One of the unique things about keeping a record book for all the biggest trophies in history is that it connects hunters’ stories from all generations. It’s no different when you sit down to open the Boone & Crockett world record book for trophy elk, which has giants from last year and last century, side by side.
It really does connect you to a different era, when Colorado miners like John Plute never thought about keeping elk antlers to hang on a wall, much less have them officially scored. It’s a good thing he went back to get the rack in 1899, since it would end up being the No. 1 typical bull elk in the world for a half-century. One can only imagine how many other world records are buried in someone’s basement or barn.
It also reminds us how things have changed, as was the case with the reigning No. 1 bull of all time, killed by Denny Austad in 2008. Austad paid $170,000 for an auctioned tag in Utah, had access to any season he wanted and hired a team of guides to track the now infamous “Spyder Bull.” It wasn’t popular with everyone in the hunting community, but it sure makes for one heck of a story.
What makes elk hunting so great are the stories we walk away with after the hunt is over. And what makes record books so great is that they capture these stories for centuries to come, often reminding us of our rich hunting heritage. So with a toast to the last 125 years of elk hunting, and a little help from our friends at B&C, we proudly bring you the 20 biggest elk of all time.
20. Lawrence Sanchez
New Mexico hunter Lawrence “Boss” Sanchez was knocking down big bull elk in the 1960s way before it was the cool thing to do. He killed this 434 3/8 B&C trophy with a 250-yard shot, earning him a spot at No. 20 on our list. One shot was all it took to down this impressive bull, which was taken in Colfax Co., N.M., in 1962.
19. Casey Brooks
Yup, you guessed it, Arizona made the list yet again. Casey Brooks struck gold in 2012 with this monster, which scored 436 1/8 B&C and was killed in Graham Co., Ariz. Brooks’ bull ranks No. 19 all time and was taken on the San Carlos Apache Reservation.
On September 8, 2012, Brooks spent the whole day in pursuit of what he knew was a giant elk. With his 65-pound compound bow steadily drawn, he let an arrow fly that would seal his fate in the record books. The bull has a typical frame of 402 inches and over 34 inches of abnormal growth.
18. Dan Agnew
Dan Agnew’s guide told him they were on to a pretty decent bull, and he wasn’t kidding. In 2008, Agnew killed the No. 18 bull on our list in Columbia Co., Wash., after making an impressive 250-yard shot. The bull scored 436 4/8 B&C.
After a lengthy spot-and-stalk, Agnew and his guide scoped out a herd on a faraway hillside. Working his way through the only cover available—a lonely strip of timber—Agnew finally squeezed off a round, stopping the bull in its tracks. One more shot sealed the deal, and Agnew’s fate in B&C’s world record book.
17. Joseph Dereemer
Wyoming has produced some wonderful elk over the years, including Joseph Dereemer’s 1971 monster. Dereemer’s bull scored 439 5/8 B&C and ranks No. 17 all time. He killed it in Laramie Co., Wyo., back in the days when there were only cattle, cowboys and giant elk in the state. With his trusty .30-06, Dereemer dropped the bull and ensured his place in the B&C history books.
16. William Junell
Although it’s become nearly impossible to get an elk tag there, Arizona is the biggest B&C trophy producer on our list. Arizona has more elk on the top 20 list than any other state (seven). William Junell killed this No. 16 trophy bull in Navajo Co., Ariz., in 2008, which scored 441 3/8 B&C. In the middle of the pre-rut, with bulls active all around him, Junell killed this amazing near White Mountain.
15. John Shirk
It is no secret that Pennsylvania is full of giant non-typical bull elk. In 2006, hunter John Shirk was able to take full advantage of healthy herds. He killed this No. 15 all time bull in Clinton Co., Pa., which scored 441 6/8 B&C.
Like the 52,000 other elk tag applicants from around the globe, Shirk didn’t think he had much of a chance in the draw. Elated with the news of his successful draw, Shirk took several trips over a couple of months to scout the area. Shirk stalked a bull to within 110 yards, but he missed his first shot. He fired again, though, and killed the No. 15 bull of all time.
14. Jackson Hole Museum
As with many details about the wild west of the 1800s, not much is known about this massive mount, which scored 441 6/8 B&C and was killed in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. It currently holds the No. 14 spot all time.
