It is said the chance of getting drawn for an elk hunting permit in Michigan is .01-.06%. What are the odds that a teenager could be the recipient of a bull-elk permit and then fill that tag with an amazing 5 x 5 bull? Couple that with the recent loss of his beautiful mother during his permitted elk hunting time, and the odds were definitely stacked against 15-year-old Carter Betcher.
Last summer, Joe Betcher found out he was the lucky recipient of a Michigan elk tag, and his immediate thought was to pass it along to his son Carter. The father and son duo have hunted everything from deer and coyote to wild boar and now elk.
Carter’s love of the outdoors and hunting began at a young age, as it has been a part of the family tradition passed down to his father by his grandfather. In addition, his mother, Meagan, had a major hand in his success and made sure he got his chance at this opportunity. She was so proud of Carter and the outdoorsman he has become – and he continues to make his mom proud each day.
Meagan’s love, support and encouragement for her boys was truly amazing. She was a true example of strength and courage. It was this encouragement that helped keep Carter so focused on his goals. He has already participated in state-level shooting competitions. As a result of this skill, his trophies are among the many mounts adorning the walls of his family’s home and cabin. Ultimately, this love of hunting and the outdoors has led him to explore a career with the DNR.
When Carter’s fall opener began, he and his father had only a quick one-day hunt. Carter’s mother, Meagan, was not feeling well but she encouraged the family to go on with the hunt knowing how rare this opportunity was for her son and husband. Unfortunately, in the day they had, there wasn’t even an opportunity to take a shot.
Shortly thereafter, and tragically, Meagan passed away. Given the circumstances, the DNR gave Carter a “redo,” for which the family was very grateful.
“I could not be more impressed and appreciative to all involved at the DNR for making it happen,” Joe said.
On the day Carter took the majestic bull, he and Joe both said they could feel Meagan’s presence. They knew her spirit was with them every moment of that hunt, up to and after the moment Carter pulled the trigger.
Over the years, Joe said, they have learned as a family that the thrill of hunting is just a part of the overall experience and that the people who are by your side when you are hunting is what makes that time so special. Meagan’s brother, Mike Houle, had joined them for this hunt, making it even more spectacular.
Nothing was going to stop Uncle Mike from joining Joe and Carter. Mike said he jumped at the chance to tag along to the cabin. However, they were not confident he could join them on the hunt since he was a last-minute addition. What were the odds there would be an open space for Mike? After Joe and Carter left to meet the guide in the early morning hours, Mike decided to go back to bed, but before he did, fate struck again. Mike got word he could join the hunt, grabbed his gear, and ran out the door.
Two days of hard hunting later, Mike didn’t see but heard the fatal shot ring out and ran around the corner to find Carter and Joe happily rejoicing in that moment he took the elk. He said the emotions were indescribable.
“They really beat the odds since the unthinkable tragedy they went through and then to have that dad and son moment in the final bell,” Mike said. “It was just one of those emotionally powerful events everyone could feel.”
Chuck, the guides, and the DNR were all pulling for Carter, and he did not disappoint.
Canada Creek Elk guide Chuck Whitmire out of Atlanta, the Elk Capital of Michigan, arranged this hunt of a lifetime. For days, Carter, Joe, and Mike trekked through many miles of challenging pass-thru swamp areas with Chuck. Tirelessly they pushed through forage and mud-filled, snow-covered woods, making their own path in search of what would be a trophy of impossible circumstances. Joe and Mike were very impressed with Carter’s resiliency and determination at the age of 15.
Carter said he was very focused on the task at hand. His dad and grandfather have taught him well. He did not lose sight of this ending successfully, even as they saw another hunter had shot an elk they had been tracking. They just moved in another direction, intuition or a sixth sense told Joe they should set up on the edge of the woods in an old rye field.
At the end of that third day, with only minutes of shooting light left and nothing to show for it yet, Carter and Joe were still confident.
“Carter’s respect for hunting is beyond his years,” Joe said proudly of his son. “At every turn, he will only make the most ethical shot or he will pass.”
So, the perfect moment needed to arise. And it did indeed.
Not knowing its awaiting fate, the majestic elk stepped out of the woods.
“Dad, is that a bull?” Carter asked, straining to see.
One time Joe forgot to pack his binoculars, but he knew it was. “Yes, look how big it is,” Joe replied.
Carter quickly put the scope up and saw the antlers on the massive animal. It was about 190 yards out.
“My breath was taken away, my heart was pounding,” Carter said. “I was super focused and ready to shoot.”
He placed his gun on the rest in his usual fashion and made a perfect double-lung lethal shot.
“Take another shot,” Joe said.
“Dad, it was a perfect shot,” Carter replied.
The elk took a few steps back, but had not fallen yet, so Joe had Carter follow up with an “insurance” shot, and the elk went down.
Carter said it would be very hard to top this hunt – and his dad is always taking him up north to hunt. “That was probably the happiest I’ve ever seen him,” he said through a grin.
And to top it off, the hunting trio said they were treated like royalty by Chuck and his team. “Chuck is a master chef and it did not matter what he prepared for our group; it was the best,” Joe said. “I would say overall a person could not have a better experience with amazing people.
“We love going to our family cabin in Atlanta and for years we have seen elk on the pole, it made this elk season so special; we will be going every year now just to be a part of it.”
“Nothing in life is worth having or doing unless it means effort and hard work,” Joe concluded. “Carter is learning that hard work pays off and this is a moment we will never forget, it will be with us forever.”