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Hunters give baby elk second chance at life

(NBC News)

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Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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IDAHO — A pair of young hunters in Idaho set off into the woods to try to hunt down a giant bull elk. Instead of hunting an elk, they ended up saving an elk's life.

Brant Hoover and Jeff McConnell were hunting near McCall, Idaho, last month. They've been hunting all their lives, but with this hunt, their skills were put to the test. They were in the right place at the right time to give a baby elk a second chance at life.

"I got into archery when I was about five and that has kinda been my passion," Hoover said.

It was an overcast day in September when they set out for an area near McCall.

Got right up to it and that sound was just crazy. She was actually slapping her head and neck into the mud I think to use it as leverage to get out.

–Jeff McConnell

McConnell said they took a break from hunting when they started to hear a slapping sound. They followed the noise to find a calf elk stuck in the mud and crying.

"Got right up to it and that sound was just crazy," McConnell said. "She was actually slapping her head and neck into the mud I think to use it as leverage to get out."

And the baby's mom was panicking nearby.

"She probably got 40 to 50 yards from us but then went back into the trees," Hoover said. "It was crazy because you could hear her pacing back and forth."

The guys knew if they were going to help, they had to do it quickly. They somehow found leverage in the mud and used all their strength to pull her out. But the scared baby calf made it difficult to rescue.

"We both fell on the ground, and really the only way the calf had to go was either right between us or right back in the mud. And it jumped right back in the mud," McConnell said.

It was going to be harder than they thought. But the hunters just had to try one more time to be successful.

Hunters give baby elk second chance at life
Photo: Jeff McConnell and Brant Hoover

"You are pulling (the calf) out and (the mud) is pulling your boot off at the same time," McConnell said.

"She stood up kind of slow like I can walk again and walked back at us and kind of trotted off and then got to the trees and just kind of took off like crazy," Hoover said.

The hunters said anyone else could have walked away, but for them, leaving her was not an option — a lesson they said they learned from their fathers.

"Anybody that is in the woods, there are two types of people, the ones that will (help an animal) and the ones that won't," Hoover said. "You never know until you're there."

Hoover and McConnell didn't get their elk this season, but they said they walked away with something so much better — a hunting story really worth telling.


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