Super Hunts live up to their name in 2015

Dawn Paynter described her elk hunt with husband Jake and son Trevor, 6, as “a family affair.” The family adventure resulted in Dawn hunting a bull in December that scored 368 points, which exceeded her goal of 360.
Dawn Paynter described her elk hunt with husband Jake and son Trevor, 6, as “a family affair.” The family adventure resulted in Dawn hunting a bull in December that scored 368 points, which exceeded her goal of 360. Provided by Dawn Paynter

Super Hunt tags are available for deer, elk, moose, pronghorn and one Super Hunt combo, which includes one tag for each of those species.

They allow the bearer to hunt in any unit open for the species in which the tag is valid. Simply put, a deer tag is good for any deer hunt in the state, general or controlled, and ditto for elk, moose and pronghorn tags.

Super Hunts are considered “extra” tags, so if you already bought a tag, you can still win a Super Hunt.

Here are three stories from last year’s Super Hunts:

Idaho’s finest consolation prize

Gavin Moody of Boise was hoping for a Super Hunt tag for deer. Instead, he got the elk hunt of a lifetime.

In his second year of entering the Super Hunt drawing, Moody bought one entry each for deer, elk and moose. Much to his surprise, he drew the elk tag. Moody said he didn’t have a hunt in mind, but everyone he talked to recommended the Owyhee Desert and its famous elk herd that consistently produces trophy bulls.

On his first preseason scouting trip, Moody noticed a juniper tree that was stripped of bark about 10 feet up with 2-inch branches broken off.

“It was mangled,” he said.

Curious what caused it, he realized it was an elk rub, and later on that trip, he spotted a bull that may have been responsible.

“Oh my God, the biggest bull I’ve ever seen in Idaho steps out,” he said. “He’s got tips on the tail, and I was speechless. He was just incredible, something you dream about.”

He had to wait three weeks to see if the bull would stick around, and to his surprise, he spotted the elk in almost the exact same spot at daybreak on the first day of his hunt.

Unfortunately, the bull slipped into the timber in a spot that was unapproachable, and “that was the last glimpse I saw of him,” he said.

Moody was disappointed, but it didn’t last long. All around him he could hear bulls bugling, which continued for several days.

He and his wife, Monica Fackrell, were lulled to sleep each night by howling coyotes, and they woke to the sound of bugling bulls each morning.

“She was so excited to hear them rutting,” Moody said.

They also faced some tough early-season hunting conditions with hot weather and a full moon that seemed to make the animals nocturnal and delay the rut. But a storm midway through his hunt changed that. The elk became more active in cooler weather, and the rut kicked into full swing.

“Every elk on that mountain started talking again,” he said.

They saw elk daily, including bulls, and it was a rare chance for him to be selective and take the bull he wanted rather than the first one he saw.

“In general hunts, you see a bull, you put him on the ground,” Moody said. “This hunt gave me the opportunity to look at elk and judge them.”

They spotted a herd traveling along a ridge and got in front of it and waited for the elk to arrive. They heard multiple elk bugling around them, and before long, a bull wandered within 100 yards of them. It was a six-point, Moody said, but not the size of antlers he was seeking.

It walked away, and they could hear another bull approaching.

“This elk walked within 15 yards of us, bugling and carrying on,” Moody said. “You could smell him.”

But this one wasn’t big enough, either.

A third bull walked into view, and Moody said he was a monster.

“I’m thinking ‘Wow, this one is big,’ ” he said.

Moody was ready to fill his tag with this trophy bull, but after spying it in his scope, he realized one antler was broken off.

Then he passed on a third mature bull. Again, its antlers didn’t measure up, but that was about to change.

A few minutes later, a small herd of cows and calves wandered by, and a bull was trailing them. Moody waited for the bull to appear, and when he saw it, he knew it was the one he wanted.

“I didn’t count points, I just looked at the size and mass,” he said.

Moody had bought a Sako 7mm magnum rifle specifically for the hunt, and practiced with it so he was confident shooting out to 400 yards, but that long-range practice wasn’t needed.

“This elk died within 15 yards,” he said.

They held their position for a few minutes after ensuring the bull was dead, and watched as another one walked in and sniffed it, then turned and walked away.

He counted six bulls in the vicinity and figured his was the herd bull.

“It was just a fantastic hunt,” Moody said. “The number of big bulls was incredible.”

Moody said it’s his biggest bull elk ever, and regardless of how it ranks, the hunt ranked as his best.

“I haven’t scored him,” he said. “To me, the points don’t matter, it was the experience.”

Memora-bull hunt

Dawn Paynter and her husband, Jake, have long put in for Idaho Fish and Game’s controlled hunts, and five years ago, they added two Super Hunt entries to their annual applications.

In 2015, it paid off when Dawn’s name was drawn.

“I was shocked,” she said. “I couldn’t speak, and I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t know my husband had bought me 10 extra chances.”

