Have you ever mistaken an elk for a deer? A hunter from Ohio did, resulting in a kill shot on a Michigan elk.
A man who shot a bull elk on opening morning of Michigan’s firearm deer season told the Department of Natural Resources he thought he was shooting at a whitetail.
And surprisingly, DNR officers believed him. An unnamed 23-year-old man and his father were hunting Michigan’s firearm deer opener on November 15 in Montmorency County when they spotted a group of whitetail deer and bull elk.
DNR district law supervisor Lt. Jim Gorno told the Alpena News visibility was not ideal. The animals were in heavy brush and it was low light. The man ended up shooting what he originally thought was an eight-point buck.
However, when they approached their kill, instead they found a 5×5 bull Michigan elk. To the hunter’s credit, he didn’t run from his error. “The hunter realized his mistake and immediately reported it to the DNR,” Gorno told the Alpena News.
The DNR also apparently thought the man’s story was credible since the father ended up shooting the eight-point buck. Michigan has a relatively small elk herd of 500-600 animals that were re-introduced to the state back in the early 1900s. Hunts are heavily managed and hunters selected via a lottery system.
The Ohio hunter will not have to face the courts, but he will probably have to pay restitution for the elk, which could be around $1,500. The DNR’s leniency is due to the fact the hunters turned themselves in.
Fortunately, the elk won’t go to waste. The Alpena News reports the meat was donated to the hungry. When it comes to accidental shootings of elk, the DNR takes differing approaches based on the circumstances of the case.
“It happens every year a couple times, and we get self-reports and we treat them way differently than when we investigate other animals that we find out there, or other hunters find,” Gorno told the paper. “If we run those people down, we treat it as poaching.”
Penalties for poaching of elk in Michigan include jail time and $4,000 or more in fines and loss of hunting privileges. For these Ohio hunters, it seems doing the right thing certainly paid off.