It’s a big-game trifecta!

All three winners of the 2011 Pure Michigan Hunt drawing scored on bull elk during the 2011 hunting season.

John Martin of Lindenand Bruno Brun of Ann Arbor both took bull elk during the early days of Michigan’s traditional December elk hunt. The third Pure Michigan Hunt winner, 56-year-old Randy Willis, a registered nurse from Augusta, was the first of the trio to score an elk. Willis took his bull during the second half of the first elk season, back in September.

The Pure Michigan Hunt allows hunters to participate in every limited-license hunt in Michigan. The winners, who purchase chances on the hunt ($4 apiece) and are chosen by lottery, can hunt elk, bear, antlerless deer, and turkey, as well as get the first choice for a hunting area at one of the daily drawings at one of the Department of Natural Resources’ managed waterfowl areas.

Martin, a 41-year-old stay-at-home dad, killed his 5-by- 5, 450-pound (dressed) bull on the second day of the December season. He’d hunted in August and September – and had several near opportunities – but either passed on them or couldn’t quite get the shot he wanted.

In December, that changed.

Martin was hunting with another fellow when he saw three bull elk walking along a ridge. When they came into an opening, the other hunter squeezed the trigger just a micro-second before Martin, did, causing Martin to pull his shot a bit, he said. The elk swapped ends – but didn’t spook – and Martin made a successful shot seconds later.

Martin, who is a waterfowl hunter by inclination, said the Pure Michigan Hunt gave him an opportunity to explore big-game hunting.

“I had wonderful experiences,” he said. “Just awesome.”

Earlier in the year, Martin killed a 250-pound bear in the Dead Stream Swamp to fill his bear tag. Now, he said, he hopes to volunteer to help out next year’s Pure Michigan Hunt winners.

“I feel like I have to give a little bit back because I’ve been given so much.”

Bruno Brun, a 51-year-old plant manager, had an experience similar to Martin’s. He passed up one opportunity and had another close call during the early elk season, but scored on the second day of the December hunt with a 5-by-5 bull that field dressed at 660 pounds.

Brun was hunting in the Gaylord area when his party noticed a group of elk working through the woods. Brun picked out one of the animals and began stalking it.

“It took a while but eventually he presented a shot,” Brun said. Brun said the 5-by- 5 had a broken tine, but otherwise was a very nice trophy. “I’m sure you can get a bigger one, but it was a good animal,” he said. Earlier in the year, Brun killed a 360-pound bear, hunting behind hounds. Brun said the Pure Michigan Hunt was both “a great opportunity and a great experience.” Martin and Brun took advantage of the reserved waterfowl hunting opportunity, too. Both hunted at Fish Point State Game Area and reported enjoyable, productive hunts. Willis, of course, didn’t need the December elk season. He hunted elk the first four days of the season in August and saw one small bull, but decided to pass on it. “One of the advantages of the Pure Michigan Hunt is you get a chance to come back later,” Willis said.

When the early season resumed in September, he came back. The elk were bugling and responding to the call and Willis, who had hoped to take his bull with a bow, had a close encounter on the second evening when a 5-by-7 bull came within 45 yards of him.

“He was bugling, just screaming at us,” Willis said. “It was storybook.”

But 45 yards wasn’t close enough for him to try to take with an arrow, Willis said, so he let the bull walk. Later that evening, he saw a nice 6-by-6 moving through an opening at 250 yards. Willis put down his bow, picked up his .300 Mag., and when the elk stopped, he shot him.

Willis also took a bear during his Pure Michigan Hunt adventure. Willis hunted for 12 days over bait in the western Upper Peninsula. He said he saw a lot of bears, but was holding out for a record book-quality animal. But on the last day of his hunt, he took what he called “an average bear,” and was happy with that.

Willis hunted opening day of waterfowl season at Shiawassee State Game Area.

All three hunters are good advertisements for the Pure Michigan Hunt, which will be held for the third year in 2012.  The $4 applications help build the DNR’s Game and Fish Protection Fund while providing the opportunity of a lifetime to the three lucky winners.

Pure Michigan Hunt applications are on sale at all license vendors or on-line at through Dec. 31. Winners will be announced in January.

And, in case you’re interested, all three 2011 winners said they plan to purchase chances for the 2012 hunt, too.

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