Paynter lives in Caldwell and grew up in the rural Sweet and Ola area, and she spent her life around wildlife.

“I hunted some growing up, but when I met my husband that is when hunting really started for me,” she said. “We have a little 6-year-old boy who hunts beside us every weekend. We run hounds, so we bear hunt during the late spring, summer and early fall, cougar hunt during the winter and then we throw elk and deer hunting in the mix during the fall.”

Her tag was for elk, which is her favorite quarry.

“They are really smart and move so fast that you have to be quick to get a shot,” she said.

Dawn has a 315-class bull she got seven years earlier when she was seven months pregnant, and set her goals high.

“I knew I had endless opportunities to fill my tag and never doubted that I would harvest a large bull,” she said. “I wanted something 380 or bigger if I was going to harvest during the first month of hunting. If December came around, then I wanted one over 360.”

They planned to try Unit 40 in the Owyhee Desert because Jake knows the area well after growing up there and hunting cats in the winter. He also knows most of the ranchers.

“We started scouting the first weekend of August, and I harvested my bull the first weekend of December,” Paynter said. “It was four amazing months! We only took two weekends off.”

She described the hunt as a “family affair.”

“I had my husband and my 6-year-old son, Trevor, with me the whole hunting adventure,” she said.

They saw many bull elk and not only watched them but got to interact with them by bugling for them.

“To listen to each and every bull bugle and grunt and to know that there are no two bulls that sound alike was the most wonderful experience ever,” she said.

They saw numerous bulls, some as close as 5 yards away, and antlers ranged from spikes to big six-points.

“We probably saw over 100 bulls,” she said, combining their scouting and hunting.

With the season winding down, they headed to Unit 46 in December.

“Our friend had spotted this group of bulls, so we were hoping they were still there on Saturday morning, Dec. 5, when the hunt re-opened,” she said. “We met up with our friend, and sure enough, they were still over there. We just were not 100 percent sure how to get to them.”

They drove toward where they thought the bulls were located, but nothing looked familiar when they got there, so they went back and tried another road. They hiked to a vantage point and waited, and waited, glassing and wondering if the bulls had spooked, but saw nothing.

They returned to where they parked to see if they could glass the bulls again.

“I spotted the bulls running straight towards us. We stopped, got out and glassed them. We decided the back bull was a shooter,” Paynter said.

“They were running fast and had gone over the hill paralleling the road. We went over the hill and still didn’t have a shot. I made my way through the snow trying to set up for a shot. The bulls were still moving and were not slowing down. I pulled my gun up and shot free-handed and hit the bull.”

The bull broke off from the herd and Paynter tracked it for about a mile through the snow before finally ending her hunt with a prized bull.

“He scored 368 with two broken tines without any deductions,” she said. “I am very happy with my bull, as it was the largest bull we saw with minimal broken points. That was the hardest part of the hunt, finding a big bull whose antlers were not broken.”

No-regrets deer hunt

Fred Trenkle of Shoshone may be Idaho’s happiest “unsuccessful” Super Hunt deer tag recipient.

His story is unique for several reasons. First, when he found out he drew a Super Hunt tag, he admits he didn’t really understand it.

“I didn’t really know because I didn’t know anyone who had drawn one,” he explained.

A Fish and Game employee called Trenkle to tell him he won, and he asked if he needed to pick which unit he planned to hunt. He was informed he could hunt every unit in the state that has a deer hunt. That’s when the magnitude of the opportunity sunk in. Unfortunately, it would have to wait.

Trenkle drew his tag in 2014, and on the same day, his doctor spoke the dreaded words: “We have a problem.”

That “problem” led to a quintuple heart bypass surgery, but Fish and Game gave him a rain check for a Super Hunt deer tag in 2015.

With his heart repaired, Trenkle resumed his hunt. The 68-year-old Idaho native grew up in Shoshone during one of the finest periods of mule deer hunting the state has ever had.

Hanging in his man cave are antlers mule deer hunters crave, including antlers with spreads of 32 inches, two 35-inchers and mind-boggling 37- and 41-inch spreads. Those were the caliber of bucks he was seeking on his hunt.

“I said I am going to hunt until I see one I want,” he said.

Trenkle hunted 40 days in four units. He estimates he saw more than 200 bucks, including “some that were real tempting.” He had two bucks in his scope that were a few ounces of trigger pressure away from joining the others on his trophy wall. He passed on those, too.

“I figured what’s the worst that can happen?” he said. “They get bigger and some kid gets to shoot one?”

Instead of another set of antlers, Trenkle framed his Super Hunt tag and put it on the wall with his trophy deer heads, and he has no regrets.

“I had probably the greatest hunt you could ever have,” Trenkle said. “I was able to hunt 40 days and had a super time. When it was over, all I could do was grin at the memories.”

Roger Phillips is a public information specialist at Idaho Fish and Game and a former Idaho Statesman outdoors writer.