When bowhunters think of arrowing a huge record book sized bull elk, places like Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming dominate such thoughts.
For good reason too since a brief glance at both the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club record books show that such wapiti-rich Rocky Mountain states dominate the listings.
Truth be told, Oklahoma is rarely in the elk-hunting discussion even though the species historically spilled into portions of the Sooner State which feature a surprising amount of small mountains and rolling hills among its prairie and forested landscape.
And after a recent official scoring event, another surprisingly big American bull elk, too.
That much was apparent in early March when Seiling, Okla., bowhunter Tyson Hiebert brought his huge Dewey County bull to Oklahoma City to have it scored at the third annual March Rack Madness! event held at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation headquarters.
When official measurers with ODWC’s Cy Curtis Awards Program had finished crunching the numbers, Hiebert’s bull was the Sooner State’s new archery state record in the non-typical elk category.
Specifically, the numbers on Hiebert’s big 9-by-9 bull elk added up to 346 7/8 inches net after a four-man ODWC panel measured the rack on March 5, 2019. The score shattered the state’s previous archery non-typical record elk by 21 inches.
Those numbers allow the Hiebert bull to also become the second-place elk overall in the state’s Cy Curtis record book listings. The bull falls only behind Olivia Parry’s 377 6/8-inch bull.
According to an ODWC news release, Hiebert brought his elk to Oklahoma City in an enclosed trailer. Because of the bull’s huge rack - and the large crowd in the scoring area - the bull was ultimately placed in the headquarter’s lobby until the panel of Cy Curtis judges could put a tape measure to it.
When they did, the result was Sooner State bowhunting history.
Incidentally, Hiebert actually harvested his state record archery bull a couple of seasons ago. According to ODWC, the bull fell to Hiebert’s arrow-and-broadhead combination as he hunted private land in Dewey County with a compound bow on Oct. 3, 2017.
“I was actually in the middle of changing spots that evening, and I was out in the middle of a wheat field,” Hiebert recalled during a recent ODWC Facebook Live interview.
“And he came out of the trees like a tank,” he added. “Somehow, luckily, he ran right out in front of me. When he got in front of me, he stopped, and I just drew my bow and let her fly.
“Dreams come true sometimes!”
Indeed they do since the hunt area that Hiebert was in lies within the state’s Special Northwest Zone, an area that has a season quota of just two elk.
Hiebert noted that another bull elk was taken the same day in that zone, meaning that had he not found his big bull success that day, then the area would have been closed to hunting the next day.
“I had no idea until I had one at 20 yards how big they truly are,” said Hiebert. “I had no idea what I had when I shot him.”
According to ODWC, the former Cy Curtis state archery record non-typical elk scored 325 7/8-inches and was taken back in 2005 by Jerry Jaynes as he hunted in Comanche County.
While the Sooner State can obviously turn out a few good bulls every few years, it isn’t a piece of cake to tag one. In fact, Hiebert said that he actually hunted 18 days this past fall (2018) without getting an elk.
Oklahoma’s largest free-ranging elk herd is found in the southwestern portion of the state in the Wichita Mountains near Lawton. Back in 1966, as herd numbers grew in that area, ODWC reports on its website that it reached a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for an annual controlled hunt to manage elk numbers at the Wichita Mountains NWR.
Since then, the state’s annual public hunting draw system (the application deadline is in early to mid-May each year) allows a few fortunate hunters the opportunity to pursue elk in the specie’s native habitat in southwest Oklahoma.
Elk herds in the state are modest, but have expanded over the years so that free-ranging elk herds can also now be found on the Pushmataha, Cookson Hills, Spavinaw and Cherokee wildlife management areas (WMA). Small elk herds also reportedly inhabit private land in certain counties like Dewey, Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo.
According to the Oklahoma City-based agency, Hiebert’s state record bow bull was one of seven elk measured at the recent March Rack Madness! event. ODWC reports that official measurers also put scoring tapes to 287 deer, six pronghorns and two bears.
Oklahoma’s Cy Curtis Awards Program began back in 1972 and is named after a state wildlife biologist who worked for ODWC. Curtis, who was born in 1912 and passed away in 1982, was from Stilwell and is generally regarded as the individual most responsible for the restoration of white-tailed deer in Oklahoma.
Originally recognizing white-tailed deer and mule deer only, the Cy Curtis program expanded its Oklahoma record book reach in 2014 to also include the state’s elk, bear and pronghorn that exceed the program’s minimum entry scores.
For information about submitting a trophy big game animal for the Sooner State’s Cy Curtis records program, go to the ODWC website for full details.