A fourteen year-old Missouri girl mistook a buck she spotted in bushes for a large white-tailed elk, and she pulled the trigger, landing the large bull with a single shot.
According to the Chillicothe Gazette, she quickly realized she misidentified the animal, texting her dad a picture.
Elk are extremely rare in that area of Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation says the nearest captive ranch heard is more than 200 miles from where the girl shot the elk, and there were no reports of escaped animals.
The girl, Abby Wilson, isn’t facing any enforcement actions for her accidental kill.
Chillicothe Gazette reports:
“She called her dad, who was hunting nearby, and her dad realized it was an elk,” said Tom Strother, protection regional supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “The dad called our agent in Boone County, Adam Doerhoff, and said ‘we think we just shot an elk’.”
Doerhoff said he was surprised to get that call and thought it probably wasn’t an elk, noting that animal misidentifications are very common.
“The dad sent me a photo to my phone and it was very clear that, yes, that’s an elk,” Doerhoff said. “You don’t expect to see something like that. I’ve learned to never say never.”
The animal appeared healthy and was quite heavy. It took five men to load it into a truck.
The Missouri Department of Conservation plans to run several tests on the carcass. DNA tests might confirm where the animal came from. Conservationists are interested in how the elk ended up in a place where sightings are extremely rare.
It’s possible that the elk came from a reintroduced herd, but there were not tags.
The conservation agency seems satisfied that the shot was accidental. Furthermore, the girl’s father contacted them immediately after seeing that the animal was in fact an elk.
Chillicothe Gazette continues:
Missouri currently has no hunting season for elk, though MDC is growing a herd in southeast Missouri after reintroducing elk to their native habitat at Peck Ranch Conservation Area in 2011.
[…] “Our elk biologist wants some parts to figure out where it may have come from,” Strother said. “There are no reports of elk in this area. It was kind of a surprise to us. There was no evidence of any ear tags or collars on this one.”
Strother said there is a ranch that has captive elk near Columbia on the west side of Boone County, but MDC has had no reports of any of those animals escaping.
“Hopefully folks in this area will share any trail cam photos they might have showing an elk,” Strother said. “It looked like it was a really healthy animal. It was a 4-by-4 bull, meaning there were four points on each antler.”
Strother said the circumstances of how the elk was shot are still being investigated, but so far there have been no enforcement actions against the young hunter.
“She saw antlers, she saw the body. She thought it was a deer and took the shot,” Strother said. “This young girl probably had never seen an elk in the wild before. The dad certainly did the right thing by immediately calling us.”
It is important for hunters to remember not to take a shot unless they’re sure their target is a legal deer. But the young girl made a simple mistake, and from a distance it can be easy to do so.
Chillicothe Gazette reports that the elk’s meet may be donated to a needy family, and the CWD may use the elk’s antlers to educate hunters on properly identifying animals.