Union man's 2010 hunt is one for the records

By DICK MASON | The Observer July 05, 2011 09:47 pm
N.W. Head & Horn competition ranks 81-year-old Union manís elk #1 bull in 2010

UNION — Time was not on the side of Dick Veenhuizen, but fate was.
The Union resident was nearing the end of a 20-day hunt near Yakima last November and had every reason to have a long face. He and his partner, son-in-law Jake Emerick of Yakima, had been hunting 18-straight days but had not spotted a single elk after seeing three on Day 1. The men had not even seen a single fresh elk track since then.
“We were pretty discouraged,’’ Veenhuizen said.
Then it appeared.
A bull elk that would define Veenhuizen’s hunting legacy.
At 7:15 a.m. on Nov. 4, less than 36 hours before their hunt closed, Veenhuizen and Emerick spotted six to eight  cow elk accompanied by a branch-antlered bull on the top of a ridge just under 400 yards away.
“We’ve got to get him,’’ Veenhuizen told his hunting partner.
Minutes later Veenhuizen had the elk. He first fired from 374 yards, hitting the elk in the leg. Veenhuizen found the wounded bull minutes later lying in sagebrush and then quickly dispatched him with another shot.
The Union hunter did a double take when he took his first close look at the elk.
“I knew it was a good bull, but it was a lot bigger than I thought,’’ Veenhuizen said.
It was bigger than possibly any bull taken in Washington, Oregon, Montana or Idaho in 2010 based on the results of the Head & Horns competition run in part by Northwest Big Game Inc.
Head and Horns ranks big-game animals hunters have entered in the competition based on their Boone and Crockett measurement score. Veenhuizen won the category for Rocky Mountain elk taken in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana with a rifle in 2010.
Veenhuizen was awarded a plaque commemorating his achievement earlier this year at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland. 
His elk, scored at 3725/8 points, is the 14th largest ever taken with a rifle in Washington, according to the Northwest Big Game Inc., which is based in Roseburg and publishes books on Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana big game records.
Veenhuizen took the elk in the Alkali Unit, which covers a U.S. military base. On the first day of the hunt Veenhuizen and Emerick spotted two cows and a bull. Emerick fired at the bull but missed.
The hunting partners had agreed that Emerick would fire at the first bull and Veenhuizen would try to take the second. They had no idea that they would go 17 days before seeing an elk again or even one fresh elk track. 
The only evidence of elk Veenhuizen and Emerick found during that time were several day-old tracks of a small band of elk that headed down a draw to get water. 
Veenhuizen and Emerick did not see any elk during the 17-day stretch for want of effort.
“We hunted all-out every day,’’ said Veenhuizen, who at 81 appears to be picture of health. 
Veenhuizen has since had the elk mounted. Several local residents got their first look at it during an open house he and his wife, Rose, recently conducted. The Veenhuizens have lived in Union County 17 years, the past eight in Union and the first nine in Cove. The couple moved to Union County 17 years ago from Sandy.
Dick Veenhuizen will not be returning this fall to hunt in Washington but instead will elk hunt in the Huntington area. At 81 he has no plans to cut back on his hunts anytime soon.
“I just want to keep going as long as I’m healthy.’’