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Once in a lifetime

It's not often anyone bags an elk, especially in their first year hunting the animal. Nor is it common to see much elk outside the Little Missouri River basin in this part of the state. Seventeen-year-old Grant Dvorak of rural Gladstone caught a ...

Grant Dvorak
Submitted Photo Seventeen-year-old Grant Dvorak of rural Gladstone holds up an elk bull he shot Saturday morning near Lefor. Not many elk are found outside of their primary ranges near the Little Missouri River and the northeastern part of the state. Areas outside of those opened up for hunting in 2009.

It's not often anyone bags an elk, especially in their first year hunting the animal.

Nor is it common to see much elk outside the Little Missouri River basin in this part of the state.

Seventeen-year-old Grant Dvorak of rural Gladstone caught a bit of luck Saturday morning when he shot an elk near Lefor.

"We've had elk sighted in every county in North Dakota, but to see an elk down there is unusual," North Dakota Game and Fish Department big game biologist Bruce Stillings said.

Dvorak, a Dickinson High School senior, was pheasant hunting early Saturday morning when his father, Jeff, got a call from a family friend that there was an elk near where he was pheasant hunting.

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"By 7:30 (a.m.), I got three pheasants and was done hunting," Dvorak said. "I got the call at 8."

The friend asked one question of Jeff Dvorak.

"He called up my dad and asked 'Does Grant still have his bull tag,'" Dvorak said.

The Dvoraks drove nearly 50 miles from their home.

It didn't take much effort to see the elk.

"There he was lying in a stubble field," Dvorak said.

From 300 yards away, Dvorak took aim.

"I had to shoot him four times," Dvorak said.

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He got a 10-point bull -- five antlers on each side -- which could be as young as three years old.

"That's the first time I saw a live elk in my life," Dvorak said. "He got up after that first shot and I was impressed by his size."

Jeff Dvorak didn't think Grant would get his elk so soon.

"I'd thought we'd be spending week after week hunting elk," Jeff Dvorak said.

By noon, Dvorak field-dressed the elk and it was in the cooler at a processor by evening.

"He got a lot of help from a lot of people," Jeff Dvorak said.

Jeff Dvorak isn't much of a hunter himself. He said Grant wanted to start hunting, so they both went through a hunters education class.

"I figured if he wanted to hunt, I'd go with him," Jeff Dvorak said.

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Despte little chance of getting an elk, Grant Dvorak decided apply for a license. In the area he applied for, Unit E4 encompassing the Killdeer Mountains, only 35 licenses are handed out for any elk, with 50 antlerless licenses later in the season.

"I heard it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Dvorak said. "I didn't think I'd get one in my first year applying."

In past years, Dvorak would have been stuck hunting elk in only his unit. But the state Game and Fish Department decided to open up most of the state, Unit E5, for those who already have an elk license elsewhere.

Stillings said most elk taken in Unit E5 will be by chance, as hunters wouldn't normally spot an elk during a trip.

Only a handful of elk are taken outside their primary ranges near the Little Missouri River and in the northeast part of the state, Stillings said.

The state only opened up Unit E5 a year ago, with less than 10 taken in 2009. Stillings said around five have been taken in Unit E5 so far this season.

The Unit E5 season opened Sept. 3 and goes until Dec. 31.

There are a few reasons why an elk would leave its primary range. One could be seeking new territory, or an elk could be attracted by a domestic elk farm.

"It was likely a young male seeking new range to explore," Stillings said.

Related Topics: HUNTING
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