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At Age 81, Tracking Elk

Hunting elk in the Badlands of North Dakota is hard work, according to both Darrel Brown, a successful elk hunter from Millarton, N.D., and Bruce Stillings, a big game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.

Hunting elk in the Badlands of North Dakota is hard work, according to both Darrel Brown, a successful elk hunter from Millarton, N.D., and Bruce Stillings, a big game biologist for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Dickinson.

"It is the toughest hunt we have going in North Dakota," Stillings said. "It is so unpredictable as to the number of animals the hunters will have access to."

For Brown, who will be 82 at the first of the year, the hunt held a variety of challenges.

"We made a lot of miles and walked quite a bit," he said. "But we ended up playing the waiting game and had the elk come to us. It took patience and perseverance."

Stillings said it was rare for older hunters to attempt elk hunting.

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"It is uncommon for someone of that age to be out here," he said. "For them to endure the challenges of the Badlands is quite an accomplishment."

Brown said he spent nine days hunting, after the season opened on

Oct. 2, in the area of the North Dakota Badlands north of the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He described his waiting game as posting along a trail elk used when they left the sanctuary of the park and went onto land open to hunting.

The 6-by-6 bull, a bull with six points on each of its two antlers, was accompanied by about 16 cows and younger bulls when it left the park. Brown harvested the animal about 500 yards outside the park boundary.

"It is a unique situation," Stillings said. "With 1,100 protected elk in the park you never know how many animals will be in huntable territory."

For wildlife biologists and hunters the elk situation around the park presents challenges.

"There are a lot of elk that stay right in the park," Stillings said, "but more that roam in and out of the park. We never know what the numbers are outside the park and how they're affecting habitat."

Stillings estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of North Dakota elk hunters fill their tag each season. The hunts are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for resident hunters who are prohibited from applying for an elk license in the future.

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For Brown it was his fifth elk hunting adventure, but his first successful hunt.

"I've been to Montana twice and Colorado and Utah once with no success," he said. "This is the biggest thrill in my hunting career. One never to be forgotten."

Brown plans on having the trophy mounted and has already enjoyed some elk sausage.

Keith Norman is a reporter for the Jamestown (N.D.) Sun, a Forum Communications newspaper

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