Again in September, a bowhunter in Michigan notched a once-in-a-lifetime bull elk elk tag close to the city of Wolverine, in Cheboygan County. Brandon Kantola bagged the massive bull throughout an intense hunt along with his brother Corey Kantola and shut buddy Shawn Braman. With a inexperienced rating of 322 inches—Kantola tells Subject & Stream—it’s the most important archery-killed elk ever recorded within the Wolverine State.
Kantola came upon that he drew the coveted either-sex Michigan elk tag on June 26, 2023, leaving him simply two months for scouting and different prep work. “I’ve been placing in for this tag yearly for the previous 18 years,” he says. “I feel I had about .66 % probability of really drawing, so I used to be shocked to get that letter within the mail.”
Archery or Bust
Kantola says he’s hunted elk earlier than and took a cow along with his bow in Idaho years in the past. Earlier than drawing a Michigan tag this yr, he’d already determined to hunt with a bow ought to the uncommon alternative come up. “Most individuals that draw this tag select to hunt with a rifle simply because there’s such a restricted period of time to get it performed,” Kantola says. “My buddy Shawn and I had already spent a while searching elk with our bows in Idaho, and we actually needed to do that our means.”
With tag in hand, Kantola started doing his homework. The Michigan Division of Pure Assets (MDNR) despatched him a map of earlier kill websites from current seasons. He discovered a Michigan elk searching Fb group with a ton of helpful intel, he says, and some native outfitters even supplied him some ideas. He ended up focusing the majority of his scouting efforts on a 2,400-acre piece of state-managed property known as the Lee Grande Ranch Nature Protect.
“Whereas we had been scouting the property over the summer time, we discovered some darkish timber the place they appreciated to mattress and a few beat-down trails they use to journey between their bedding space and close by ag fields the place they feed,” Kantola recollects. “On September 15, we entered the property simply earlier than daylight and hunted exhausting till about 9 a.m. with out seeing or listening to any signal of elk.”
After the gradual morning hunt, the crew determined to maneuver nearer to the bedding space Kantola had marked on his map. Quickly, they had been on a well-worn elk path about 250 yards from the beds. “I stated to Shawn, let’s simply fake that there are elk in right here,” he says. “I threw out a pair cow calls and all of the sudden I hear one thing coming proper towards us. Then I noticed motion and realized it was a cow on the identical recreation path that we had been on.”
A Bull In His Sights
The cow saved coming till it was nearly on high of them, solely veering away when it was inside 20 yards. Then just a few extra extra cows ran in behind her earlier than Kantola’s bull stepped into view. “I didn’t have an arrow knocked and my launch was in my pocket,” he says. “Fortunately, Shawn had his wits about him and threw out a cow name, inflicting the bull to cease.”
The bull had heard Kantola’s calls and hoped so as to add one other cow to its harem. It stood nonetheless lengthy sufficient for Kantola to place his launch on, knock an arrow, draw again his bow, and launch a shot. “He wheeled round and ran out of there, however I may see the arrow protruding of him as he went,” he says. “I used to be apprehensive that I didn’t get sufficient penetration and that the shot hit too far up into the shoulder.”
After an hour or so, the hunters began monitoring the bull. They discovered a chunk of Kantola’s arrow that had damaged off towards a tree because the bull ran out of the realm. Then they received on blood—nevertheless it wasn’t sufficient to point a strong lung or coronary heart shot, Kantola says. “Then, after about quarter-hour of monitoring, I heard Shawn shout ‘useless bull!’” he says. “He solely went about 60 yards earlier than falling over.”
Pending State File
With assist from a crew of mates, Kantola spent the following 12 hours breaking down and butchering the massive bull. Subject dressed, it weighed 700 kilos, and the MDNR estimated its age at roughly 6 1/2 years outdated. Two separate inexperienced scores put the bull’s rack at simply over 322 inches.
If that holds up, it’ll be the most important bull elk ever taken with archery gear in Michigan, at the very least because the species was reintroduced within the early 1900s. “I’ve received the rack and cranium plate in a climate-controlled room in my basement,” Kontola says. “I’ll be getting the official measurements performed as quickly as the mandatory drying interval is over.”
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Although native to Michigan, elk had been extirpated from the state by the mid-1800s. In 1918, seven Rocky Mountain elk had been trapped in Colorado and transported to Wolverine, Michigan by rail. These elk fashioned the premise for at present’s herds, that are estimated at between 900 and 1200 particular person wapiti—primarily within the decrease northern peninsula. This yr, the MDNR awarded simply 260 elk tags to the pool of 49,000 resident hunters that entered the draw.