THEY got lucky.
They could have shot more, but they only killed what they needed.
That's what aboriginal hunter Ron Flett said Friday about the shooting of 12 elk on private land in the Duck Mountain area shortly after Christmas.
Flett said he was one of 12 hunters at the scene who took an animal each.
"The way I see it, there was 12 treaty hunters feeding their families," said Flett, who lives in Birch River, about 35 kilometres north of Swan River.
"We were lucky enough to tag out. It's not that normal to get that many animals. A lot of time we'll go and we'll be lucky enough to get one. A lot of times we don't even get one.
"That morning, when we looked out we ran into about 100 of them. We just took what we needed. There was 12 of us, so we took 12. We didn't shoot 20 or 30, which we could have, but we didn't. We just took what we went there to get. When we get more than one shooter, it doesn't take long to knock them down."
A cellphone video and photographs of the elk kill, recorded and posted by his son, Riley, on his Facebook page, set off a firestorm on the Internet as critics alleged the dead animals were a symbol of irresponsible hunting.
Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship officials launched an investigation into the authenticity of Riley Flett's video and whether any illegal activity occurred, including to see if bait was used. Baiting elk is prohibited for all hunters in Manitoba's chronic wasting disease and tuberculosis protection zones.
Critics also used the incident to call on the province to do more to protect the province's elk herds, which are being hunted more frequently because of bans on moose hunting in some parts of the province.
The bans were imposed to allow moose numbers to increase. Besides hunting, moose numbers are down because of winter ticks and predation.
"Now that moose are closed, we've got to take a few more elk than we normally would," Flett said.
Flett said the hunt took place on private land where there were old alfalfa bales.
"Any farmer has bales laying out on their fields. If the animals come to them, well, I guess that's their option, but they're not put out there just to get them in there."
Flett also said he and the other hunters were careful to shoot what animals they needed.
"There are some bulls there, some calves and some yearlings and a couple of cows. People made it out that we went out and shot a bunch of pregnant cows. That's not correct. Those were dry cows. We didn't find any calves when we gutted them out."
He also said he and others walked through the area afterwards to make sure no elk were wounded and ran into the trees.
"We were satisfied that there none that were wounded, none that we could find anyway."
Flett said he and landowner Les Nelson met with media in Swan River and with Natural Resources officers to set the record straight about the hunt.
"Hopefully we can put this whole thing to rest," he said. "It's been blown all out of proportion. It's all over the Internet and people are commenting and some pretty rude comments are being thrown back and forth and there are accusations that don't need to be there."
Flett said if he were white, he and his family would not be criticized.
"If this was one of those wilderness TV shows, where they record their hunts and stuff and they're selling videos on it, nobody says nothing. But when it's First Nations feeding their families, everyone jumps on it."
He said the 12 animals have been processed and the meat is being distributed to family members.
None of the meat is being sold.
"There was nothing wasted. Natural Resources can confirm that. They did their investigation and took a look. As First Nations we don't waste anything. We make everything count."