Early Wednesday morning wandering through Don Holt's back yard in Pine, an elk encountered a yellow object swinging in the morning breeze. This huge 6x6 elk gave the object a toss and quickly became entangled in a child's molded plastic swing, which was secured to a large branch of the tree with nylon cord. The elk's antlers became entangled with the swing ropes. With a great fight, he was free of the tree, but in the process took with him not only the swing, but also the tree branch.
The elk was seen at the Pine Post Office, trying to mail this swing -- to somewhere in Colorado, according to Mike McManees, postmaster. Mike was familiar with this fellow since last week he was dining on Mike's apple tree -- not the least bit afraid of the family that watched.
Mike had one of the postal workers make a call to Arizona Game and Fish.
Henry Apfel of the Game and Fish department lives in Pine. He was summoned and the tracking began. It is not difficult to track an elk carrying a bright yellow child's swing high on his antlers and dragging a 6 foot long tree limb. He moved slowly, but he did keep moving. He wandered by the school where Kati Kienitz spotted him and ran to report the news to the office.
Crossing the highway a couple of times and crashing through a few fences, he tangled his hind leg, doing a bit of damage to his leg and his mouth. The trackers gathered at the Mormon Church parking lot on Highway 87 and Pine Creek Road and followed the elk on foot.
Apfel had his dart gun loaded and worked to get close enough to fire a good shot. By now, the elk had found a pond and fell or jumped in, but on trying to get out, found he was slightly encumbered. Apfel knew if he darted him while in the water, he could easily drown.
Mike Brandt was on hand with his digital camera and was able to get some good close up shots. Everyone in pursuit knew that the elk was not happy and could turn and charge -- and those antlers could do some serious damage.
Finally the elk got out of the water and Apfel got off a good shot. He only had one dart, so a call had been placed earlier for someone from Game and Fish to come and assist and bring more darts.
The well-aimed dart hit the elk in the hip, but he was not in any hurry to give up. He struggled and fell and rose again and fell.
Finally the trackers felt that the elk was drugged enough, so Apfel, now known as "Sure Shot Henry," assisted by Dave Richens, approached the elk and began working with the masses of tangled rope. A call went out for a sharper knife to cut through the heavy nylon cord.
Finally the antlers were free of swing, rope and tree branch. The elk was breathing hard, and raised his head, but was too drugged to get up. His wounds were checked but the bleeding from leg and mouth had stopped. Apfel was determined to remove the dart and finally succeeded.
The group of trackers gathered around the confused elk and joked about their successful hunt, but each was delighted that the elk survived, unharmed from his adventure.
Everyone left the scene, getting back to work, but Apfel and the other Game and Fish fellow, who arrived after the show was over, stayed and watched until the magnificent but slightly shaken elk got to his feet and wandered away.