Back in July, Ryker Copp of Warren, Minnesota drew a coveted tag to hunt elk in northeast Minnesota’s Kittson County. Last Sunday, September 24, the young hunter made the most of his rare opportunity, shooting a giant 8×10 bull that green scored 390 inches and dressed out at nearly 1,000 pounds.
Ryker’s Dad Jerred tells F&S that he and his son began preparing for the once-in-a-lifetime hunt shortly after the the draw results were announced. They were scouting and securing permission on private lands by late August, but they didn’t see the enormous bull that Ryker would eventually shoot until one week before the season came in.
“He was two miles south of where we ended up killing him the first time we saw him,” Jerred says. “After a slow morning hunt on Saturday, his grandfather and I went out and helped him set up the ground blind in a new spot.”
The father-son duo was sitting in the 2-person Primos ground blind around 6:30 p.m. that evening when the big bull they’d seen one week prior showed up. It was bugling as it walked out of the woodline, Jerred recalls. Then it lingered about 100 yards beyond rifle range for roughly 30 minutes.
They looked on in amazement and tried to remain calm. When it finally got to within 359 yards, Jerred told Ryker to click off the safety and pull the trigger on his .300 Weatherby Magnum. The teen handled the big-calibered gun like a pro. The shot was true, and after a quick follow-up, the elk dropped where it stood.
“First shot hit him good, but he was still standing,” Jerred says. “I said put another one in him, and that was that.” The big bull isn’t Ryker’s first wall hanger. Jerred says he’s killed two nice whitetails in the three years he’s been out hunting. At 10-years-old he shot a 12-pointer that scored 168. He also has a 142-inch whitetail buck to his name. “He does it all himself,” Jerred says, “from the range finding, dialing the scope, everything.”
Elk were all but extirpated from the North Star State as early as 1900. The first reintroduction attempts were made in 1913 when the state legislature appropriated $5,000 to revive Minnesota’s ailing herds. Despite those early efforts, sustainable breeding populations weren’t fully established until the 1980s when elk from Manitoba crossed into Minnesota and began calving in Roseau and Kittson Counties.
There are two separate elk hunting zones in Minnesota, and tags are awarded to residents only via an annual lottery draw. Jerred Copp says there were roughly 3,800 applicants in this year’s draw, and Ryker drew one of only 5 available tags in Zone 30. “For the most part, the biggest herds are up in that Cairbou area where Ryker shot his,” he says. “They do cross back and forth into Canada as well.”