original management plan called for a limited hunt if they were able to meet population goals and general sustainability. Five years ago the DNR had determined the heard size was adequate to allow for the first limited hunt. Yearly the DNR will determine the total number of tags that would be offered and individuals can apply for a once in a lifetime hunt of the clam lake region for an application fee of $10, and if drawn then you pay for the tag. The number of tags that has been offered to state only residents has been right around 4 each year. So as you can see the number of folks who have had an opportunity to hunt these animals has been very small so far.

I will try and tell the story of our experience but If you have any general questions about what is all involved with this hunt please ask and I will be happy to share what I can.

On to the story:
For those who know me, they know I am often found in some very unique circumstances, and this one isn’t any different. I was driving down the highway in northern WI going to help a friend fix his tractor when I smelt the very distinct smell of structure fire. Anyone in the fire service knows what I am talking about when they roll up on a working structure fire. I start looking around and I see a home just off the highway that was fully involved and no one appeared to be there. I quickly pull over, found the home owner, and made sure that everyone was out safe. The local volunteer fire department was not on scene yet so we quickly tried to save anything we could and when they showed up I spent the next couple hours helping them put out the fire. Those of you who are on volunteer departments, you know how hard it can be to get trucks and people on the road on a weekend in rural communities. You take as much help as you can when your resources are limited. The fire is out and I leave them with my contact info in the event they want a statement and first in report as to what I saw when I got on scene. Now back to fixing tractors, I take off and head on down the road to help my buddy out.

A few days later I get a voice mail that just says hi this is xxx, I got something I want to talk to you about. I figured it was related to the fire so I give them a call back. When the individual answers the phone he says this is the WI elk biologist and I was hoping you would be calling. He then states that I was drawn for the tag. I almost dropped my phone, I was just besides myself and couldn’t actually believe that I was drawn. This is better than wining the lottery I told him. I always looked at the application fee as a $10 donation and it was something that you just dreamt about like what would you do if you won the lottery. I was so excited I could barley contain my self I am walking all over the house talking to the DNR and my wife is looking at me what is wrong with you and who are you talking to?

I eventually get off the phone, tell my wife and daughter about the call, everyone was very excited. Then it hit me, this is a once in a lifetime hunt, you only get one change what are you going to do to make this happen. My first thoughts were based on some statements that @Big Fin has made in some of his videos. I get more enjoyment out of watching others fulfill a dream or harvest an animal than I do in the harvest. In my mind a decision was made, I need to transfer this tag. In the state of WI under certain circumstances you can transfer your tag to a youth or others under a very narrow set of criteria. I asked the DNR if I could transfer my tag to my daughter and allow her the opportunity in my place. The DNR said that was a good question they never had anyone do that before but way the current law was written I should be able to do it. In the background I worked with the DNR to allow the transfer to happen and kept my daughter in the dark. For the next several months we scouted, and spent as much time out in the woods as possible. I kept telling her that she needed to come along in the event I got hurt or couldn’t go because of work and that I needed a backup person. Additionally she was asking how much time she could take off school to go along so she wouldn’t miss out on the hunt.

For my daughters 16th birthday she got an envelop from me, and with a very puzzled look on her face she opened it and was the paperwork all filled out for the tag transfer, and all she had to do was sign it. It was a very overwhelming moment and a very exciting moment for everyone. She knew that if she signed it we both would be out of the running for an opportunity to hunt elk in the state ever again after this season. The way our system works if original individual transfers the tag they then become ineligible for any future tags as well.

Now things are getting serious. We need to find and elk and see if we are luck enough to harvest one, and if so, she would then become the first youth in the state to ever harvest an elk. If there is interest in this hunt I will post about it and let you know if we were successful or not.
Wow. Very cool... all around. I hope you will continue to post about this one throughout the hunt. Best wishes for success (in case you didn't know, you've both already won). ✔
 
Loving the story. I think it's great that you were able to transfer the tag to your daughter; good for you. I hope you succeed in taking a great elk for your daughter. Just the time and experience with her and your family will be worth it. Good luck! Looking forward to the rest of the story.
 
While all this ground work was happening over the summer I was trying to figure out which rifle she was going to use for this hunt that would provide her with a solid platform. The age old debate around calibers was floating around in my head and I only had once criteria, Short action as that was what I had to work with. Additionally I had a 7mm bartline #3b barrel in 7 twist sitting around. Does a guy go 7mm-08, 7 Sherman, 7 SAUM something else? After countless debates with myself I finally decided on the old standby 7mm-08. My hope was to have the rifle done prior to her birthday but we had a little supply chain issues with the stock and had to go to a chassis last minute.

