An Elk Trifecta for Southeast Tennessee Hunters

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Tens of thousands of Tennessee hunters put their name in for the drawing for 2018 Tennessee elk hunt permits. Only 15 were selected, including three hunters from Cleveland and Chattanooga. All three, Scott Thomas, Hunter Munck and Charlie Hall, were successful. (Photos Contributed)

Nearly every big game hunter in Tennessee knows all about the rare opportunity to hunt elk in Tennessee. Since 2009 the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has issued a very limited number of permits to hunt Rocky Mountain elk in Tennessee. In the beginning only five bull elk permits were issued. This year there were a total 15 permits issued for the season that ended Friday (Oct. 19).

Brad Miller, the TWRA wildlife manager who oversees the elk hunt, said 12 out of 15 elk hunters were successful this season. Most amazing was that seven out of seven archery hunters all took a bull elk while only four out of seven gun hunters were successful. Last year only three archery hunters were successful.

Miller said, “It was great to see the success of the archery hunters. The bulls were very responsive to calling and the hunters made the most of their opportunities.”

Three Southeast Tennessee Hunters Succeed

Three of those elk were taken by hunters in Cleveland and Chattanooga – Hunter Munck, Charlie Hall and Scott Thomas.

In 2014 Scott Thomas’s grandson, Robert Goodner, was selected for the single juvenile elk hunt permit and was successful. This year Thomas bought two tickets in a raffle for a one of the 15 elk permits. His name was drawn out of more than 22,000 tickets purchased. (Photo Contributed)

It requires a huge stroke of luck to be selected for a rare elk hunting permit. Amazingly, Scott Thomas’s grandson is Robert Goodner, the young man who was selected for the juvenile-only elk permit in 2014. Thomas was there when young Goodner took his elk.

Turnabout is fair play so this year Goodner, now 18 years old, was there when his grandfather took his elk on Oct. 13.

“I was so glad Robert was there to share with me like I was there to share with his,” said Thomas.

Thomas won his permit in the raffle sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation. He bought himself two $10 raffle tickets and out of 22,484 tickets sold, he was selected.

Thomas spent nine days scouting on the Royal Blue Wildlife Management, nearly 200,000 acres of wilderness northwest of Knoxville. It is broken into specific zones for the elk hunts and Thomas was gun hunting in one of the best elk hunt zones on the area. He admitted that it seemed pretty definite he would take an elk. It was more a matter of which one.

“Me and Robert had a bet on who would get a bigger bull,” said Thomas.

He said he and his grandson were scouting the day before his hunt. Standing in the middle of a large field Thomas bugled (blew his elk call) and a bull immediately bugled back.

“Let’s get over to the wood line and see if we can see him,” said Thomas to his grandson. But before they could move Goodner said, “There’s horns coming over the hill. Get down!”

The two flattened down in the sparse sage grass as the huge bull came within 40 yards and then wandered off.

“We couldn’t sleep very much in camp that night after that encounter,” said Thomas.

The next morning at sunrise the two were hidden behind a plow left in the field.

Scott Thomas was there when his grandson, Robert Goodner, took his Tennessee elk in 2014. He said it was very special to have Robert at his side when he took his elk last week. (Photo Contributed)

Thomas bugled and his bull responded immediately, coming within about 80 yards when Thomas fired his .308.

“When he went down me and Robert were jumping up and down. I had to go hunting for my glasses after they flew off my head,” said Thomas. “Having my grandson at my side made it all perfect.”

Nobody won the bet however because Thomas’s bull, a 6×8 (antler points), was the exact same size as Goodner’s elk taken in 2014.

“It’s a very humbling experience,” said Thomas. “It was better than what I really deserve. All the guys with TWRF as well as Brad Miller and all the other TWRA folks do an incredible job. It was just a surreal experience.”

Hunter Munck Takes a Monster

It is unofficial but biologists believe that the bull elk Hunter Munck took with a crossbow might be one of the largest, if not the largest, ever taken. Since 2009 hunters have taken 53 bull elk in Tennessee. (Photo Contributed)

Hunter Munck, 22, also from Cleveland feels the same way.

Munck took his elk on October 1 in Zone 7 with a crossbow during the archery-only segment of the elk hunt. Munck said they believe that his elk, a 9×7 that scored 365, may be the largest elk ever taken since the hunts began in Tennessee.

Assigned to Zone 7, the 15,000-acre Tackett Creek North zone (Zone 7), Munck said he didn’t get to scout at all before the seven-day hunt. He spent his first day just scouting without seeing or hearing any elk, with the same result on Sunday and Monday morning.

“We moved to a totally different area Monday evening and immediately starting seeing lots of sign,” said Munck. “We were walking down a trail overlooking a large field and stopped to bugle,” said Munck. “Before I quit bugling he was already answering. We spotted him about 650 yards across a valley. He bugled eight or ten times as we snuck toward him.”

The Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area northwest of Knoxville, where elk have been restored, included nearly 200,000 acres of rugged terrain that hunters like Hunter Munck must navigate. (Photo Contributed)

When they had approached as close as they dared Munck called again.

“It sounded like a herd of cows stampeding toward us,” said Munck. “He was knocking trees down. It was so fast and so surreal I didn’t really have time to get shook up too bad.”

He said the huge bull stopped a mere seven yards away but was facing him where he didn’t have a clean shot.

“He spooked but not real bad and stopped about 40 or 50 yards out,” said Munck. “I made a good shot, hit him and he piled up about 75 yards out. To say I killed such a huge Tennessee elk… I’ll be telling my kids, my grandkids and everyone else. It was definitely the hunt of a lifetime.”

Charlie Hall Scores Too

Charlie Hall from Chattanooga was selected for one of the best elk hunt zones available. He said he captured photos of several excellent bull elk on the trail cameras he placed prior to the actual hunt. (Photo Contributed)

Charlie Hall, the owner of ACES, a nuisance wildlife removal service from Chattanooga, took his bull in Zone 1 the exact same day as Munck.

“I scouted every weekend after the August drawing until the hunt,” said Hall. “I put out several trail cameras and got lots of photos. I had three really nice bulls on camera. I called one big one up within 15 yards while we were scouting.”

Like Thomas, Hall admitted he wasn’t too worried about killing an elk. It was just a matter of getting the good one he wanted.

“I worked really hard up to that point,” he said. “I’d walked ten miles a day several days scouting.”

On Oct. 1 he bugled early in the morning. The big bull he wanted bugled back and entered the field about 80 yards away.

Hall’s partner whispered, “There he is. He’s a giant, he’s a giant.”

Hall was positioned where he could not actually see the elk’s body but he could see the huge  antlers sticking up above a hedgerow as he approached.

“We had seen some cows pass through this opening so I knew he was going to go through the same opening about 30 yards away. I drew my bow back about two steps before he got into the opening.”

Hall’s shot flew true. He said the huge 7×6 bull that weighed in at 734 pounds went down about 120 yards away.

Total Numbers

This year’s elk harvest means there have been a total of 53 bull elk taken since hunting began in 2009.

For more information about elk in Tennessee, including a live webcam, go here.

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