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Home arrow Opinion arrow Elk hunt of a lifetime

Elk hunt of a lifetime

Todd Erickson, left, of McMinnville took this elk in north Wallowa County in November. The bull's green score of 398 for non-typical antlers means it might be the third best in state history in its category. Erickson is shown with his son T.J., who accompanied him on the hunt. - Photo/JON WICK
Todd Erickson, left, of McMinnville took this elk in north Wallowa County in November. The bull's green score of 398 for non-typical antlers means it might be the third best in state history in its category. Erickson is shown with his son T.J., who accompanied him on the hunt. - Photo/JON WICK
Elk hunter Todd Erickson felt exhaustion in every ounce of his body as he crawled into his sleeping bag at 1 a.m. one day last month in north Wallowa County.

Erickson had reason to be drained. The McMinnville man had just completed two climbs — one up a steep canyon and another up the all-time state elk hunting list.

Erickson shot a monster bull elk 10 hours earlier at the bottom of a canyon. The elk has a preliminary "green'' score of 398, meaning it could be the third highest scoring bull in the non-typical category in Oregon history, according to statistics from Northwest Big Game Inc., www.nwbiggame.com.

Erickson's elk also puts him in elite company in another sense. It made him part of possibly the most successful elk hunting party in Northwest history.

Photo/JON WICK
Photo/JON WICK
Two others in Erickson's party took non-typical-antlered elk that topped 370 points in preliminary scoring. Joe Jaquith of Newberg harvested an elk scored at 379, and Jim King of Vernonia harvested one scored at 375.

When was the last time a Northwest elk hunting party was so successful?

Perhaps never.

This may be the first time three hunters in the same party have taken such a combination of high scoring elk in any state but Arizona and Utah, said Jon Wick of Summerville, the hunting party's outfitter.

"You can't top that,'' said Wick, who has been guiding professionally in Northeast Oregon since 1984.

The hunt was particularly gratifying for Erickson, Jaquith and King because all had been applying for the coveted any-elk tags in the Wenaha Unit for 13 years.

Each year the number of people applying for the tags far exceeds the number allotted. This year 2,898 hunters put in for 22 tags, said Pat Matthews, a biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Enterprise. Hunters who have applied in past years have better odds of drawing a tag because they receive preference points each time they enter.

The men were fortunate to get their tags. But luck did not play a key role in their success. They were in the vicinity of many branch-antlered elk, thanks in part to Wick, who had been scouting the area for 30 straight days.

Wick said Erickson took a gamble during his hunt, passing up several large branch-antlered bulls before taking his elk.

"It's always hard to pass them up because you may not see them again. You run the risk of eating your tag,'' Wick said.

The elk Erickson took is one he, his son T.J. and Wick spotted at 7:30 a.m. the first day of the hunt. The McMinnville hunter waited more than six hours before he could get an open shot at the trophy elk.

"It was in the timber. We had to wait until it came up the draw before we had a clear look at it,'' T.J. Erickson said.

Photo/TRACIE WICK
Photo/TRACIE WICK
The elk was shot from a distance of about 400 yards. The Ericksons and Wick spent four hours quartering, dressing and caping the elk. They then began their five-mile trek back to camp, which included climbing out of the steep canyon. The party took about half the elk out that night.

Everyone was exhausted by the time they arrived back, T.J. Erickson said.

The party returned the next day to get the rest of the elk. Its meat had been well preserved because of cold weather.

Erickson's elk antlers will be officially measured in January after the required 60-day drying out period. T.J Erickson, a certified scorer for Northwest Big Game Inc., does not expect its score to drop more than a point.

This is at least the second top 10 big game animal Todd Erickson has taken in Oregon. In 2005 he harvested a mountain goat in the Elkhorns near Twin Lakes that was scored at 53 points, a state record, T.J. said.

T.J. accompanied his father on that hunt like he has on many hunts since he was 3 years old.

"Hunting gives us a way to spend time together. It bonds us,'' T.J. said. "It's something we're both passionate about.''

 
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