Lebanon’s Mike Graves has bagged four elk over the years on hunts in New Mexico and Colorado.
In October he will get a chance to collect one in his home state.
Graves, a 61-year-old mechanical contractor, is one of four hunters drawn last week for participation in Tennessee’s fifth annual elk hunt Oct. 21-25 on the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area. A fifth tag went to a hunter who bid for it on auction, and a sixth tag to a youngster for a Youth Elk Hunt.
“I feel like I won the lottery,” said Graves, who had submitted an elk-tag application each of the previous for years.
Despite the long odds – the four tags were drawn from among 10,343 applicants – Graves never grew discouraged.
“I’m one of those people that if you put on hold, I’ll wait forever,” he said with a laugh. “I figured I’d keep on applying and maybe eventually I’d get lucky.”
When it finally happened, he didn’t believe it.
“I got home from work the other day and my wife said I had a message to call someone named ‘Daryl Ratajczak.’ It was such an odd name that I figured it was one of my buddies messing with me, and I threw the note away.”
A couple of days later Graves was on his way to Caney Fork River to do some fishing when a friend called and said he’d read on Facebook that Mike was among those drawn for the elk hunt.
“When I got home I had another message from Ratajczak (the TWRA’s Chief of Wildlife & Forestry) and this time I called him back,” Graves said. “He told me I’d been drawn for the elk hunt, but I still wasn’t sure that somebody wasn’t just jerking me around. Finally it set in that I’d really been drawn.”
The three other hunters drawn by computer are Cookeville’s Timothy Collins, Knoxville’s James McDonald and Soddy Daisy’s Ronnie Gibson. The auctioned tag went to Knoxville’s Tommy Daile who submitted a high bid of $8,700.
Following the Oct. 21-25 hunt, the second annual Tennessee Young Sportsman Elk Hunt will be held. For the second time, a girl won the Youth Hunt tag – Laurel Allen, of Jacksboro.
Last year all six participants killed bull elk.
Although Graves has successfully hunted elk out West, he said hunting them in Tennessee will be different.
“I really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “The hunts I went on in New Mexico and Colorado were at high mountain altitudes, and the Tennessee hunt will be on totally different terrain.”
Graves has invited hunting buddy and renowned taxidermist Foster Butt of Gallatin to accompany him on his hunt.
“I’m already getting excited about it,” he said. “To get a chance to hunt elk in Tennessee is something special. If I get one I’ll have the head mounted, and I’ve already planned the inscription: ‘Killed in Tennessee.’”