13 year old girl harvests potential record elk…

A 13-year-old girl from the Upper Peninsula (UP) may have shattered the state record for elk while hunting with her father in Cheboygan County on December 23. We won’t know if that is the case until the massive 15-antlers dry by late March.

Courtney Williams from Cooks (near Manistique) bagged the huge bull elk on a tribal elk license while hunting with her father, Craig, and guide Dustin MacLeod from Cheboygan. The potential record setting elk was shot on private property.

Commemorative Bucks of Michigan measurer Todd Zeller from Cheboygan came up with a green score for the antlers of 383. The current state record elk with typical antlers was taken in Presque Isle County during 1998 by Daniel Marks. That 14-pointer officially scored 349 2/8. The high mark for nontypical elk (375 2/8) was set by another 15-pointer that Robert Solomon shot in Cheboygan County during 1993.

The antlers from Williams’ elk have to air dry for 60 days before they can be officially scored. If the rack is determined to fit in the nontypical category and shrinks at least 10 inches during the drying period, the young hunter’s elk could end up in the number two spot among nontypicals. She’s not going to complain about that because she was happy to get any elk, much less one of record proportions.

This is the second year that tribal elk licenses have been issued in Michigan under a consent decree agreement between the state and Michigan’s Indian tribes. The tribes conduct a drawing for the limited number of elk permits available just like the state does. The agreement allows the tribes to issue 10 percent of the number of elk licenses the state does.

The license Courtney got was issued by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe. It was her first year of applying for a tribal elk license. The tribal elk season is open 15 days longer than the hunt for those who are issued licenses by the state. Dates for the December elk hunt for state licensed hunters were December 9-16.

The longer season made it possible for Courtney to fill her tag. Her father said they hunted hard during the first week of the season in Zone D, the area her license was valid for, without getting a shot at an elk. Craig said there didn’t appear to be many elk in that area, based on what they saw.

“Courtney’s license was good for an elk of either sex,” Craig commented. “She would have been happy to get a spike or a cow during the first part of her hunt. She’s not a trophy hunter by any means. We just didn’t get close enough for a shot at any elk during that first week.”

Disappointment turned to renewed excitement when tribal representatives put Craig in contact with guide Dustin MacLeod of Cheboygan. MacLeod had helped a tribal member fill their tag the previous year and he was confident he could do the same for Courtney. MacLeod made arrangements for the Williams to hunt on land owned by Brad Forrester. Forrester had seen a big bull on his property for two years.

Cheboygan County is outside what is considered the normal elk range and is in Zone X. All elk license holders can hunt in that zone during the entire season in an effort to try to reduce elk numbers there.

Courtney, Craig and Dustin were waiting in a natural blind behind a fallen tree on the morning of December 23rd where they expected to see the big bull elk feeding in a cut cornfield. As expected the bull made an appearance. After watching the animal for close to a half hour, waiting for it to turn broadside, the moment of truth finally came and Courtney did what she had been preparing for. It took three well placed 180 grain bullets from her bolt action .308 to put the huge animal down.

“When the elk walked out of the corn, I got more excited than her,” Craig said. “I was so shaken up, I wasn’t sure how many times she shot before the bull went down.”

Since this year was the first time Courtney would be hunting big game, Craig spent plenty of time with her practicing to make sure she would be ready when the time came. He bought her a bolt action Mossberg .308 to hunt with, but started her shooting with a light recoil .223.

“I bought life size paper elk targets for her to shoot at,” Craig said. “I put them at 150 yards and she did well. I was confident she wouldn’t have any trouble when she got a shot at any elk.”

The fact that Courtney bagged a 6-point whitetail with her .308 during the youth deer hunt in September made Craig even more confident that his daughter was ready for her elk hunt.

Courtney’s elk hunting success was a belated birthday present. She turned 13 two days before shooting the record book bull.

“Some people have said to me, ‘I bet you wish you had gotten the elk license,’ Craig commented. “I tell them, ‘No, I don’t. It was Courtney’s time to shine and she really shined!”