The “Spider Bull,” a huge American elk shot in 2008 that rocked North American big-game hunting community, lived up to the hype.
A Boone and Crockett Club special judges panel recently declared a final score of 478 5/8 B&C non-typical points. That’s more than 13 inches larger than the previous world record, and an incredible 93 inches above the B&C’s minimum score of 385 for non-typical American elk.
The gross score was just short of 500 inches.
The hunter, Denny Austad of Ammon, Idaho, hunted the Monroe Mountain District in south-central Utah. Austad paid for the Utah Governor’s Tag and was guided by MossBack Outfitters to the public-land giant on Sept. 30.
Guide Doyle Moss called the trophy “Spider Bull” for its antler configuration, which splayed out in all directions like a spider’s legs.
The giant bull has 9 points on the left antler and 14 points on the right. The larger antler has a base circumference topping 9 inches.
It is the only elk on record with a gross score approaching the 500-inch mark, at 499 3/8. Official data dates back to 1830, according to the record-keeping club.
The B&C scoring system, long used to measure the success of wildlife conservation and management programs across North America, rewards antler size and symmetry, but also recognizes nature’s imperfections with non-typical categories for most antlered game. The bull’s final score of 478 5/8 inches includes an amazing 140 inches of abnormal points.
Perhaps because of its popularity on Internet chat rooms and hunters’ Web sites, the bull was surrounded in controversy. Some hunters speculated that MossBack used unethical methods to make sure they protected the bull from other public-land hunters once it was discovered. Others claimed it was a “ranch bull,” released so a high-paying hunter could kill it. MossBack guides denied all rumors.
Eldon Buckner, chairman of the Club’s Records of North American Big Game committee, said along with measurements that honor the quality of the animal, the Boone and Crockett Club also honors fair-chase hunting.
“Through our entry process, signed affidavits and follow-up interviews with the hunter, his guides, and state and federal officials, we were satisfied that this bull was indeed a wild, free-ranging trophy and that the tenets of fair chase were used in the harvest,” Buckner said.
Buckner congratulated Austad, and credited his new world record to the tremendous management of habitat and wildlife by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Fishlake National Forest.
“Utah’s conservation professionals really deserve a pat on the back, as do the citizens of Utah for their support of their state’s wildlife programs,” said Buckner.
Across North America, ever-improving conservation practices have translated to flourishing big-game populations, with balanced age-class and mature, trophy animals. Over the past 30 years, qualifying Boone and Crockett records book entries for American elk have increased 193 percent from a total of 14 in 1977 to 41 in 2007.
Across all categories of native North American big game, the overall trend is even higher with 344 qualifiers in 1977 up to 1,151 in 2007, a 234 percent increase.
The previous world record for non-typical American elk was 465 2/8 B&C points. That bull was found dead, frozen in Upper Arrow Lake, B.C., in 1994, and was entered into Boone and Crockett Club records by the provincial Ministry of Environment on behalf of the citizens of British Columbia.
For hunter-taken non-typical American elk, the previous top bull scored 450 6/8 B&C points, taken in 1998 in Apache County, Ariz., by Alan Hamberlin.
The Boone and Crockett Club also keeps records for Roosevelt’s and tule elk. World records for these categories are substantially smaller than those for American elk.
– John Geiger contributed to this report.