Official score: 317 1/8 nontypical

 

Brandon Kantola’s 6×7 bull elk was the first archery bull entered in the state records books by CBM and the first Michigan bull entered in Pope & Young national records.

The state record elk Brandon Kantola from Ravenna bagged with bow and arrow in Cheboygan County on September 15, 2023, ended up with an official score of 317 1/8 as a nontypical, according to state big game record keeper Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM). The bull was the first entered in state records taken with archery equipment. Typical elk antlers have to score at least 240 to qualify for entry in state records and the minimum for nontypicals is 265.

The 13-point set of elk antlers was entered as a nontypical because of a nontypical tine on the left antler that was nine inches long. There were seven points on the left antler and six on the right. The right antler measured 46 4/8 inches in length and the left beam was 45 6/8 inches long. Typical tines ranged between 10 and 17 inches in length. The inside spread between the beams is 34 1/8 inches.

Kantola’s bow kill ranks about 20th among all nontypical elk in CBM records. Brandon also entered his elk in the national bow and arrow records kept by the Pope & Young Club. Not surprisingly, Kantola’s bull is the first from Michigan entered in Pope & Young.

The bull was 6 ½ years old, according to the DNR, and had a dressed weight of 70 pounds.

It took 18 years for Brandon to be drawn for a Michigan elk tag. He was one of 30 hunters who got the chance to try for a bull during the first hunt last fall, which was broken down into three 4-day segments. The first segment was August 28 through September 1. The second segment was September 15-18 and the last segment was September 29 through October 2.

“I consider myself a bowhunter first,” Kantola commented. “For the longest time, I felt like I would like to take a Michigan elk with a bow, if I ever got the chance to hunt them. I try to do things that are a challenge.”

Brandon has bagged quite a few whitetails with bow and arrow and a turkey. In 2017, he collected a cow elk in Idaho with archery equipment. He figured that since he got an elk in Idaho with an arrow, he could do the same thing in Michigan, and he was right.

He not only planned on trying for an elk with bow and arrow, he wanted to do it on his own without the help of a guide. He wanted the hunt to be more of a do-it-yourself adventure.

“The results of the drawing came out in June,” Brandon said. “That’s when the work started. I tried to gather as much information as possible. I got my elk packet from the DNR the same day I found out I was successful in the drawing. A map in that packet showed where all of the elk were killed by hunters the previous year. I entered all of that information in my Onx Hunt App to get a feel for where elk had been taken previously.”

Brandon also joined a Michigan elk hunting Facebook Page and a number of people on that page offered to help by providing information. Although Kantola didn’t hire an elk guide, he talked to several of them on the phone and he said they were helpful in providing valuable information.

“We did our homework,” Kantola explained, “by visiting promising locations to scout and putting cameras out.”

The “we” includes friend and hunting partner Shawn Braman and Brandon’s brother Corey.

During the first segment of his elk hunt, Brandon tried for a big bull they located, but he was unsuccessful in getting a shot at that bull. He was within 30 yards of that elk on one occasion, but the bull got the drop on them and there was no opportunity for a shot. By the time the second segment of his elk hunt started Brandon’s target bull had been struck and killed by a vehicle, so he had to shift gears.

“During the second segment of the hunt, I opted to bring a gun along,” Kantola said, “but I was hoping I didn’t have to use it. We expected to hear bulls bugling during the second segment, but we didn’t hardly hear any bugling.”

On September 15, the trio tried to be in position to intercept elk leaving nearby agricultural fields, but that didn’t work out. So they started working toward a bedding area they located during an August scouting trip.

“When we got within 100 yards of the bedding area, we tried a couple of cow calls,” Kantola explained. “Within a minute, three cows and a calf that were being pushed by a bull came running toward us. Shawn stopped the bull with a cow call at 22 yards. “

Fortunately, the bull stopped in a lane through a grove of young trees that Brandon could get an arrow through.

“I didn’t even have an arrow nocked at that point. I knelt, put an arrow on the string and drew as the bull stood there. I knew it was a shooter, but I didn’t have time to count points. There was a little tree hiding the bull’s vitals where he stopped. I had to sit back to get away from that tree to make the shot.”

Brandon put a 560-grain carbon arrow tipped with a 125-grain Sever Broadhead from his 72-pound pull Mathews D3 compound bow through the bull’s lungs. When he made the shot, however, he wasn’t sure how much penetration his arrow got. Much of the shaft was sticking out of the animal when it took off.

The arrow broke off soon after the bull started running. By examining blood on the shaft, Kantola figured that he got about 18 inches of penetration, which he thought was enough to get both lungs. But they waited an hour before starting to follow the blood trail. The elk only went 60 yards, dying on a hunter-walking trail, which made it easy for the DNR to drive right up to the elk to verify the kill.

Brandon was relieved when they found the bull in such a short distance and the emotion of what he accomplished got the best of him. He literally fell on the ground and started sobbing.

Brandon’s brother Corey captured the kill on video and the edited video is on their YouTube channel Primal Pursuits Outdoors. The link to the video is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb7ZNj-4jCw.