Grygla man bags 7-by-7 bull north of Lake Bronson
By Anna Jauhola
After 19 years of applying for an elk tag, a Grygla man finally experienced the hunt of a lifetime in Kittson County.
Gavin Nordby shot a 7-by-7 bull elk north of Lake Bronson during the state’s annual hunt on Sunday, Aug. 23. Until 2012, Nordby had applied for an elk tag for the Grygla area elk herd. But, when numbers in that herd dwindled, he began applying for the Kittson herds. This year, he got his letter.
“As soon as I knew I’d been drawn, I spent six to seven times up there scouting,” Nordby said. “I got to know as many people as I could, just grabbing the phone book and not being afraid to call.”
Although Grygla is about 90 miles from Lake Bronson and Kittson elk herd territory, Nordby said it felt an awful lot like home. The woodland surroundings are similar, and so are the people. He said the landowners with whom he became acquainted were welcoming and kind, and excited he got the big one.
“Without all their help, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Nordby said. “Having access to all their private land, there was so much more area to scout and to know where all the elk were.”
He specifically thanked Randy Coffield, C.J. Peterson and Bruce Sandahl in a social media post for their help in organizing his hunt.
Nordby headed to Kittson County and C.J. Peterson’s hunting cabin the evening of Thursday, Aug. 20. He took Friday morning to scout where he’d hunt on Saturday and Sunday.
“I ended up coming upon 84 elk that day,” he said. “So I thought it was going to be pretty good. I found the bull that I shot.”
However, Saturday, Aug. 22 came along and it was like the animals knew a hunt was on.
“All day Saturday, from where I could actually, truly shoot an elk, I saw five,” Nordby said with a small laugh. “A little 5-by-5 and four cows.”
Sunday, Aug. 23, however, was a different story. He couldn’t see anything.
A heavy fog rolled in and hung around most of Sunday morning. Nordby ventured out anyway, starting in Brian Carlson’s soybean field where he carefully made his way toward some tall grass CRP land where he saw his target herd. The fog had lifted somewhat, but still provided some cover.
“I had to sneak up a half-mile on them, crawling on my hands and knees a couple of different times to sneak between the thickets,” Nordby said. “He had 30 other elk with him,” he added about his trophy bull.
The hunt was like a maze. He spent much of the time crawling in the tall grass to avoid cows and even a rival bull.
At one point he had his scope trained on the 7-by-7 bull, but “between the sweat and mosquitoes and everything, my heart was pounding enough where I could see my heartbeat in the crosshairs. I was at 420 yards.”
He crawled to the next thicket and a “little” 5-by-5 lay between Nordby and his final target.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t going to happen. I can’t take this shot,” he said.
Once more, he carefully made his way around the 5-by-5 to the next thicket. The bull didn’t even move, let alone see Nordby as he crawled by.
When Nordby reached his destination, he found the 7-by-7 staring right at him with his head tilted back.
He trained his scope on the creature and pleaded for it to “turn broadside.”
“What seemed like minutes was probably 45 seconds to a minute,” Nordby said, breathless. “He finally did turn broadside and that was the rest of the story. I got him, and I was happier than heck. It was an amazing experience.”
After he felled the bull and revelled in the moment, he called up his wife, son and family.
They came to the site and Nordby’s dad helped him quarter the animal, which they took to the Newfolden locker plant. They tried the meat last week and said it’s pretty tasty.
Once a person’s name is drawn for any elk tag, they cannot be drawn again. The elk’s head will hang in the Nordby household, a reminder of his once-in-a-lifetime experience. But also as a reminder his wife and son still have a chance for the same adventure. Each of them will continue to apply for elk tags as they did this year. Should they be drawn, Nordby plans to accompany them – with a camera instead of a gun – and continue to cultivate his newfound friendships in Kittson County.