The rack was taken in Wyoming in 1890. It wandered around until it finally ended up at Boone and Crockett, where it took home the prestigious Sagamore Hill award in honor of the sportsman’s champion himself, Theodore Roosevelt. Harvested in the Cookstove Basin area of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, these antlers were the world record for a long time. The rack is now at the Jackson Hole Museum.
13. Dan Agnew
Dan Agnew killed this amazing bull in the Dry Lake unit of Arizona on a September hunt in 2001. Officially scored at 442 3/8 B&C, the massive bull holds the No. 13 spot all time. Agnew and a group of guides glassed a herd of cows that fateful day, and saw over 80 heads. For five days they tracked the herd, and on the sixth day they followed the herd to a watering hole.
With the herd about a half-mile away, Agnew ran as quickly as he could to get within shooting range. Finally, he killed “Mr. Big,” making all the effort well worth it.
12. John Plute
In late 1899, local miner John Plute, of Colorado, worked hard and hunted harder. To help make ends meet, Plute traded game meat for rent and other expenses. After shooting this giant bull—which scored 442 3/8 B&C and occupies the No. 12 spot all time—Plute boned it out and typical of the day, left the antlers with the carcass.
Stories started to circulate about the bull’s enormous size, and to prove his integrity, Plute hiked back to fetch the antlers. Finally, after being passed down through the generations, this impressive rack was finally taken in for scoring by Ed Rozman in 1960 and became the world record of its time. The rack now resides in Crested Butte’s Chamber of Commerce.
11. Alonzo Winters
Way before the White Mountains area of Arizona became famous for world class bulls, cattle rancher Alonzo Winters knew its potential. In the fall of 1968, Winters shot this massive bull—which scored 442 5/8 B&C and captured the No. 11 spot overall—and knew right away it was big. He was proud of the rack and kept it in his garage to share with anyone who would look and listen to his story. Years later, after his death, an antler collector acquired the rack and has given it the attention it deserves. At No. 11 all time, Winters’ bull is also the No. 1 typical B&C world record.
10. William Zee
Pennsylvania makes for an interesting situation when it comes to elk hunting, since massive repopulation efforts have been underway for a while now. One of the great success stories to come out of the state was William Zee’s No. 10 all time bull, which was killed in 2011. The bull scored 442 6/8 B&C and instantly became a local legend in Clearfield County. Hopefully the trend continues for Pennsylvania, which now has three typical B&C elk entries and eight non-typicals—pretty impressive for an eastern state known predominantly as a whitetail destination.
9. Ronald Franklin
Ronald Franklin was able to capitalize on Arizona's well-managed elk herd in 2003 when he killed an impressive 444 4/8 B&C bull. Drawing the coveted tag in Coconino Co., Ariz., was a huge break for Franklin, but his season didn’t originally get off to a very fast start. Midway through the season, though, Franklin found himself surrounded by several bulls as they bugled in the early morning light.
With a couple bulls just 15 yards away, Franklin said he finally heard the bugle he’d been waiting for, accompanied by the sound of antlers smashing through brush. Finally, Franklin released an arrow and within 40 yards the massive bull—No. 9 all time—was down for the count.
8. Jerry Davis
If you go far enough back in time, states like Arizona were less famous for their trophy bull production than they are now. Jerry Davis was one of the hunters lucky enough to hunt in that period. In 1984 he killed a monster in Apache Co., Ariz. Hunting with the ever-trusted 7mm Mag, Davis killed this amazing 445 5/8 B&C bull elk, currently in eighth place all time in their record book.
7. James Berry
Not truly realizing what kind of record he had on his hands, James Berry held on to a set of elk antlers he claimed in 1961 in Manitoba. The antlers collected dust and followed his family as they moved around Canada for over 30 years.
Eventually, he began to wonder how massive his bull really was and had a B&C scorer take a look at it. Soon after, Berry had the No. 1 non-typical world record bull elk. When Berry killed the animal, he wasn’t even going to bring the antlers home, but thought better of it because they were so large. He was simply hunting to feed his family, so killing a trophy animal—in this case the No. 7 bull all time at 447 1/8 B&C—never really crossed his mind.
6. Kevin Fugere
Hunting on a state issued landowner tag, Kevin Fugere connected with a gigantic North Dakota bull in 1997. At the time, elk had been recently re-introduced to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and were wreaking havoc on nearby ranches. To display management efforts and keep locals happy, the state issued 30 lottery permits and gave 17 permits to local farmers and ranchers.
