When the pickup truck rolled into the parking lot of the deer check-in station, clerk Joe Glick didn't even get all the way out of the store before he knew that was no Bambi in the bed.
"All we had to do was see the horns sticking up over the side of the truck," said Glick, who checks deer that hunters bring to Scott's Sporting Goods during deer gun season. "We knew that wasn't no deer."
The consensus was that the animal -- much larger than a deer -- was an elk.
So Glick sent hunter Todd Tomlin on his way, and he called Christopher Rice, the Ohio Division of Wildlife officer assigned to Union County.
"I didn't believe it," Rice said. "I thought Joe was messing with me."
But Rice knew Tomlin was an experienced, skilled hunter. If he had something out of the ordinary, it was worth a look. Rice met Tomlin at his Milford Center home.
"Sure enough, it was a bull elk," Rice said. "A big one."
Rice called his supervisor, who called his supervisor. Everyone tried to figure out what to do with it.
Turns out, Tomlin gets to eat it.
Tomlin, a 45-year-old truck driver who's been hunting for more than 30 years, was hunting with permission on private property along Inskeep-Cratty Road in the southwestern corner of Union County about 8:30 Monday morning when he saw three does in the distance, followed by a small buck.
He couldn't get a shot. Then, he saw something brown, with a big set of antlers under cover of the brush and weeds.
He fired once with his 12-gauge shotgun and hit his mark.
"It was trotting, its head up, like it had been spooked," Tomlin said. "I had just a split second to fire."
He saw the dark hair on the animal's belly, and no white on the tail, and knew he had something that would turn into the hunting tale of his life.
Rice said there are no regulations that prevent Tomlin from keeping the meat.
Every December, one or two hunters bag something that's not quite a deer, said Lindsay Linkhart, Wildlife Division spokeswoman. She said the animals usually are a mix of a deer bred with something else.
Elk aren't native to Ohio, and obviously they aren't regularly roaming the state's farm fields and wetlands. So the animal most likely was either purchased and then brought to an area farm or bred locally and then escaped from a pen, Rice said.
The elk was shot near the Logan-Champaign county line. Local authorities say a man who lives just across the county line in Champaign County raises elk, but he could not be reached yesterday.
The kill didn't count toward Tomlin's bag limit; he gets to shoot and tag a deer during the remainder of the season if he can, Rice said.
The head of the animal has been sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture for disease testing as a precaution. If there's any way to get the head back to Tomlin, they will, Rice said.
Tomlin wants to have the 9-point rack mounted, and he's having the rest of the animal processed for the meat.
It dressed out at 350 to 400 pounds, Rice said: "I just told him to cook it to the right temperature, just like he would hamburger from Kroger."