A North Dakota man arrowed an absolute giant of a bull elk recently while hunting in the state’s northeastern badlands with a hard-to-draw tag. Thomas Sitzer tells F&S that he’d been chasing the bull on and off since the opening day of North Dakota’s elk season when he finally shot it on September 11. He green scored its giant rack at just over 360 inches B&C—about 28 inches shy of the state’s typical archery record.
Sitzer says he gathered intel from local landowners about the bull’s whereabouts in the run up to the season. There are seven elk hunting units throughout North Dakota, and tags are awarded to residents via lottery on a once-in-a-lifetime basis.
“I have a good friend that owns land in the area, and he sent me a picture of the bull the night before the season was about to come in,” he says. “I went up and scouted that night and was there on opening morning. I didn’t see him that morning, but I came back later in the evening and spotted him right as he spotted me from about 120 yards away.”
Sitzer says the big bull trotted off after he saw him on the evening opener, so he left the area and waited a full week for a more favorable wind before heading back to try again. “No one saw him for about a week and half,” he says, “then early one morning my buddy called me and said, ‘Hey, the big bull isn’t back, but there are some bulls and cows that showed up this morning.’ I went and sat that evening and, sure enough, elk started showing up; I think he was the fifth one that came out.”
Sitzer says he’d reluctantly decided to sit in a well-placed ground blind at the beginning of the evening hunt. He was still in it when elk started filing out of a nearby treeline into the field in front of him. “I had a cow and two calves come out, and then a decent 6×6 that was probably 300 inches,” he recalls. “That 6×6 was dogging the cow when the big one came out.”
The bigger bull ran the 6×6 off in short order then quickly walked into bow range. Sitzer drew his Hoyt RX-7, but the monarch wouldn’t stand still long enough for a good shot. “At one point he ran right by me at five yards, but I couldn’t shoot because he wouldn’t stop” he says. “Then he stayed within 100 yards of me for an hour.” More bulls came out into the field during that time, he says. Each time the big bull chased them away.
Finally, he used a few well-timed cow calls to pull the bull away from its competitor and back into bow range. He let loose an arrow as it was standing broadside, exactly 40 yards away. The bull ran about fifty yards, bedded down, and died within a matter of minutes.
The elk herds of northeast North Dakota inhabit a mix of agricultural lands, rolling prairies, and heavily-timbered riparian coolies. Sitzer says that North Dakota Game and Fish believes there are approximately 200 elk in the unit where he killed his massive bull, but he thinks there are probably more.
A native North Dakotan, he’s now tagged out for the rest of his life—unless the state’s tag system changes at some point in the future. “Being born and raised in North Dakota, I never really saw many elk before I got the opportunity to go out and chase them,” he says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”