Fugere was one of the locals lucky enough to receive a tag, and he took full advantage. With a stiff wind and a bit of luck, Fugere was able to stalk up close to the massive bull, which was bedded down. He then startled the animal, fired a shot to the chest, and hopped back on his horse to pursue. Kevin cut the bull’s exit off, and not long after came face to face with his world class bull. In the end, the bull scored 449 7/8 B&C, making it No. 6 all time in the world record book.
5. Alan Hamberlin
Hunting hard and hiking over 80 miles a week in Apache Co., Ariz., Alan Hamberlin wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a world class bull. Hunting on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, he knew his chances were good.
On a fateful day in 1998, Hamberlin set off early at 3 a.m., hiked constantly and finally found the opportunity he had worked so hard for. When this enormous bull walked clear of a pine thicket, Hamberlin knew he was a shooter. Three solid shots from his .338 Win. Mag, and Alan Hamberlin had harvested one of the most magnificent elk in history—the No. 5 biggest bull of all time at 450 6/8 B&C.
4. Ryan Muirhead
Record class elk don’t typically come from Minnesota, but that’s exactly what happened in 2010. When whitetail hunter Ryan Muirhead went out on a brutally frozen Minnesota day, he had no idea he’d stumble upon this monster. When Muirhead found the bull it was half-dead, stuck in a fence and struggling to survive. He and some friends used a 2x4 to release it from its constraints.
After a struggle and lots of effort, the giant bull got untangled, walked a bit, fell, got up and slowly wandered away. Muirhead went to check on the bull a few days later, and found it close a half-mile away from the original encounter at the fence. Muirhead followed the bull in the cold woods for hours before the bull finally died, probably from pneumonia.
Conservation officers loaded up the carcass, examined it and gave the antlers to Muirhead a few days later. Ryan Muirhead proudly hung one of the world’s most impressive set of elk antlers on his wall—scoring 458 4/8 B&C and taking the No. 4 spot all time. Ironically, Muirhead had never hunted elk in his life.
3. Frank Cameron
Not a lot is known about Frank Cameron’s enormous bull, including the state in which it was killed. If it had been registered as soon as possible, it would have been the world record for generations to come, but that is not the case. Trophy hunting and healthy herd management were not as popular back in 1936 when Cameron shot this giant, so chances are he was simply in the right place at the right time. Either way, Cameron captures the No. 3 spot in history with this 460 1/8 B&C bull.
2. BC Ministry of Environment
This giant bull was a local legend in the area surrounding Revelstoke, British Columbia. As with many B&C record animals, it was found dead—in this case by the BC Ministry of Environment in 1994. When the bull was found, the situation appeared a bit fishy. It was discovered antlerless, soaking wet and washed up at a local boat launch, and a local claimed the giant animal had a small caliber bullet wound in its neck.
After news spread that a suspicious elk carcass was discovered, another local admitted to first finding the bull and removing the antlers. He was asked to return them and did. Conservation officers were never able to officially determine the cause of death. The world record for several years, this bull’s potential was never truly realized. When his antlers were recovered, they were still in velvet and a few of the points weren’t completely hardened. The bull still claims the No. 2 spot of all time, scoring 465 2/8 B&C.
1. Denny Austad
Hunting with the coveted Governor’s Tag in Utah, hunter Denny Austad, of Idaho, went all out to kill the biggest non-typical bull elk of all time. Austad paid $170,000 for the tag—which allowed him to hunt any open unit in the state, during any season, with any type of weapon—and also hired a team of guides to track the monster bull.
Austad’s “Spyder Bull”—which was shot in the Monroe Mountain Unit and ranks no. 1 all-time in B&C’s world record book—is going to be hard to top. The Spyder Bull grosses over 500 inches and has an official net score of 478 ⅝. The bull got its name from its massive 9x14, non-typical rack, which also scored 130 inches of abnormal points.
Austad chased the Spyder Bull for the first month of the Utah elk season, and at one point had a quick shot he missed over its back. He finally connected with the bull on September 30, 2008, and managed to capture the hunt on video. An asterisk might always appear next to the Spyder Bull, however, because of the nearly unlimited access and privilege afforded to Austad—things most hunters never have.