BLOMKEST, Minn. — Scott Groen’s farm in Kandiyohi County could grow great corn and soybeans. But his primary crop is signature elk, namely “super bulls” which he delivers to hunting ranches in the Southwest which sponsor big game hunts.
Currently in his 22nd year as an elk farmer, Groen’s involvement with elk started as a hobby. “But once I got into marketing bulls for super hunts it didn’t take long for this to become our primary income,” he said. “I’ve got about 100 head. My heifer calves are mostly replacements for my older cows. I raise the bull calves for the trophy bull business. Plus, some get sold as breeders to other elk farms. I also sell bred cows and heifers.”
Groen also harvests the velvet from elks’ antlers. He estimates the first four to six years of a bull’s life covers the cost of production. He doesn’t sell the meat. “There’s just no money in elk meat,” he said.
Once your elk have built a reputation, trophy bulls for hunts are a good business. Last year Groen marketed about 25 bulls to various trophy hunting ranches. This coming year he estimates he’ll sell about 14. He sells to the same hunting ranchers each year, hauling his bulls in a five-stall bedded trailer to Missouri, Texas and Colorado.
“This has become a competitive market,” Groen stated. “You’ve got to have a reputation. Many hunting ranches don’t trust some elk producers. Today, the bigger demand is for smaller to medium-sized bulls. Not everybody has the bucks to shoot the big trophy critters. There’s three to four times the money difference in shooting a 300-inch bull versus a 500-inch super bull.
“For my bulls with a 320-inch rack I’m averaging $4,000 to $5,000 delivered,” Groen added. “I don’t know what the rancher charges for a super hunt on his ranch. I’d wager it could be in the $20,000 bracket and higher for a big bull with a super rack.”
He estimates that for every 500-inch trophy bull harvested, there will be 50 guys shooting a 320-inch bull.
His herd’s reputation originates from the genetics of King, a super bull which was crowned National Champion 15 years ago. King scored an incredible 506 inches and produced over 50 pounds of velvet. Frozen semen from King continues to be the breeding power of Groen Elk Farm.
His elk cows start calving around May 25. His herd has a reputation for strong, fast-growing calves.
“Because we do the velvet, we’re harvesting antlers on bulls up to 7 years old,” Groen said. “Some of my cows I’ve had up to 17 years.”
On April 1, a dozen University of Minnesota pre-vet med students visited his ranch.
“First time visit to an elk farm,” Groen said. “They asked lots of questions. They seemed to appreciate this new chapter in their education.”
As you might expect, Groen Elk Farm also attracts students from area schools. Visitors even see buffalo since he finishes out some buffalo for the buffalo meat market.
To learn more, visit www.GroenElkFarm.com. Those interested in visiting the farm are encouraged to call ahead at (320) 979-0911.