MARENISCO - A long wait paid off for a Marenisco hunter in Michigan's elk hunt.
Lucia Pairolero and her husband-guide, Frank, applied for Michigan permits to hunt elk for 20 years before Lucia drew one this year.
The big day came for her last Saturday in the Gaylord area of the lower peninsula.
On opening morning of the hunt, about a half hour into the season, Lucia bagged a six-by-seven (horns) bull elk that dressed out at 665 pounds in the Atlanta area. The live weight was estimated at 750 pounds.
"We had scouted that area and didn't see any signs of elk," she said Tuesday.
"I was hunting on private property and shot this bad boy with a .25-06, which me and my husband affectionately like to call a girlie gun,) and a .115 grain Federal Trophy Bear Claw bullet. One shot was all it took to put him down," she added.
Around 250 elk permits are drawn each year out of about 33,000 applicants.
Michigan's native elk disappeared around 1875. Today's elk herd dates to 1918, when seven Western states animals were released near Wolverine. From that reintroduction, the elk herd grew steadily to about 1,500 in the early 1960s. They reached the point where limited hunting was possible in 1964 and 1965.
During the late 1960s, several factors kept the elk herd below its biological potential for population growth, including reduced habitat quality, according to the MDNR.
The herd also was hit hard by poaching. There were only about 200 elk in the winter of 1975.
In the late 1970s, renewed public interest in the elk herd was spurred by oil exploration in the Pigeon River area of the elk range. Reduced poaching losses, habitat improvement and successful management of hydrocarbon development resulted in an increase in elk numbers to 850 by 1984.
As the herd grew, problems increased with forest and agricultural damage. To bring the herd in better balance with natural food supplies and the needs of landowners, elk hunting resumed in 1984.
The DNR's goal now is maintaining a winter herd of 800 to 900 elk.