Published November 11, 2012, 05:30 AM

Unexpected turn of events results in successful elk hunt

Jenna Solhiem of Northwood, N.D., a nursing student at Northland Community and Technical College, shared this story about the cow elk she shot Oct. 25 near Niagara, N.D.

By: Jenna Solhiem, Grand Forks Herald

This story started out last March, when my boyfriend was sending in his application for North Dakota elk, moose and bighorn sheep permits. He asked me if I wanted to send in for them, as well, and I figured why not.

I never had sent in for the permits before, so when I got my letter in the mail a few months later saying I had received the once-in-a-lifetime elk tag, I was at the very least surprised.

My tag was a cow-only permit for Unit E2 in the western part of the state. Being some distance away from home and with a busy school year coming up, trying to plan when we would get a chance to go was the next task. My boyfriend’s brother had received a tag for the same unit the year before, and after not having good luck hunting early in the season, which opened Sept. 7, we decided we would wait until December just like last year, when my boyfriend’s brother finally shot his elk.

More time passed, and we had heard talk of some cow elk that had been seen near Niagara, N.D., about 40 miles west of Grand Forks. Since we deer hunted around Niagara and knew the area pretty well, we decided we would keep an eye out for them since I also could shoot a cow elk there if we happened to see one. The area is part of Unit E5, which is open to lottery license holders from all units.

I had gotten done early with school Oct. 25, so my boyfriend, Cody, and I, his brother, Ryan, and my son, Wyatt, loaded up in the pickup to go for a drive and see if we could find any sign of the elk. Being from Northwood, it didn’t take us long to get to Niagara.

The first place we checked, there were a few deer in a field, and with the deer season coming up, we decided to take a look at them in the binoculars, and we sure were glad we did.

Behind the deer was a large grove, and standing just a little way into the trees were three cow elk. We couldn’t believe it — we had to take a second look with the binoculars.

I had my gun, my tag and some orange and that was about it. Not thinking we would actually see any elk the first night, I was wearing shoes that were far from hunting boots, no jacket — just a sweatshirt — and it was wet and cold out.

But this was too good of an opportunity to let by.

The wind was blowing pretty hard and in the perfect direction to sneak up to the grove, where the elk were standing. The land wasn’t posted, so Cody and I started making our way along a small ravine for about half a mile until it ended at the base of a hill.

If the elk hadn’t moved, they were going to be just over the hill.

We started sneaking up the hill, eager to see if the elk still were going to be on the other side. We came to the top of the hill, and there they were standing 150 yards away.

One was bigger than the others, so that’s the one I decided I was going to shoot. She knew something was not right and was nervous, and it seemed like forever before the elk gave me a good broadside shot. She finally stopped, and I pulled the trigger on my .280 and then, she took off.

I was upset for a second, thinking I had missed, but she only made it a few steps before she started to stumble and then fell. I don’t know who was more excited, Cody or me, and it was just hard to believe that everything had gone so perfectly.

We walked up to her, and the cow elk was huge — way bigger than I had expected.

Then, the real work began, getting her loaded up and field-dressed, but it was all worth it. Thankfully, we were close to home, which made things much easier to get this done.

The elk weighed in at 500 pounds, field-dressed, and it sure is some tasty meat. So, this once-in-a-lifetime experience hunt is something I will never forget, mostly because things turned out so unexpectedly.

It was truly amazing, and I would just like to thank everyone who helped make this all come true.

Got a hunting or fishing story you’d like to share with readers? Send it to Brad Dokken, outdoors editor, at or by postal mail to Dokken c/o The Grand Forks Herald, 375 Second Ave. N., Box 6008, Grand Forks ND 58206-6008. Send photos, too, if available. Prints won’t be returned.