Elk hunter scores the second time around

PONCA, AR (AGFC) - If at first you don't succeed...Horace Smith believes in the old adage. He kept trying.

And he came up with a fine 6x6 bull elk that weighed 801 pounds on the second day of the September 2009 elk hunt in Arkansas' Buffalo River country.

The hunt opened Monday, Sept. 21, and closes Friday, Sept. 25. Four hunters have bull permits, and there is a quota of three elk in a simultaneous elk hunt on private lands.

Smith is an attorney from Daytona Beach, Fla. He won an Arkansas elk hunting permit in 2008 at an auction of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. He didn't get an elk. But the experience was enjoyable, and the challenge was still there. Smith bid again this year for an elk permit and won again.

His permit was for Arkansas Elk Zone 3, most of which is the Gene Rush Wildlife Management Area of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

On the first day of the 2009 hunt, Smith got close, very close, to a large bull. But he didn't know the bull was just a few feet away from a brush pile where he hid. The bull detected Smith and bounded away before Smith could get into shooting position.

The next morning, Smith, hunting with Bert Haralson of Augusta, tried a portion of Gene Rush WMA called the Upper Pecan Field. It includes a wildlife opening created to improve habitat for elk and other animals.

There was a bull elk across the field, and Smith plotted a plan to get closer to it. Then, he said, "I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and there was this 6X6 bull on the edge of the field." The term means six points on each side of the elk's antlers.

Smith got his rifle into position and fired at 50 yards range. The bull was hit solidly but didn't fall. Smith fired again, and the elk went down. He was using a 7mm Magnum rifle, a Blauser bolt action firearm made in Germany.

Smith has hunted elk for a number of years in western states. He met Bert and Cheryl Haralson at Elk Foundation functions and heard stories from other hunters who had been with the Haralsons on Arkansas elk hunts. Smith and his wife stayed with the Haralsons at their cabin near Mount Judea in Newton County, close to Gene Rush WMA.

Smith isn't the only hunter to bag a trophy this week, two other hunters also have scored nice elk. Daniel Dickerson of Bryant took a 5x5 bull elk in Zone 2 and Mike Smith of Little Rock got a 5x5 elk in the private lands hunt in Zone A.

Arkansas is in its 12th year of limited hunting of elk. The big animals were restored to the state after an absence of well over a hundred years, with the first imports made in 1981. Today, there are 450 to 500 elk living in the Buffalo River area.

Another hunt is scheduled Dec. 7-11 when 22 hunters with permits will be in the field. The permits are free and are issued by random drawing at the annual Buffalo River Festival in Jasper each June. Applications, also free, for the permits can be made each year during the month of May, but these are for Arkansas residents only.

The AGFC donates two permits each year to the Elk Foundation for fundraisers, and 85 percent of the money generated is returned to Arkansas for elk program projects.