Elk Hunting photo

Fourteen-year-old Robert Goodner of Polk County, Tennessee, has two reasons to be happy this hunting season. Not only did he beat the odds and draw the only youth elk-hunting tag in the state this August, but on his October 26 hunt, he harvested what is likely the biggest elk taken statewide this year.

Goodner told Nooga.com that he hunted with his grandfather, Scott Thomas, and retired Cleveland police chief Wes Snyder. Goodner and Thomas made several trips to Tennessee’s Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area to scout, but the first day of their hunt was disappointing. “The only thing we saw all day was two turkeys and a mink,” said the boy, who only had two days to get his trophy. “I started getting worried,” he said. “I had a hard time sleeping.” Sunday would make or break his hunt.

So, on Saturday night, Thomas called the area’s land manager, Steve Bennett, who offered up a tip on where he’d heard a bull bugling. The trio made their way into the woods under cover of darkness, set up on the field Bennett recommended, and waited for legal shooting light. “We had to wait 11 minutes,” Goodner said. “That was the longest 11 minutes of my life. I put my phone on dim and just stared at it as every second ticked down. As soon as it turned 7:22, I stood up and started walking toward the field.”

The three hunters eventually spotted the bull, but it wasn’t alone. There were two cows and a calf nearby, so they elected to take the shot rather than risk spooking the animals by stalking closer. “In one fluid motion, Robert opened his shooting sticks, settled the gun and boom,” Thomas said. His grandson added, “He stopped, and I was about to shoot him again when he just fell over.” The bull, estimated to be 8 years old, had six points on one side and eight on the other, and had a field-dressed weight of 646 pounds.

Since his hunt, Goodner’s become somewhat of a celebrity at his high school, sharing the photos on his iPhone with the staff and students. Even with all that recognition, he insists his success was only because he had help from others. “I want to thank my Papaw, Mr. Snyder, all the TWRA agents and everyone else who helped me,” Goodner said.