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'Hunt of a Lifetime' Concludes with Trophy Elk

Tommy Horton (second from left) of Ahoskie, N.C., poses with his trophy elk bull with his wife, Stefanie, guide Sam Mars III (next to Horton) and Steve Mars alongside.
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Tommy Horton could hear the elk bulls bugling as the first beams of sunlight peeked over the hills on a brisk, windy morning Oct. 1 in southeastern Kentucky.

Horton was filled with excitement as he and NWTF Board of Directors Vice President Sam Mars III, along with Mars' brother, Steve, began the trek to the top of the hill where Sam had spotted the elk herd during numerous scouting trips in the prior month.

Horton, an Ahoskie, N.C., native and NWTF member, had won a rare tag for "The Hunt of a Lifetime," donated by Molpus Timberlands Management LLC, in a NWTF nationwide drawing. The prize included lodging and Sam's expert guidance.

"It was more than I expected," said Horton following what turned out to be a hugely successful hunt. "It was something everybody needs to do if they have a chance. There's nothing like it."

Finding a prize bull took a little time. When the group reached the top of the initial hill, they saw no elk. Another hill, no elk there, either. Unable to spot a bull, the trio eventually sniffed one out. While spotting a cow in a ravine, they also detected a strong bull scent in the Leslie County air.

Knowing they were close, Horton and Steve Mars proceeded to the top of a hill while Sam stayed behind to call. Sure enough, as Horton and Steve Mars approached the top of the hill, they spotted a bull about 400 yards and two hills away.

The duo quickly ducked out of sight, eventually continuing down to the next hill, where they waited for the bull to turn and provide a better shooting opportunity.

Horton felt a chill through his spine while watching through the scope of his gun as the bull bugled at cows below. As his harem descended the hill, the bull took one step to turn broad side.

Seeing the opportunity, Horton squeezed the trigger, dropping the bull only 20 feet from the road and making retrieval simple for a hunt that required only 40 minutes. The bull, a 6 x 7 that weighed an estimated at 900 pounds, will be mounted and brought to the 2012 NWTF Convention and Sport Show in February in Nashville, Tenn.

For Horton, it was a fitting conclusion to what he described as "the hunt of a lifetime!"




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