In the end I went with a Zermatt Origin SA, 24" barrel, no threads, chambered in 7mm-08. It sits in a MDT LSS chassis, and has a triggertech special that I set at 2 lb.

Now that she turned 16 and had her license I told her to take me for a ride to get some parts for a piece of equipment. I told he to pull into the local smith and she was saying I will just wait in the car why are we here? I told her, just come in you know how this works when you go for a ride with me. So she reluctantly goes in. The smith bring a rifle and she says, what is that for? I told her, well you just found out that you have a hunt to go on so I thought you needed a rifle to go with it. This turned into another one of those emotional moments of joy and being overwhelming for her, for me it was a great experience.

The one thing missing was the optic and I needed to get that figured out soon and get some load development done before the opener. I had some Lapua brass and Varget, I knew would work but I had not decided on a bullet. The options were 150gr ELD-X, 130gr Hammer and the 140gr Nosler Accubond. All three were shooting 5 shot groups at 100 under .4".

After much debate, the 140gr Accubond was selected.


Given the dense forest I knew we would be hunting in and that the shot distance would most likely be under 200 yards we needed a practical optic. Vortex optics is very close to where we live so my daughter and I went in there and she and the staff hashed it out for almost 2 hours. In the end a decision was made. PST gen 2, in 1-6, sitting in precision rings.

When it came to zeroing the rifle I went with a 50yard zero. This counters everything I have ever done in the past, however here was my rational. With a 50 yard zero I was less than +1" at 100 yards and only -.5" at 200. Basically point and go.

Here it sits in its hunting format:
20231101_104135.jpg

20231101_104157.jpg
 
This is good! I'm anxiously following this one!
 
Scouting Putting in the miles:

So what do you do when you have never hunted elk before and you are challenged when it comes to e-scouting? For us it was boots on the ground. By the time the season started I racked up almost 10K miles in driving from our home to the hunting grounds and all the driving around the unit. In addition to that, several hundred miles of hiking was needed to scout out every ATV, snowmobile, hiking or would be trail that I could find. Every forest road, county road and state road was driven. I need to put a map in my head as to how I could get from place to place, which roads were open, which ones were closed, where they were doing culvert replacements which closures would require me to drive an extra 15 miles just to get 200 yards to where I need to go. I now know where every logging operation is when they started, where they were wrapping up and where they were going next so I could put areas of interest on or off my list.

This environment differs from the west in that there are no hills I can go sit on and glass, I only have a few hundred feet of elevation change to work with and everything is dense forest. Was this the right approach for several months? Knowing that if I found them in June, July and August. It was not where they would be in September and October. I don’t know but we will find out. The one thing I can tell you is that I enjoyed every minute of it and I could do it every day and not get tired driving, hiking and exploring an area.

In the early season is stead of walking everywhere sometimes you just have to get out the ATVs and have a little fun. I was truly surprised as to how underutilized some of these public land areas are. ATV and side by sides are extremely popular and the state has countless miles of trails. Yet on one day we rode over 60 miles before we came upon another machine.

20230703_170706.jpg

As it got closer to season I spent more and more time hiking early morning and late evening, and driving around mid-day. Most days hiking were in that 15-20 mile range. I was starting to wonder if I was doing what needed to be done or if I was just wasting time.

20230703_205529.jpg

Then sometimes when you are out walking about these little guys will come out of the woods and follow you along to see what you are doing in their backyard.

20230924_085450.jpg
 
What makes some of the scouting challenging is determining what is a road and what isn't. In the first photo it looks like a road but according to the forest service technically it is not. They were very clear that if they catch you in a motorized vehicle on a non designated road while you are hunting you would be in violation and you could be done, and fined. It made for some interesting interactions between the bear hunters driving down these "roads" while we have to walk them to scout and find the elk.

DSC957528(1).jpg


Here we are trying to determine the next steps for the day and letting her determine which areas we should be checking out next.

_DSC9248.JPG


Then on occasion you reach little areas like this and you feel very fortunate to be out in the woods enjoying an early fall morning.

20231012_081121.jpg
 
Didn’t expect to see a thread like this. Definitely more exciting than watching corn dry right now. Given all the prep and the opening date, I hope you’re already out of backstraps.
 
Gastro Gnome - Eat Better Wherever

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