Harvey Huisingh’s most recent — and likely last — elk hunt started nine years ago when he was 72 years old.
It ended Dec. 18 outside of Cle Elum with a once-in-a-lifetime bull.
The 81-year-old Richland man began applying for special hunt permits in 2006 with the plan of accumulating enough points (each application earns points) for a quality final hunting trip.
“I approached everything I did (to prepare for this hunt) as the last time I would be doing it. It’s a huge stage in my life to give up my passion of 70 years,” said Huisingh, acknowledging that his aging body will no longer be able to keep up with the physical demands of the sport.
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The Navy veteran made a 100-yard shot in the Teanaway game management unit with his Winchester .270 rifle on a bull that appears to have the potential to rank in the top 10 in the state for a typical Rocky Mountain bull elk and may qualify for an all-time listing in the Boone & Crockett Club record book.
It’s a bull that every hunter is looking for. It’s that nice.
Taxidermist Tyler Ono
But gathering trophies isn’t why Huisingh started hunting as a teen. “I’m a meat hunter. A gatherer. I consider all the animals I’ve taken over the years as gifts to me from the Lord,” said Huisingh, who walks with a noticeable gait to favor the hip he injured after falling on some ice during his recent trip.
“The decades catch up to you,” he admitted.
It will be weeks before an official measurement of the antlers (eight points on one side and seven on the other) can be taken because of a required drying period. So for now, the only measuring that’s been done is to see if the mount will fit through doorways and down the stairs of his Richland home.
Kaye, his wife of 55 years, jokingly suggested he could saw off the antler tips if he had trouble maneuvering it into his basement man cave.
Huisingh chose Tyler Ono of Tri-City Taxidermy in Kennewick to do the shoulder mount of the monster elk. “It’s a bull that every hunter is looking for. It’s that nice,” said Ono.
This year, 12 special Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife permits were issued to hunt in the area known for its large elk herds. Last year 2,138 applications were submitted for the available permits.
After being selected, the retired Hanford worker started researching and scouting the best areas within the game management unit. He began sending emails in September to Fish and Wildlife employees. They helped put him in contact with property owners and members of the state’s Master Hunter program.
And then he started two months of prayer to help strip away the stresses of preparing for the adventure.
He corresponded with farmer and property owner Jim Hanson, also a master hunter, who agreed to be his informal guide during the winter hunt in the snow-covered Cascade Mountains. They met in late November to scout the area and for Hanson to introduce Huisingh to neighboring property owners.
Huisingh and family friend, Steve Lilla of Spokane, met Hanson for breakfast Dec. 17, the opening day of the 14-day season. Amid heavy snow, they saw two bulls, but weren’t able to get a shot.
They met Hanson early again the next day and were greeted with better weather. The local farmer had chores to do and left the pair about 10 a.m. A neighbor later called Hanson to let him know about a big bull spotted nearby. Hanson then called Huisingh, who was able to find the animal and make his shot.
I approached everything I did (to prepare for this hunt) as the last time I would be doing it. It’s a huge stage in my life to give up my passion of 70 years.
Harvey Huisingh, Richland hunter
“I’m glad everything worked right for him. It’s very satisfying to see him get one. I was really happy to be part of it,” Hanson said
Huisingh said he is deeply appreciative of all the help he received from Hanson and others, especially after getting the elk. “It was really a blast to see these people coming out the woodwork to help. I just really appreciate them,” he said.
Some used snowmobiles to help pull out the several hundred-pound animal. “One of the farmers even got his tractor mired in the mud,” said Huisingh.
He ended a lifetime of hunting adventures when he pulled his rifle’s trigger that December day. Huisingh said he walked up to the bull, put a hand on an antler and said, “ Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord.”
Then he wept in a rush of relief that Huisingh defined as the Lord showing him “peace,” and allowing him to carry on with the memories of “being part of what God created.”