Luck of the Draw

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La Grange hunter gets tag on first draw, harvests elk on first day of season

By Melissa Blankenship

  Some Kentucky hunters might go their whole lives without drawing a tag to hunt bull elk. Ali Powell, La Grange, got one on her first try.

  “My husband had been putting in for years to hunt elk,” Powell said. “When it was time to do it this past year, I told him to put my name in, too. It was the very last day to register.”

  Powell, who is relatively new to hunting, was surprised to learn that she had earned a first-week, bull elk tag for the firearm season, arguably the most coveted draw.

  “My husband called and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this. You got picked,’ ” Powell said. “I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until I looked it up online and saw that only about 150 of those tags were issued from over 60,000 applicants.”

  Powell, who started out shooting clays with her husband, had only been hunting for a short time and had just a few squirrels under her belt as quarry. She’d been turkey hunting, but had yet to bag a bird. She didn’t even own a rifle, and had just recently given birth to her third child.

  “My first thought was that I had to get in shape,” Powell said. “Then I thought that I hadn’t even shot a high-powered rifle yet. I had work to do.”

  Powell took the opportunity seriously.   She and her husband, Chris, picked out a new rifle and the couple began practicing. They shot at Open Range in Crestwood, Knob Creek Gun Range in Louisville and on a family farm in Buckner. Then the novice hunter got another lucky break.

  “We were talking to our gunsmith and he told us about a coalminer from Leslie County who helped him out on a cow elk hunt,” Powell said. “He told us this guy, Jake Napier, might help us with our hunt.”

  Napier did help Ali and Chris. He picked out a camp site, showed them some trailcam images of elk they might be able to hunt, then acted as a guide to lead the hunt.   Chris camped in the area Thursday night.   Ali joined him Friday and the hunt began in earnest Saturday morning, opening day, on public land.

  “We went out in the morning and heard some bugling and some shots, but we didn’t see any elk,” Powell said. “When we were making our way back to the truck, some other hunters drove past us who had gotten their elk. I thought they were huge, and I just hoped I’d get a chance at one, too.”

  Powell wouldn’t have to wait long for that chance.

  After lunch, the trio planned to meet up and move deeper into the woods. As they were driving to the new location, Napier came racing up on a four-wheeler excited to share the news that a large elk had been spotted nearby and if they hurried, they might see it.

  They raced to this new location along a coal mining road with a steep berm on both sides. Powell was hoping she’d be able to peek over the berm and see the elk from there, but instead she ended up crawling down the berm and walking deep into the woods. Finally, Napier spotted the elk they were looking for.

  “All I saw were antlers. His body was behind some brush,” Powell said. “Then he moved forward some and his neck was exposed, then I saw more of his body.”

  At first Powell was unsure of her shot, a difficult one downhill and through brush, but decided to pull the trigger. She downed the elk in one shot.

  “I was shaking and the guys were high-fiving each other,” Powell said. “I was so excited I started walking straight up on him and I saw seven on one side and thought he was bigger than I thought.”

  Powell’s elk would measure out to be a 7 by 8 with a green score of about 330. She’s had the meat processed and the head mounted.   The couple, who live in La Grange with their three children, have no idea where they’ll put her trophy yet, but are sure to enjoy it.

  “My husband was so excited for me. He’s always been such a supporter and loved that I’ve gotten involved with shooting clays and hunting,” Powell said. “It’s something that we got to enjoy together.”

  Powell said she’ll put in for an elk again, although she’ll have to sit out three years for a chance at another bull elk tag. For now, she’s excited about the prospect of turkey and deer season and looking forward to the day when her children can enjoy hunting as well.

  “I think it’ll be fun to do it with them and Chris. It’s just fun to be outside and have fun together,” Powell said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

  Powell added that taking several months to practice and learn gun skills helped her gain confidence before the hunt and when she took the shot. She and her husband continue to shoot together and have a little rivalry going, but her oldest daughter thinks that score has been settled.

  “My oldest Anna brags on me,” Powell said. “She says, ‘Mommy, you’re better than daddy. You got an elk!’ ”

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