Last month in November, a Michigan hunter mistakenly shot an elk thinking it was a really big whitetail deer. Now, he’s facing some pretty hefty fines.

We spoke with Michigan DNR officer Lt. Gorno, who confirmed the incident, saying, “it happens every year, it’s foggy and hunters just get confused somehow, but it happens every year.” Lt. Gorno also confirmed the charges for such a mistake would be a $5000 fine plus a fee of $500 for every point on the elks rack. Talk about an expensive mistaken identity! The hunter brought the elk to the Atlanta, Michigan check station, where DNR officers told the hunter he had made a mistake.

“It’s one of those things we deal with case by case, but these things just happen unfortunately,” Lt. Gorno said.

Elk in Michigan have an amazing history, and the terrain in the area this mix-up occurred is especially prime for elk to range in. The bottom line however, whether this was an honest mistake or not, hunters should always be 100% sure of their target before pulling the trigger.

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49 thoughts on “Michigan Hunter Facing Huge Fines After Mistaking Elk for Whitetail

  1. I am at a loss here….how in the hell do you think that is a white tail???
    Idiots like this make me mad. Wonder if he shot a buffalo and call it a freaking moose! Seriously people know your freaking animals that you hunt!

    1. I’ve tried and tried to come up with that answer as well.. “Maybe it was brushy?” “Maybe it was 500 yards away and he could only see the kill spot?” “Maybe its not really as big as the pic makes it look?”

      still haven’t came up with one…..

      1. Maybe the man doesn’t actually know what an Elk or Deer look like.
        Considering he went to the authorities after committing the crime, I would have to lean that he had no idea what he did. He thought he bagged a big deer. Its got antlers like a deer, hooves like a deer.

    2. For arguments sake let’s start with the generosity of the DNR Officer’s statement; “it’s foggy and sometime people get confused”. If you take the phrase “benefit of the doubt” and be as wildly liberal as possible with the phrases intent, how does a person (note the lack of the use of the word hunter) get confused and shoot what they thought was a whitetail deer. Then find their kill and still think the same thing; “Oh boy I just shot me the biggest deer ever!”? Further, for arguemenys sake, an elk goes what roughly 2x the weight and height of a whitetail deer. Is he still under mistaken belief that he shot a deer? I guess he was so he takes it to a Michigan Check station to what, brag, show off and have it checked out? Somewhere this guy missed ever single hunters safety class, Michigan Outdoors episode, hunters magazine, etc… and very possible any Michigan history or science class in school. So now he’s facing a $9k to $10k fine for not knowing what he’s hunting.

      He could have done so many things differently.

      Guess it could have been worse… he could have mistaken the deer for a moose!

      1. We had an out of state hunter shoot and try tagging a red stag thinking it was a. Whitetail buck up here in maine. Not sure what happened. I guess the stag escape a game preserve. It dont seem so they could confuse either an. Elk or stag with the much smaller body and antlered whitetail

      2. As a “non indigenous species” the red stag and elk are different as well. I sure know the difference between the two, but many may not. I am just curious if a red stag in Maine escapes the “high fence and containment” of the rancher/farm that it came from, being non indigenous the hunter should not be fined for killing it if he was hunting in elk season timelines. Would you look into that and let me know? I am only curious, as I am from California and we have several game animals that we hunt in this state that are NOT indigenous and may be hunted all year long in some cases and no tag is required. One must have a valid hunting license in the state and of course permission of the private land owner that the animals normally reside. If say an animal leaves the location they normally reside and it gets harvested on an adjacent property, then no fines would be imposed. Thank you, for your time and consideration. I run a hunting business in California and we offer Sambar and Barbary sheep, aside from indigenous game of this state.

