Hundreds apply, but only 5 get tags for bull elk
The largest elk in North America can be hunted affordably in Del Norte.
The 15th annual Del Norte Roosevelt Elk Hunt hosted by the Del Norte Rod and Gun Club offers the average hunter a rare opportunity.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Mark Duarte, who drew one of the five bull-tags that are offered every year. Last year, 1,005 hunters applied for the tag.
Elsewhere, such tags usually cost a few thousand dollars, but Green
Diamond Resource Company, a timber company that owns the land used for
the hunt, offers tags for a few hundred dollars.
"Hunting's a tradition here," said Steve Bigham, vice president of
the club. "Green Diamond doesn't charge a lot to come on the property to
hunt because the owners are past hunters."
For most people, winning the tag lottery is "once in a lifetime," but
this is the second time that Duarte and his brother, Neil, have
ventured north to Del Norte County for this hunt.
The last time, 11 years ago, both brothers drew tags and bagged
bulls. This time, Neil Duarte is just here in hopes of transporting out
the desired Roosevelt bull, which averages over 660 pounds.
"We're after that big one - no little ones," said Mark Duarte, of
The Duartes said they appreciate the collaboration between the timber
company, gun club and the Department of Fish and Game that makes this
"Usually it's all about money, and they could sell this tag for
$10,000 a pop," said Neil Duarte, of Jamestown, Calif. "But they keep
this open for the hunter without the endless pockets."
For this hunt, hunters only need $400 and a strong resolve for
dealing with the thick-brush conditions.
"If you're going through this brush, you better have a machete,"
Bigham said. "It's a rainforest."
Mike Ronlund, who's been running the hunt since its inception, knows
the area well, but even he admits that the woods are dense.
"Everybody's seeing animals but it's hard to get on them with all the
brush," Ronlund said.
Despite the brush, four out of the five hunters with bull tags have
shot a bull since the hunt began Aug. 31. Seven of the 10 hunters issued
cow tags snagged success as well. The hunt ends Friday.
The Duartes hope to land another tag sometime because they say
Ronlund runs a great operation.
"He's up at 4 a.m. with the coffee ready," Duarte said. "The guys
that aren't hardcore hunters, Mike will take them out in his own truck
and show them around."
Bigham has never drawn a tag despite applying every year, but last
year he was able to go with his dad, who used to be president of the Rod
and Gun club.
Harvey Bigham postponed brain surgery when he scored a bull tag, and
although the father and son did not shoot a bull, they enjoyed a week of
hunting together before Harvey died.