Ely teen girl bags a big moose
It was the third day of Minnesota's moose season, and all Kaitlyn Erchul had seen was rain.
"It was miserable," said Erchul, a 15-year-old from Ely.
She hadn't really planned to hunt moose this year when she put in for a license. She figured it would take years to get drawn in the annual lottery for moose permits.
"My dad had gotten [a moose], and he had applied for so long, I thought I might as well start now."
But she drew a license in her first try. She was hunting with family friend Sandy Thom, also of Ely, off the Echo Trail north and west of town. Kaitlyn's folks, Pat and Becky Erchul were sharing a camper with the hunters.
Thom, 47, spent opening weekend with the family but had to work on Monday, the third day of the season.
"On Sunday night, when I left camp, [Kaitlyn] said, 'Sandy, I'm getting a moose in the morning.' " Thom said.
On Monday, Kaitlyn was sitting in the rain on a rock ledge overlooking a large open area in the forest, she said. Her dad and her boyfriend, Shane Jarvi of Ely, were sitting with her.
"I sat and called and rattled horns together," Kaitlyn said.
At 15, she's an experienced hunter. She had shot a bear a couple of years ago and has hunted elk in Colorado.
"I've been hunting my whole life," said Erchul, a sophomore at Ely High School. "My dad's a great hunter. So's my mom."
She was calling with her own voice using a technique her dad had taught her.
Early that morning, Oct. 5, a bull moose appeared at the far edge of the clearing, a couple of hundred yards away.
"I watched it for over an hour," Kaitlyn said. "It didn't move at all. Then a second bull appeared."
The second one eventually moved off, leaving only the original bull. Finally, it stepped out enough to present a clear shot.
"It was right on the edge, behind a tree," Kaitlyn said. "I shot it in the neck, and it just dropped."
Minnesota's moose hunts are a once-in-a-lifetime privilege. Kaitlyn's was suddenly over.
"I was like crying, and my heart was racing," she said. "I didn't know what to do."
How about dad and Shane?
"They were, like, hugging me and laughing and freaking out," she said. "They didn't know I would be able to shoot it."
The bull had a 41-inch antler spread.
Kaitlyn, her dad and Shane used a four-wheeler to drag the moose from the woods. Then they called a friend with a wrecker truck, who hoisted it on the lift and drove it to Ely for registration.
The family plans to mount the antlers in a European mount, with a portion of the skull and the antlers intact, Kaitlyn said. And they'll eat a lot of moose this winter.
"There are 362 pounds of burger," Kaitlyn said. "And we still have steaks and roasts coming."
She has no regrets about not hunting moose in Minnesota again.
"It's good to get it over with," she said. "Now I can tell the story forever."