The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is not speculating on the origin of a bull elk shot by a bowhunter Monday afternoon, Dec. 26, somewhere between Carlinville and Chesterfield.
“We can confirm that it was an elk,” said IDNR spokesperson Ed Cross. “Our CPO (Conservation Police Officer) in that area said he had reports of one wandering around in the Beaver Dam (State Park) area and two that supposedly are around the east side of Coffeen Lake.” The conventional wisdom is that the animal escaped from an elk farm, “but no one has come forward to report one missing,” Cross said.
Our CPO (Conservation Police Officer) in that area said he had reports of one wandering around in the Beaver Dam (State Park) area and two that supposedly are around the east side of Coffeen Lake.
He started hunting with a compound bow, but gravitated to more primitive equipment as he grew older.
“I really wanted to make my own equipment,” he said. “I really love hunting with homemade wooden bows.”
Link said the elk crossed a pasture Monday afternoon and jumped a fence to enter a wooded area where Link had set up a tree stand. Link said he “heard,” rather than saw, the bulky animal jump the fence. As the elk approached his hunting stand, Link said his view was limited by foliage in the tree in which he had set up his stand. “All I could see was a big-bodied animal with this enormous rack,” he said. “I never got a super good look at it.”
The bull approached Link’s tree, passing within six feet or so of it as it passed under his tree stand. When it was about 18 yards away, Link said he called with a deep-throated “baa” which cause the animal to stop and turn slightly, giving Link a clear angled shot at the vitals. Link drew and released his arrow, hitting the animal in the side near the heart.
“All of this happened within about 10 seconds,” he said. “When he ran off, I could see it was an elk. I knew the game laws well enough that I wasn’t freaking out about shooting an elk. I knew I could legally take it.”
Cross concurred. Illinois has no season for elk and no protection for them, primarily because elk are not typically expected to be in Illinois.
“If an elk should cross your path, you can take it,” said Cross, provided he has no ear tag or collar to identify it as a farm-raised animal.
Although he felt certain he had just shot an elk, Link had enough self-doubt that he climbed down from the tree stand to look at the animal’s hoof prints in the mud.
“I couldn’t believe how huge they were,” he said. “I told myself, ‘That has to be an elk’.”
Link continued to hunt until nightfall, then tracked his game through a pasture and over two hills. He said he saw blood when his arrow hit the animal, but did not see his arrow as it bolted away and worried that the arrow may not have penetrated deep enough to hit the heart. Even though there was not much of a blood trail, Link said he was able to track the bull elk fairly easily because it left distinct hoof prints even in grassy areas. As he was tracking the animal, he said he found his arrow and noted it was covered with blood to a depth of 15 or so inches–sufficient penetration for a clean kill shot. Eventually, his flashlight beam fell on the downed elk and he was able to reconfirm for himself that he had actually bagged an elk.
Out of all the hunters out there, I would never have thought I’d have a bull elk come by me in the State of Illinois.
He estimated the animal weighed upward of 600 pounds. He and his wife took the shelves out of their refrigerator and filled it full of meat to be further processed. In addition, he has two additional coolers of elk meat that he is curing.
The head with its massive antler rack already is at a taxidermist to be mounted to someday grace the wall in the Link home.
Link said the animal had no ear tags, tattoos or collar that would have indicated it escaped from a domestic elk farm. The nearest farms raising elk are in the Jacksonville area and on the Montgomery-Bond county border. Elk have been somewhat successfully reintroduced in parts of Missouri and Kentucky, but the ranges for those wild populations are not contiguous with the Illinois border.
North American elk, a subspecies once native to Illinois, was extirpated from the state prior to 1850, according to the Illinois Natural History Survey. Elk that have been reintroduced in eastern states are Rocky Mountain elk transplanted from the area around Yellowstone National Park. Elk stocked in Kentucky and Missouri, and raised on elk farms in Illinois, are all of the Rocky Mountain subspecies.