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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.