Two of the most amazing elk hunts ever filmed are back to back in this HD quality video. .......A 7x6 Bull & the other a huge Cow taken in the snow covered woods of northern MI.
The first video below explains the process that a hunter and Canada Creek Ranch go through to make sure that the hunt is a success. The second video is the best of DNR's presentation on Michigan's elk, their history and how to hunt them properly.
An Article by Jeff Crouse about Steve Damico & The Whitmire's 2008 Elk Hunt
I (Jeff) was fortunate enough to tag along on a Michigan elk hunt with a good friend on Dec. 9th. Steve (Target Zero) was lucky enough to draw a Bull Elk tag for Zone B. When he informed me of that news it was like having a friend that hit the lotto. He decided to hunt with the folks at Canada Creek Ranch up in Atlanta MI.
Steve headed up on Monday morning to attend the mandatory meeting and get everything squared away at the ranch. I only had a day to tag along, so I had to head up after I got out of work. I hit freezing rain just north of Grand Rapids, which turned to snow a little further north and snowed the whole way there. It was a bit of a white knuckled ride, but I pulled into the ranch at 11:40 PM. Steve was fired up as you can imagine, and I was excited to see what the morning would bring.
In the morning there was a great buffet breakfast, followed by the assigning of the guides and a pre-hunt meeting. Steve was assigned Gary Whitmire, assisted by his son Thomas Whitmire.
At 7:30 we hit the woods. At about 7:45 we were stuck behind two other groups of hunters who were stuck sideways in the road. There was probably already a foot of freshly fallen snow to deal with, and there was lots of shoveling and pushing going on this day. It was still snowing pretty steady, as it had apparently done all night long. Our guide thought as long as we were stuck we should take a walk up to a gas well head and see if something might be out and about.
There wasn't anything near the well, but Thomas thought we should walk through the woods about 100 yards and take a look at a clearcut area that had some new growth. When we finally made the 100 yards through the deep snow, we were overlooking a nice valley with excellent looking browse. As I looked across the valley, an elk seemed to materialize right before my eyes. It was hard to see through the snow, but I could see that it had a decent sized rack on it through the bino's. Unfortunately both Steve and Thomas wear glasses. Their lenses were so fogged up from the walk that they couldn't make it out. Before long the bull decided he needed to be somewhere else. We tracked him a half mile or so, but it became obvious that he was heading out. As it turned out it crossed the road in front of another hunter, and was probably the first bull taken on the ranch that morning. A pretty nice 6 X 6. We headed out to the nearest two track and waited for Gary to come pick us up. We spent the rest of the morning riding around and checking out tracks here and there, or getting ourself or someone else unstuck. It was pretty obvious that the snow had the elk laying up because there wasn't much fresh sign at all.
The ranch put on a great lunch for all the hunters. They had brats, hot dogs, chicken noodle soup and chili. That really hit the spot on a cold snowy day. The ranch had 29 hunters in all, I think 13 of them were bull hunters but I don't remember that number for sure. I heard that they were successful in getting everyone their animal. Pretty impressive. They really went out of their way to help some of the hunters who had limitations of one sort or another. Really a fine group of people who obviously like helping other people have a great hunt.
All the guides shared information on what they had seen where, as well as sharing some good natured ribbing. We headed out with some new found information to work from. Of course we promptly drove into a new area where not too many people had been, and got stuck. This time we got stuck good. The kind where you have to dig and push out 5 different times to get the heck out of there. At that point we decided to stick to the main trails that had been getting some traffic. It was also at that point that a lot of people started to see some movement from the elk. A herd of three bulls were spotted in an area, so some of the guides with bull hunters headed over that way. That turned into a bit of a traffic jam on the two tracks, since there was only room for one vehicle and if you tried to go around someone there was a very good chance you would get stuck.
We heard about a big 5 X 5 being spotted at one end of the ranch. It was a ways off, but we figured we might as well head over that way. When we finally got over there, there was a car stuck across the trail. (big surprise) Some other guys were helping them get out and told us that they had seen a bull and the direction he was headed. We decided to pull of where we were and see if we couldn't luck out and head him off. This was somewhere around 2:30 in the afternoon.
We headed out in the direction we guessed the bull might be traveling. After about 300 yards or so of slogging through knee deep snow, we spotted a bull about 100 yards off to our left. We were expecting this to be 5 X 5 that was mentioned, but he sure looked better than that. He was down in a depression so it looked almost like he was bedded, but his antlers were moving and swaying all around. He was browsing on small tree buds and branches as it turns out. He was cross wind from us and had no idea that four of us were watching him. We were able to close in to around 80 yards or so without him detecting anything out of the ordinary. When he moved up onto a slope so Steve could see him, he let him have it. I was video taping the whole thing, and was amazed to see him drop at the shot. There was a lot of excitement at that moment, and when we approached him we realized he was much nicer than the 5 X 5 that they had mentioned. He was an absolutely beautiful 6 X 7!
That was 3:15 and lots of picture taking, back slapping, hooting and hollering ensued.
The gut job was quite a daunting task too. We almost lost Steve up in there at one point.
The guides called the kill in and called for help getting the animal out of the woods. They have a tractor they call bigfoot that was to come pick it up. As far in as we were, as thick as the woods were and as deep as the snow was, I had my doubts. We went out at to the truck (which was stuck) and waited for help to arrive. The DNR showed up first so Tom and I walked an officer out to the kill site. Before long we saw lights coming through the woods. It took them a while to pick their way through, but they drove it right up to the elk. Once I saw it coming I knew that I had underestimated the term bigfoot.
