ENTERPRISE — Hunting is more than a seasonal pastime for Mike and Kari Frolander. It’s an ethical responsibility to the animals they hunt, an art as well as a science, and an important skill set that they take pride in.
He’s harvested a deer almost every year in his 54 years of hunting, and taken more than 30 elk in the same time period.
“That’s better than the average,” he said.
She has taken 19 big game animals in their 13 years of marriage. All of her takes have been one-shot kills. And Mike’s grandson, Dylan Frolander, is on his way to true hunting prowess. All of them hunt for meat rather than trophies.
“I believe that a hunter has a responsibility to the animal they kill,” Mike Frolander said. “People should be sportsmen. We aim to be proficient with our weapons.”
The Frolanders take pride in taking their quarry, whether elk or deer, with one shot, minimizing the animal’s trauma.
“We won’t take a shot if we don’t have a 90% plus chance that it’s going to be lethal the first time,” he said. “If we can’t get that kind of shot, we don’t shoot.”
Mike Frolander grew up as the son of a hunter. His father, an oceanographer at the University of Washington and later a founder of the Oregon State University School of Oceanography, built rifles, carved his own stocks and spent as much time as possible hunting and fishing in the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
“I started going on hunting trips to the Wallowas with my Dad in 1960 when I was seven,” Frolander said.
In 1981, Mike Frolander had what he called his “banner hunting year” on a trip up the Minam River into the heart of the Eagle Cap wilderness with his father and friend Oregon Game Commission research Director John Rayner.
“I killed my biggest elk and also my biggest buck up to that date in 1981,” he said. “I would leave camp that was at around 4,500 feet about an hour before daylight and hike up to about 8,000 feet plus, find a track and then try to follow it. The bull that I took in 1981, I found his track at about 8,000 feet.”
Frolander followed the bull’s tracks down to river level, more than 3,000 feet below.
“When I got close to the river, I was in a lodgepole patch,” Frolander said. “The bull’s track stopped, and he kind of milled around in that spot. He was trying to decide where to go. I looked up, and about 300 yards away through the lodgepoles, I could see my dad and John Rayner hunting up the trail. That bull had seen or heard them.”
The bull elk headed up a drainage and Frolander took a steep shortcut to get ahead of him.
“I didn’t go more than 200 yards and I saw antler tips coming up out of the creek drainage,” he said. “He walked across in front of me at 70 yards, which was a fatal mistake.”
Mike’s wife, Kari, is also a staunch believer in the one-shot kill. To prove her point, her two hunting rifles each bear a colored dot for each of her one-shot takes. The Winchester .270 has 24 such marks, of which 19 are big game animals and the remainder are varmints. Much of her hunting has been on the 230 acres they own at their home on the west end of Alder slope. Those kills include a cougar and three bears.
Like Mike, Kari is a patient hunter.
“We had one whitetail buck up here that I hunted for seven years before I finally got him,” she said. “We named him ‘Morph’ because he’d morph into darkness like whitetails do, and it wasn’t until he was a very old deer that I was able to take him in the legal time a half-hour after sunset.”
Kari estimated that “Morph” was about 11 years old at the time.
“He didn’t have any teeth; he didn’t have much meat on him. He was an old, old deer,” she said.
Over the years, Frolander introduced his son to hunting. Now his grandson, Dylan Frolander, of Enterprise, is following in the family boot-steps.
“I took him hunting the first time when he was 12, and made sure he was proficient to 100 yards with a 30-30. I took him buck hunting and he took his first buck right here on my place,” Mike Frolander said.
Dylan’s first elk hunt happened the same year in December after some significant snow had fallen.
“He had an antlerless tag and we tracked elk up the hill here in the snow,” Frolander said. “They eventually bedded down. They were just laying there chewing their cud having a grand old time.”
The two snuck within 70 yards of the elk, and then they waited and waited for one to stand up so Dylan could get a clear shot.
“We stood there for more than an hour,” Frolander said. “I was getting pretty cold. It was in the teens.”
He told Dylan to set up the tripod for his shot just outside the thicket they were using for cover. That did the trick. One elk stood up. Dylan fired once and 20 elk fled the scene — all except for the one that Dylan had downed with one shot. He’d made a one-shot elk kill and he was only 12 years old.
Although Mike and Kari Frolander now do much of their hunting on their own 230 acres, they remain adamant about the ethics of the hunt.
“It’s important to know the maximum range you can hit a kill zone on the animal that you’re hunting,” Mike Frolander said. “Be proficient with your weapon of choice. And respect the wildlife.”