Thirty years ago, Tim Schuckman spent many days hunting turkey, deer and upland game birds in the hills of the Bordeaux Creek unit while a student at Chadron State.
He reveled in hearing the Pine Ridge bull elks bugling, but never thought he'd get the opportunity to hunt the majestic animals. Back then, the herd was small and the animals were protected.
But now the herd is strong at 2,600 and growing at 15 to 20 percent a year, said Kit Hams, Big Game Program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks.
Still, Nebraska residents have just one opportunity to take a bull elk in the state. After three years of entering the lottery, Schuckman's name was finally drawn.
“I never dreamed I would be able to go back to Bordeaux and take a bull,” he said.
Hams encourages hunters to get experience in other states before hunting Nebraska.
“You get one chance,” he said. “It's better to be prepared than to waste a tag.”
Schuckman has had lots of experience. He's already taken five bulls on hunts in Colorado and Wyoming.
He scouted areas in the Pine Ridge for weeks before stepping into the woods. He had several options for locations to hunt and money in the bank should he need to rent private land.
“I was going to hunt Metcalf (WMA), but the fire moved through there,” said Schuckman, the chief financial officer of Jennie M. Melham Memorial hospital in Broken Bow, Neb.
He wanted to hunt public land, but knew he might have to rent land to make for a successful hunt. He scouted a private ranch prior to the season.
“It's a once-in-a-lifetime permit, but if I wanted to stay married I had to stay around $1,000,” Schuckman joked.
Most elk hunters choose to hunt private land, despite large tracts of public land available in northwest Nebraska.
“In 2011, only a half dozen elk were taken on public land,” Hams said. Last year, 170 elk were harvested in Nebraska — 90 bulls and 80 cows and calves.
Finally, Shuckman's big day arrived.
As the sun began to rise, he heard a bull bugle. He answered with a cow call.
“He let out a roar. It echoed through the canyon,” Schuckman said.
Moments later, the 54-year-old father of three had a clear shot at 56 yards.
“He ran 15 yards up a hill and tipped over,” Schuckman said.
The mature bull green scored at 340. Schuckman's brother, Jeff Schuckman, a Game and Parks fisheries biologist and taxidermist, measured the massive trophy.
“I hate to guess at a weight, but when three of us tried to move it a few feet up the hill we couldn't budge it,” Tim Schuckman said.
He was assisted in the field by his son, Ben, and longtime friend Dann Scofield.
Schuckman credited his preparations and a bit of luck for the successful hunt.
He also shot a Boone and Crockett-class pronghorn while hunting near the Green River in Wyoming this year.
“It's been a very good year for me,” Schuckman said.
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