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Notching his elk tag for 65 years only part of what makes Jim Kujala a consummate hunter

Rich Landers, The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) on

Published in Outdoors

"Luck -- sometimes," he said.

"Also, knowing what habitat the elk prefer," he continued as I dug for more details. "and studying a hunting area well enough to know what they do, where they feed, where they bed, the routes they travel ... it all play into success."

So does his commitment.

"I came close to not getting an elk in 1966," he said. "The herds had migrated through our area (in Montana) early and none showed up later. I hunted 21 straight days while working swing shifts and finally got my elk on the last day of the season.

"Still, you can't overlook luck. My brother and I were hunting together that day. When we came to a big tree, Roger went to one side, I went to the other side and there was a bull. Luck was on my side. I got it."

That also was a memorable season because it was the last year the Kujala family had horses to haul elk out of the national forests where they hunt. In the past 50 years, they've packed out their elk by human muscle power.

 

"Our family hunted deer and elk as our main source of meat when I grew up," he said, noting that hunger can be highly motivating.

Some fine mounts hang on Kujala walls, but mostly he hunts for the table. The majority of his kills are at ranges close enough for head or neck shots with minimal bloodshot meat. He uses it all.

Growing up on his grandparents' homestead in the Big Hole Valley, Kujala killed his first buck deer at age 12 with a .22 caliber rifle. At age 13, he tagged his first elk.

"I was with my dad when he killed a bull," he said, "so while he took care of it he gave me his rifle and let me and my 10-year-old brother go hunting."

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