Moorhead, Minn. — Brad Penas has done a lot of hunting in northwestern Minnesota’s Kittson County, having grown up there. And he still returns every fall to hunt deer.
But when he got drawn for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue elk there, he’d never seen an elk in the area. So Penas, 45, of Moorhead, expected a tough hunt.
Little did he know.
Just more than an hour after he left the truck on Saturday, Sept. 14 – opening day of the season – Penas dropped an animal that’s likely going to be the highest-scoring typical elk ever killed by a hunter in the state.
The bull, which weighed 820 pounds field-dressed, had a 6×7 rack and a gross green score of 433 inches. Its net green score was 391 inches, Penas said.
The animal’s official Boone and Crockett score will be measured after the 60-day drying period. As long as its score doesn’t fall too much, it likely will beat the current state record elk, which was killed in 1996 and scored 3716⁄8 inches.
“I’m crossing my fingers,” Penas said.
After receiving word he’d been drawn in the lottery, Penas, a Moorhead police officer, planned a couple of weekends to scout.
He spent his first scouting weekend talking to landowners and others, but didn’t actually see an elk. The second weekend, which was a week before the season, he saw two elk the first night – one small bull and one “decent” bull. The second night, he saw at 500 yards through a spotting scope what he believes is the bull he killed.
“We were able to pick out some distinctive features on him,” Penas said. “We were pretty excited when we saw him.”
A few days later, some of Penas’ friends were guiding bear hunters and saw what they figured was the same elk, less than a mile from where Penas saw it.
So he and his friend, Marty Lieberg, decided to focus on watering holes in that area.
They made a plan for opening morning, but the wind forced them to abandon it and head into the area from the other end. They skirted the edge of woods and swamp on public land owned by The Nature
Conservancy for about a mile, then stopped to take a break.
“We heard an elk bugle, and it didn’t seem like it was that far away – maybe 300 yards,” he said.
They continued walking, now through popple trees and brush, and then a clearing came into view. There was an elk in the clearing, and though Penas couldn’t see its body, he saw its head, neck, and rack.
The animal stood broadside. At 7:35 a.m., Penas shouldered his .270 Remington 700 rifle, pulled the trigger, and hit the elk in the neck.
“The shot was from about 70 yards,” Penas said. “I’m a golfer. We refer to those as chip shots.”
The animal went down, and Penas and Lieberg headed immediately in its direction. It took a second shot to kill the bull.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Penas said. “I know I celebrated a little bit. I let out a big yell and was pretty excited.”
But it was then the real work began. Penas wanted to field-dress the animal, but not quarter it to remove it. Given they were on TNC property, though, they couldn’t use a motorized vehicle. So Penas and
Lieberg recruited four others, and the six of them dragged it about 70 yards to private property where they could load it onto a trailer.
For now, Penas is waiting until the end of the mandatory drying period, trying to figure out where to put the mount he’s having made, and looking forward to getting back to the northwest to hunt deer.
And he’d like to hunt elk again, too.
“This is probably one and done, but who knows?” he said. “I’d like to do it again out West. Maybe one day.”