Record elk, deer, bear and turkey
Dawn Pratt from Grayling is the first woman to complete a Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM) grand slam with the taking of a trophy bull elk on December 9 in Otsego County. A CBM slam is the taking of a deer, bear, turkey and elk, all of which qualify for listing in state records maintained by CBM. It’s taken years of hunting in the state for each hunter who has achieved such a slam.
Richard Brandt from Metamora was the first state resident to accomplish the feat in the spring of 2000 with a book turkey. He was followed by five other men and now, a woman’s name will be added to the list.
Pratt said she got the other three book animals besides an elk to her credit during successive years. She got a record book gobbler during May of 1996, a book bear in the fall of 1997 and a book buck in 1998. The trophy bear and deer were collected with bow and arrow.
All of her previous book animals are listed under her maiden name (Adlen). The elk is the only entry that will be under her married name. Dawn is married to Jerry Pratt, who has been a CBM scorer for years. Dawn is also a CBM measurer.
An elk is obviously the hardest of the four game animals listed in CBM records to bag. It can take years to draw a tag valid for a bull, and once a license is received, connecting on a bull that qualifies for state records can be a challenge during a short hunt.
“I never expected to get an elk license,” Pratt said, “but I kept applying. I’ve been applying for an elk license since I was 19 and I’m now 42.”
Dawn’s persistence obviously paid off. Once she had the license, she hired a guide to increase her chances of success; Chad Sides from Gaylord. Based on a conversation with her guide, Dawn learned that most shots at elk are less than 100 yards, but, occasionally, can be as far as 300 yards. To make sure she would be ready at any distance possible, the dedicated hunter practiced shooting at 100, 200 and 300 yards.
“I shot approximately 30 to 40 rounds a weekend since October to prepare for the elk hunt,” the huntress said, “and was pretty confident that I could pull off a fatal shot up to 300 yards. All that practicing sure helps to take away that ‘trigger jerk’ caused by excitement and I was glad that I did it.”
Weather conditions during the first days of the hunt made it more challenging than it otherwise would have been. The hunt started on Tuesday, December 8. A mandatory orientation session was held on Monday. Dawn’s husband accompanied her on the elk hunt.
“On Tuesday, we cut tracks of a couple groups of elk,” Dawn said. “We were able to get a glimpse of one group, but they bolted before we could identify a shooter bull in the herd. We walked some ridges to look for elk and saw two fresh beds on Tuesday evening, but no elk.
“A big blizzard blew in on Wednesday and it was expected to last for two or three days. We did a lot of driving to look for elk or their tracks, but nothing was moving. Without any fresh tracks, the only way we were going to see elk is to sneak through some ridges and find them bedded. Chad said he had seen the elk hold up for days in weather like that, so we headed out on foot through the blowing snow.
“The first set of ridges that we walked did not have any elk on them,” Dawn continued. “We did see six nice bucks, one of which was breeding a doe. After that walk, we decided to head over and walk the ridges that we saw the two beds on the evening before. Chad had seen two bulls frequenting that area during the previous week.
“On the second set of ridges we checked on Wednesday, we finally spotted two elk bedded with their heads down. They looked like cows at first, but then we saw antlers. Due to snow and ice on their antlers, they looked like small 5X5s.
“The bull I got eventually stood up and started feeding toward us. By then we could tell he was a good 6X6. The wind switched and the bulls got a whiff of us. So I had to take a shot as he was going through the trees.”
Dawn made a great shot at 200 yards with her .270 Weatherby rifle loaded with 150 grain Federal premium shells. The trophy bull has a green score of 298. Since the minimum score for entry of typical elk in state records is 240, and it’s not likely the antlers will shrink significantly during the 60 day drying period, the antlers will easily qualify for a spot, completing her grand slam.
The big bull was estimated to be 8 years old and had a dressed weight of 585 pounds. Incidentally, Dawn insisted on field dressing the elk herself rather than allowing her guide to do it.
When Dawn collected her record book turkey in 1996, she admits that she didn’t know much about turkey hunting, but her brother, Marty, did. He called the long beard in for her around 1:00 p.m. on a sunny day in May. She dropped the 18-pounder with a Remington 1100 in 12 gauge at a distance of 25 yards.
The gobbler was bagged in Crawford County. It scored 13 12/16. The minimum score required for record book entry for turkeys taken with a shotgun is 12. The score is arrived at by measuring the length of the beard and spurs, then adding those numbers. There’s no drying period required before turkeys can be measured for state records.
Dawn’s tom was the first turkey from Crawford County to be entered in state records. That book bird played a role in Dawn meeting her future husband. Jerry Pratt was a measurer for CBM and she brought the bird to him to have it measured.
It wasn’t long before the two were dating and hunting together. Jerry helped her get her book bear during the fall of 1997 in Missaukee County. The day Dawn scored, a small bear was approaching the bait first, but it spooked when it heard something else coming. The something else proved to be raccoons, but the young bruin knew a big bear was in the area, so it didn’t want to hang around long enough to put itself in danger in case the sound it heard was made by the aggressive male.
Twenty minutes after seeing the small bear, the much bigger animal made an appearance. When it was in the right position, Dawn put an arrow from her 48 pound pull High Country bow through its chest. The Muzzy broadhead on her arrow did a great job and the bear was down after running 30 yards.
Jerry video taped the kill. The bruin had a dressed weight of 343 pounds and was aged at 21 years old by the DNR. Its skull later scored 19 15/16. The minimum for entry of bears in state records is 18.
“That was the first bow entry in the black bear category of state records for women,” Dawn said.
During early November of 1998, Dawn connected on a trophy whitetail in Saginaw County while hunting with a 48 pound pull Hoyt Tenacity bow and a Muzzy broadhead. She arrowed a 17-point nontypical that netted 169 2/8, which remains her best buck.
“The rut was on and I was trying to grunt in a buck I saw from a tree stand 15 feet from the ground in a spindly tree,” she said. “The buck was coming, and he was close to being within bow range when he suddenly took off. A short time later, a gigantic buck materialized behind me about 25 yards. That must be what scared the other buck away.
“I didn’t think there was any way I was going to get a shot at that big buck because I had to make a half circle on my stand after grabbing my bow. Every time he put his head down, I would shift my feet a little bit. I finally got in the right position and came to full draw when he went behind a tree.”
The buck had a dressed weight of 198 pounds. Although Dawn is now not eligible for another Michigan elk tag, she plans on continuing to hunt other game when ever she can. She considers it an honor to be the first woman to achieve a CBM slam!