      3. I was told no charge s. Were brought against the hunter but what happens here is the rancher or game preserve has a time timeline in which they catch or cull the escaped deer for they aren’t native n they could affect the other deer and also if deer causes an accident then supposedly the owner could be held liable also as soon as an an animal gets out the department of fish and game need to be notified

  2. So exactly my point why put a doe permit on a less than a 3in spike dnr does and says what it wants u should know what ur shooting at a buck is a buck and a food plot Is Baiting enuf Said

  3. Hunters from the big city can’t tell a rabbit from a rat. We’ve had big city folk come to our rural area to hunt deer and shoot farmers cows.

  4. Wooooow…and maybe he is honest enough to say. “I screwed Up, I will gladly take my punishment like a man and pay what is due. But I will NOT waste the meat, therefore letting this majestic animal for in vain” I know I would. I bet there are more honest people out there.

    1. Good thing it was not another hunter carrying a set of rattling antlers. If it were I think maybe then you would find it hard to choke down on all levels.

  5. So what as long as he eats it .the fines are just a way for the communist ,tree hugging ,gun hating ,constitutional hating, liberal ,to get more money out of people that barely make it as it is.

    1. The fines are there because the elk population in Michigan is very low. The fine is a way to protect the animal so the number can grow. Once the numbers are at a point where they can be hunted regularly the fines with be gone.

      1. That will NEVER happen in Mich dude. The dnr keeps the elk numbers at 600-900 critters( goal). They may vary the permit numbers but u will NEVER see fines eliminated. And you dint get to keep the meat if you poached the critter. Mistake in shooting it ,well it happens every year. Turning yourself in ” usually” results in the dnr cooperating and dealing out lowest charges to you. Don’t cooperate with them and they will take your gun truck etc. That’s just the raw facts of it,not saying this as an opinion.

      2. James, Currently is there a Draw Only hunt for any Elk in the state in place at this time? In California, we have CA. Desert Bighorn Sheep, the numbers got so low, almost extinct, that a moratorium was place on hunting. I don’t know what year the ban was place, however after many years and actively monitoring and replacing animals in zones they were depleted, the numbers have risen sufficiently to allow drawing a tag. At this time, the number of tags issued state wide to any hunter making application is 20 and then possibly 3 are issued by Fish & Wildlife to be sold on an auction basis to raise funds specifically ear marked for Sheep Only in the state. This supports the biologists cost of monitor and flying for census etc. The hunting of sheep in California I believe was first offered in 1985 and to this day remains a Draw Only hunt as mentioned above. Can a limited draw be put in place for elk and then an auction tag be made available for also increasing funds to assist in monitoring the growth of the species? Just curious and hope that the idea helps.

    2. No sir, you are wrong. As a licensed hunter, my fees support Fish & Wildlife to do the job, protecting wildlife so we as Legal hunters may even have animals to hunt. It is fools that don’t know what they are shooting at, in poor visibility being NO EXCUSE. The fines help fund further conservation of wildlife and the services of Fish & Wildlife. If people just went out hunting to shoot at any time of the year to kill for food, we wouldn’t have any wildlife or game at all. It’s bad enough when we have illegal migrants and refugees in this nation that think they can do as they please and deplete the resources of our land, oceans and rivers. Also, identification is key, for any person entering the field in any season. I am not a liberal by any means, though from California, not a tree or bunny hugger, I love having guns and out Constitution. What I don’t agree with is that it is not the right of anyone needing food to just think they can go out and hunt and take on an “as needed” excuse. Meat is far cheaper in the market than poaching out of season or saying you didn’t know the difference between deer or elk. The guy needs to be fined and potential loss of license for a period of time and to retake a Hunter Safety Course including full test of identification of the different species normally listed as game animals.

  6. I have never hunted in my life… But I live in a rural area. NW Ohio and have seen many a deer up close, and from a distance.. In questionable visibility. Fog, snow, rain and just the Color marking should have given it away

  7. Should not be allowed to hunt. For. A long time. That way he will be able to study all the speices in Michigan n correctly identify them.