That was sweet to have them come out and pick the animal up whole and take it back to the ranch house. They dropped it right into the bed of Steve's pickup.
We were on cloud nine heading back to the ranch. It was a great experience and I can't say enough about the hospitality from the guys at the Ranch. I had decided at about 3:00 that afternoon that there was no way I was going to be able to make the drive back to Stevensville that evening, so I called work and told them I couldn't make it. We headed into town for some food and some celebratory libations. Everyone in town was impressed with Steve's bull and he was the hero of the day.
The next day we took him to the DNR for weighing and everything to make it official. He weighed in at 560 pounds and they guessed him at 5 or 6 years old.
It was very cool to get to participate in the hunt with my friend, as chances are very good that I'll never get the opportunity myself. We all bash on the DNR from time to time, but they should be commended for making this whole thing possible. I was very impressed with how it was run and it is truly a unique opportunity for a lucky few. I feel lucky just to have witnessed it.
Congrats Target Zero!
An Article by Jeff Crouse (Horseshoe) about Steve Damico (Target Zero) 2008
Target Zero's Response:
"One of the great things about Canada Creek Ranch is for elk hunting they work strictly by freewill offerings. My guides didn't take any money I offered and said to donate it to Canada Creek. These guys are fellow hunters who love to be a part of this great event. All they seem to want is bragging rights to being the best guides. They are awesome! Canada Creek has some great bulls on their 114,000 acres. Even the DNR guy who came out to inspect the gut pile said if he ever got a tag he would want one for area "B" and come to Canada Creek for the hunt. Of course I donated generously for this once in a lifetime experience. Horseshoe and I have been hunting together for about 20 years I am so happy to share this experience with such a great friend. Well, Michigan elk hunting is done for me for good unless one of my buddy’s gets a tag. Horseshoe? If Michigan ever has a huntable population of Moose in the U.P. You know I will be putting in the drawing for a tag. LOL" - Steve Damico
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Thomas D. Whitmire
If you are interested in buying this footage for TV it is available in RAW format. Also you can purchase a DVD of the hunts featuring the videos above and the 30 minutes full episodes. - All video is real and in the sequence in which it took place over a four day period of the hunt!
St. Joe man waits, hopes for 20 years to get state elk hunting permit, and his dreams came true; all 560 pounds of it
By DENNIS COGSWELL - Outdoors Editor
Published: Friday, December 26, 2008 1:18 PM EST
Steve Damico had to overcome some long odds to score the elk of a lifetime.
After more than 20 years of applying for a Michigan elk permit, Damico, 47, of St. Joseph, finally drew a tag for a bull. Considering that 47,000 people apply and only 330 permits were handed out, the chances of success were less than 1 percent. Add to that the fact that only one-third of the permits were for a bull. Beyond that Damico's tag was for Area B, which is right in the center of the best elk territory and it was for the December hunt period, where the success rate is higher than the August hunt.
"When I got my packet (from the DNR) I was just astounded," said Damico, who works as a radiologic technologist at South Bend Memorial Hospital.
He hunted on the 14,000-acre Canada Creek Ranch in Montmorency County, about 12 miles north of Atlanta, Mich. Accompanying him were hunting buddy Jeff Crouse of St. Joseph and two volunteer guides, retired Flushing High School principal Gary Whitmire and his son, Tom of Berkley. Gary Whitmire has been a member of the Canada Creek Ranch his whole life and maintains a full-log cabin there.
"The guides wouldn't accept any money," Damico said. "They were just as excited as we were."
During opening morning Dec. 9, the group spotted a bull on a ridge. Damico said with the cold weather his glasses fogged over and it was difficult to see the animal. He was never able to get close enough for a shot.
That afternoon, they ran into another group of hunters who had become stuck in the snow, but said they'd seen a nice bull cross the road.
They walked into a bowl-shaped area, and Damico said they could see a big set of antlers. Eventually, the bull started to walk up a hill.
"I could see his spine," Damico said. "I took the shot and I must have hit him in the spine because he just dropped."
He finished the elk with a shot to the neck.
As they approached, they realized they had a massive 7 by 6 bull, which Damico said should score around 300. Field dressed, it weighed 560 pounds, with a probable live weight around 700.
"The DNR came out to the woods to check the kill and told me it was the biggest one taken on the first day of the hunt," Damico said.
"The folks at Canada Creek Ranch had a big tractor they called 'Big Foot,' with a big shovel on the front that scooped up the animal and brought it back to camp where they gently laid him in the back of pickup."
All 29 hunters who hunted at Canada Creek were able to fill their tags. Damico said he came away impressed with the ranch.
"I paid for my hotel room but the hunt they offered was free at the Canada Creek Ranch," he said, noting he made a donation anyway because it goes to support a great event.
People in the Atlanta area are very supportive of the elk hunt. Damico said they have an elk pole in the middle of town and large crowds gather to see the elk which have been taken.
"The farmers are very happy to have the hunt and after seeing the elk's stomach, I can see why. It was enormous, about the size of a beanbag chair. They must eat tons of the farmer's crops."
Damico and his friends got the hunt on videotape. He said "Michigan Out-of-Doors" has asked for copies of the tape to use for a segment on the PBS TV show.
"Elk hunting in Michigan is done for good for me (once a hunter is drawn once he can't apply again) but should Michigan ever have a huntable population of moose in the U.P. you know I will be putting my name in for the drawing," Damico said.
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