ST. JOE – If a pattern has developed in 15 years of limited permit elk hunting in Arkansas, it may be to expect the unexpected.
Brent Hohenstein and Allyn Ladd both got their bull elk in the September season in Buffalo River country, and they both had to make changes on the spot. Hohenstein took an impressive 6X11 bull and Ladd a large-racked 6X6 bull.
Hohenstein said, “My hunt of a lifetime lasted only an hour and a half.” He got the elk that quickly on opening morning. But he had to make some adaptations.
“When we got out there, we saw a (deer) bowhunter walking across the field with a flashlight. Then a herd of elk came across Richland Creek, and we jumped into some bushes to hide. My boy Colt saw a big bull with some cows in trees. We had to cross a creek to slip in behind them, and we had to pull ourselves up the bank by using tree roots.”
Hohenstein shot the elk at 75 yards range with his .308-caliber bolt action rifle.
The 11 points on one side of the elk’s antlers was the most for an Arkansas elk taken in hunting.
Hohenstein lives at the Joy community west of Searcy. He’s been a lifelong hunter, but this was his first elk experience. He had applied for the free elk permits for the past seven years.
Ladd, of Camden, has extensive elk hunting experience along with the variety of other big game animals. His preferred weapon is a bow.
He said, “We scouted all summer, and we used game cameras. We narrowed it down to three bulls we would like to shoot. On the first afternoon, we found elk but wind came up. Next morning, wind again. That afternoon we went back, and this bull came down the trail we were on. I shot it at 16 yards.”
This came right at dark. Then Ladd and his helpers did what few other hunters would have thought of. They waited. Arrow-shot big game often runs for miles if pursued when wounded.
For five hours, the Ladd team cooled their heels. Then they began trailing the shot elk a little after midnight. It didn’t take long. They found the bull dead.
A year ago, Ladd became the first hunter to get an elk on public land by using a bow. He repeated this season.
Both hunters worked the Richland Valley Sonny Varnell Conservation Area, a 2008 acquisition of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission on the east side of Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area.
Elk hunting will resume Oct. 29 when 25 hunters will have permits for public land. Private land hunting with permits will also take place then.
Arkansas residents may apply online for the free public land permits during the month of May with random drawings to take place during the June Buffalo River Elk Festival in Jasper.