  8. Wow I’m very sorry to.say This but if she guy literally took this animal to.register it as a whitetail he should not be hunting. That is the most stupid hunter I ever heard of. Now shooting it is not the stupidity..I could see that but then not knowing that it was a elk after he shot it wow. That is dumb as he’ll and scary as hell

  9. Santa doesn’t come to my house because I sit on the roof Xmas Eve with my shotgun hoping to bag Rudolph the red nose reindeer.

  10. Growing up, our local DNR agent was notorious for checking out anything as a deer; one “hunter ” brought in a goat several times. Another claimed a donkey was a deer.

  11. No no no; if you cannot tell the difference between an elk and a whitetail IN THE FOG, then you have no business hunting. As a hunter, you should be able to identify all animals in the area where you are hunting. This person should, in addition to the fines, have to retake the hunters safety test (so he doesn’t shoot a person), and complete a recognition test of all hunted mammals, if he plans to hunt again. Firearm ownership is a right, hunting is not!

    1. Semaj…..
      would you find it more appropriate to have placed an IED in the woods and just waited for “whatever” to go near it?
      you have no right talking about hunters when your not one.
      free speech is wonderful , ain’t it

      1. Very funny…are you a mind reader? I am a hunter and as such a hunter should know what their prey looks like, only a moron would not agree with that. IED, you can put that up your A$$!!!

    2. Semaj, I fully agree. Know and be able to fully identify the game you seek. One never pulls a trigger, much less aims a loaded gun, rifle or arrow without first identifying the animal. This is the kind of thing that makes any hunter look ignorant and bad on the whole. After the fines and loss of license for a period of time, before every being able to have a license anywhere should have to take the State’s Hunter Safety Class and be tested especially in Wildlife species identification. If the visibility is poor, you opt to not take the shot at all. I have hunted Alaska for Dall Sheep, my experience after accessing the field and having a snow storm impede my ability to open my scope covers and be capable of seeing anything, even the animals that were only 100 yards in front of me, I opted not to shoot and wound something. I still have that sheep tag. The weather remained poor and we were unable to access game. That is what hunting is about, some days we are lucky and others not so much. I had a lot of money invested, travel from California, motels, flight to the hunting camp, license fees and tag. I didn’t get my ram, but I know I did the right thing to get off the mountain safely as well in the conditions of the weather in very rugged terrain. I am a 5’3″ woman. The choice is ours to pull the trigger or not. This man made a poor decision and needs to pay for it. He is also lucky in his mistake that a person was not shot, wounded or killed. You are exactly right, Firearm ownership is a right and privilege we have here in the United States and hunting is not an extension of that. Many people too are ignorant of just how fortunate we are here and having the ability to hunt. It is not so in many countries around the world. We don’t want to lose that at all.

  12. You people are so uninformed and so is the person whom wrote this article,the man shot the elk yes but he immediately realized his mistake and called the the DNR to dispatch a conservation officer out to the location where the incident occurred. He did not take it to a deer check station to have it checked out as the article refers to thats total crap. Yes he made a mistake but immediately did the right thing and turned himself in like any good sportsman should’ve. The article makes hunter’s in general look like we are a bunch of Elmer Fuds running around with guns in the woods. The conservation officers gutted and took the animal from the scene had it processed and donated the meat to charitable organizations and will most likely have it mounted and use it for hunter safety and education all of which will most likely be paid for by the man that shot the animal. This hunter did the second best hing he could have and turned himself in knowing he was facing thousand of dollars in fines and possibly jail ask yourself would you have done the same. Of course the first best thing would have been not to shoot but he did and has faced the consequences. Enough Said!!

  13. as a hunter, and as knowing this pos of a person I can and will say this, he knew it was an elk because he has hunted many years and knows that whitetail deer do not get that big, The rack was the wrong shape let alone size. and that as a hunter if you do not have a clear shot of your target you do not shoot He also knew he would not be able to put it in the truck bed and haul it darn near 200 miles home with out being busted. so he played the “I will say it was a mistake card” I hope he is never allowed to hunt again! To bad the POS was not drug tested at the time he was with the DNR!

