Krista Miller Nisly will have a hard time topping the events of the past several months in her life.
From late June to early December she became engaged, turned 22, won an elk-hunting permit, got married, completed a hunter-education course, practiced with a rifle, went deer hunting with new husband Brandon, then killed a 5X6 bull elk — her first hunting success.
Nisly lives at Harrison and is a Mennonite.
When she attended the required orientation for the December elk hunt participants, she wore a long skirt and the traditional lace head covering. But when the hunt began at daylight the next morning, Nisly displayed another Mennonite trait — she worked hard at it.
Nisly told Celia DeWoody of the Harrison Daily Times, “The first day I was a pretty bad sport,” she said. “We did lots of scouting and stalking, walking up and down these huge mountains, and not seeing anything.”
This went on for four days, then Nisly killed the bull elk close to sundown on that fourth day. She was hunting in the Richland Creek valley, the most productive area for the December hunt.
“We found this place about 8 in the morning,” she said. “We saw four cows going across a field, so we went around to the top of the mountain where they were heading, but we didn’t find the elk. We ate lunch and took a little nap. Then we went out and fixed up a little spot. We were hidden in some cane.”
They stayed in the canebrake, standing still and watching, for about 2-1/2 hours, until it was almost dark. “Then they (the elk) came from the left, about 40 yards in front of us,” she said. “They didn’t come out from where we were expecting. I saw a bull, and I didn’t care how big he was. I thought, ‘I’m just gonna shoot something.’”
The scope on her 30-06 rifle was focused for distance, and a bull stepped out much closer to her than she had expected. “I couldn’t find it in my scope because it was so close,” she said.
“I didn’t pull the trigger real slow,” she said. “But I pulled the trigger, and BAM! It fell down. I hit it a little high, in the shoulder, on the top side of the vitals.”
Krista and Brandon field dressed the elk and with help from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel, got the bull elk loaded and went home. Much more work was ahead for them. They butchered the elk themselves, winding up with a large supply of meat for the table.
Krista Nisly is now a hunter, and both she and Brandon are probable applicants for future Arkansas elk hunts.
Of the 23 hunters who had public land permits for the December elk hunt, just 11 were successful. On the private land portion of the elk hunt, 19 hunters got elk.
This year was the 13th for elk hunting in Arkansas. The hunts are in two segments — five days in late September with four hunters, five days in early December with 23 hunters in recent years.
Elk were re-introduced into Arkansas beginning in 1981 after an absence of well over a century. They live in the Buffalo River county of northern Arkansas. Thousands of persons apply for the free elk hunting permits each year, with only a couple of dozen issued through a public drawing on Jasper’s courthouse square during the Buffalo River Elk Festival in late June. One permit is reserved for on-site applicants at the festival, and this was the permit Nisly won in 2010.
Viewing the Arkansas elk is a year-round activity, especially in Boxley Valley of western Newton County. Visitors from Arkansas and many other states see and hear the elk along Arkansas Highways 43 and 21. Best viewing times are early morning and late afternoon.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.