RaisingElk

Shelia Krukowski, left, and Darrell Turek own Turek’s Arctic Hillcrest in Montgomery, Minn., where they raise elk. They have around 250 elk on their farm after starting out with just two decades ago.

ONTGOMERY, Minn. — On top of a hill, slightly outside of Montgomery, a farm sits.

The farm got its name, Turek’s Arctic Hillcrest, from the blistering cold winds that blow during a January morning.

However, the elk who occupy that farm have no complaints.

Co-owned by Darrell Turek and Shelia Krukowski, the farm has been in the Turek name for more than a century, focusing on dairy and crops.

Turek continues to harvest crops, but didn’t continue the dairy lifestyle. Nor did he continue raising whitetail deer, something his father started more than 25 years ago.

The couple raised the deer for a while as well, but didn’t find it to be enjoyable. Turek, though, did have an interest in raising elk. So he sold the whitetails and purchased two elk from a Missouri farm.

The elk, now numbering 250, are “docile” animals, according to the couple. They’re relaxed, Turek and Krukowski said, because of the constant human attention they receive.

Turek and Krukowski enter the pens every day. Even their 3-year-old daughter feeds the elk — she calls them “her boys” — with her pink bucket.

Seeing the animals is thrilling, according to Turek, who said elk are naturally curious animals.

“People are just amazed when they come down and look at the group of bulls that we’re letting go to hard antler,” Turek said. “They really love seeing that.”

Newborn elk will weigh about 35 pounds. A cow can weigh about 500 pounds and be about 6½ feet from nose to tail, and a bull can weigh 700 pounds, while stretching 8 feet from nose to tail.

Each year, Turek and Krukowski slaughter 10 to 20 elk, depending upon demand. They sell a variety of meat products and velvet pills. Their products can be purchased directly from them by phone or email. Odenthall Meats in New Prague and Traxler’s Hunting Preserve in Le Center also sell the meat.

While government-mandated testing and paperwork can be hectic, the couple says the connection with the elk makes it worth it.

So close is the connection that once Turek heard a calf crying in the pasture.

“Normally a cow, if you went near that calf, it would probably kill you,” Turek said. “I mean, they are very protective. You are a predator. They will take you out.”

Turek entered the enclosure, and with the cow watching over, he picked up the calf. The cow followed Turek and the three entered the handling facility where Turek discovered the calf’s front legs weren’t working properly, making it difficult to nurse. So Turek approached the cow, who allowed Turek to milk her and feed her baby.

“She stood there, she didn’t kick, she just kind of looked over at me, and that was it,” Turek said.

The following day, Krukowski attempted the same maneuver, but was rejected by the cow.

“She didn’t come attack me either, but I went to grab her udder, to fix it to move the calf up,” Krukowski said, “and no kidding, she took my sleeve, grabbed it (with her mouth), and moved it away like, ‘no, where’s (Turek)?’ As gentle as she could be, she moved it.”