  14. I hunt in California, The same thing happens here, people do not look at what they are shooting and want to pull the “I will say it was a mistake”. One can easily determine the difference between a 175 lb deer in our state from an 800 lb elk. Yes, we have elk here too and there are big differences between the two aside from size, color and antler configuration. The man in Michigan is not at all innocent in my estimation. Come on, how many years has he been hunting. He just wants 400 lbs of meat in his freezer over 75-100 lbs that he would only get on a deer. Whitetail deer in Michigan too are maybe 200 lbs or a bit heavier, but are not a 800-900 lb animal like an elk. Further a Whitetail deer color is more grey not dark brown. Horn configuration is up and foreward sweeping out over the face of a deer while an elk’s beams are tall and backward over the back of the animal. Don’t let this man off for the excuse, let him pay the fine and eliminate his ability to hunt in the future or for a period of time. It is men like this that give hunters in general a bad name. As a woman hunter, I take responsibility if I am shooting and I damn well know what my target is, long before I pull the trigger. I am only 5’3″ tall and whether I am shooting standing, sitting or prone, I NEVER pull the trigger without know full well the target is what I am hunting. There is no excuse. Let the fines be held to the fullest and allow for the collected funds to assist Fish & Wildlife to continue to do the job they do, as best they can. Support Fish & Wildlife and provide funds for them is a “win win”, not a slap in the face because some idiot who clearly should and likely does know the difference between a Whitetail deer or an Elk get off free. The hunter and any hunter, man, woman or child should know the animal identification before EVER PULLING THE TRIGGER. I am 61 years old and have been actively hunting since 1974. I have hunted in Alaska, Texas, Idaho, California, South Africa and Argentina for a variety of wildlife. The difference between a deer and an elk is huge.

    1. Thanks for the talk! I have hunted for 44 years, mostly whitetail deer. I have also hunted for black bear, turkey, fallow deer, pheasants, chukar, rabbits, feral hogs and wild boar. I have only fished Alaska, so far. With regard to whitetail deer, where I hunt there are antler restrictions-a legal buck has to have 3 points up on one side at least, otherwise just enjoy nature. I have hunted where elk were present and it was very important (short of poaching laws) that you know what animal was in your sights. This guy turned in with his mistake but it will still cost him. Yes the differences between an elk and deer (any deer) are huge! Sorry you didn’t get that ram…..stay safe (I don’t use my real name in these threads….)

    2. Rosemary,
      I am long time CA and a hunter/party shot a bull elk in A zone (north of Clear Lake) this season thinking it was a buck- verified from friend in the area and saw pictures of the elf in the back of F&W truck. A Zone blacktails- maybe 150#’s. These hunters where recent immigrants- not saying nationality, but obviously there needs to be some training on game animal identification. Somebody reported them and the F&W drove the area and finally found them. Haven’t heard fine, etc…

  15. Years ago in Minnesota, this car with Iowa plates pulled into a gas station where I was. He had this calf draped across the front fender(cars then had fenders for this piķurpose). He was so proud of it and we didn’t tell him what he had.
    He pribably had to move when he got back hime because of ridicule.

  16. What a dumb ass. If you don’t know what your shooting but take a shot anyhow then you shouldn’t own a weapon. The fact that their are people like this scares the hell out of the rest of us who are in the woods. What’s next, sound shots???? No excuse is good enough.

  17. Well, I am glad he brought the elk in, do give him credit for that. It may have been a very poor decision from a very non experienced hunter. We have many of those here in Michigan..Most cases like this the animal is left or hidden. Happens a lot in Michigan..Am sure this hunter is sick about the whole thing.

  18. If this moron really thought that tis elk was a whitetail deer, then he should have his hunting priviledges revoked for life. Dipshit

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