Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Adventures from the Archives – John Plute’s World’s Record Elk

Colorado 1899

Few hunting stories last a generation. Even fewer last 120 years. Rest assured, when those stories involve cowboys, Colorado’s backcountry, and a World’s Record elk, the legend sticks around. So it is with John Plute’s giant elk. 


The few pictures of John Plute that still exist show a steely-eyed man, tan from the eyebrows down, with a thick cowboy mustache that all other mustaches aspire to be. Those who knew Plute described him as a strong man, a quiet loner who wanted to hunt in the mountains rather than dig in the mines. He was born in Austria around 1867 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1889. 

At the turn of the 20th century in Crested Butte, Colorado, the gold fields had been played out. Coal was king, and the miners needed to eat. Plute lived in a boarding house above a bar. The owner traded boarding for meat, and Plute lived to hunt even though the game was scarce in the hills. One day, Plute saddled his horse, slid his .30-40 Krag into its scabbard and rode into Dark Canyon northwest of town. 

Plute, left, hunted meat, which he traded for his boarding in Crested Butte, Colorado.

The Hunt

When John Plute rode out of Dark Canyon, his horse was weighed down with massive elk quarters. He’d connected on one of the few elk still making a living in the aspens. Some accounts of the story claim that he left the antlers behind, packing out only the meat. At the bar, he boasted of the antlers and their unusual size. When challenged, he rode back to get them. Other accounts say that he packed the antlers out the same day, something he rarely did, but these antlers were special. Either way, he killed a monster, and eventually, the antlers made their way into town. 

Miners don’t eat antlers, and once Plute showed them around, he tossed them in a garage for a few years. To pay his bar tab, Plute gave the antlers to the owner of the Elk Saloon around 1915. There, they gazed down upon bar patrons for decades. 

In 1922, Plute rode his horse to a neighbor's ranch at Mt. Crested Butte, where the rancher was having a party. When Plute left the party after some drinks, he was presumably thrown from or fell off his horse and landed in a river bottom. Friends from the party found him and took him to the hospital in Crested Butte, where he died shortly after. 

Road to a Record 

When the owner of the Elk Saloon died, the bar was inherited by Ed and Tony Rozman in 1948. A few years later, a random customer asked Ed Rozman why he didn’t get the antlers scored. Rozman said he would measure them, but he didn’t know how. The stranger said he would contact folks at the Boone and Crockett Club, which he did. The Club sent Rozman a score sheet, which he filled out, and then sent back in. “They wouldn’t believe it,” Rozman said. 

The bull was on display at the Club's 10th Competition held at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in 1962.

Then Jesse Williams, an Official Measurer from Montrose, Colorado, measured it, and he sent the scores in. “And they wouldn’t believe him,” Rozman said. The Club wanted to measure the antlers at their headquarters, which was then in New York City. The antlers were shipped to New York in 1962, and once measured (again), it was declared an official new World’s Record typical American elk. The bull’s main beams reach nearly five feet, and its bases measure a foot around. Its gross score is 462-4/8. 

For more than 30 years, the Plute bull was king, touring the country at various sports shows and conventions. It graced the wall of the Crested Butte Hardware and Conoco Station, then welcomed tourists at the Crested Butte Visitor Center. In 1998, the Plute bull finally got beat—by 2/8 inches. An elk rack was spotted in the back of a truck between a washer and dryer set. That bull was killed by Alonzo Winters in 1968. it continues to be the World’s Record. That’s another fun story

This video was created to market the sale of the Plute bull. Thankfully, a local resident bought the antlers and has graciously left them on public display. 

Forever Home 

In 2016, Ed and Roger Rozman put the antlers up for auction. While that might make you sneer, the story has a happy ending. Colorado businessman Matt Miles first saw the antlers hanging in the Conoco when he was a kid. When he heard they were going up for auction 30 years later, he wanted to be a part of it. “I saw the auction notice, but as an elk hunter, if it’s not your antlers, it’s worthless as a personal trophy. But I got to thinking about it and was worried it could end up in some office in Dallas,” Miles told the Crested Butte News. “I felt it needed to stay in Crested Butte so decided to make a run on it and try to keep it in the public eye, as opposed to it disappearing.”

When the auction ended, Miles was the new owner of the Plute bull, having paid $121,000. True to his word, Miles didn’t hang the rack over his own fireplace. Today, anyone can see those antlers at the Crested Butte Museum, just a day’s ride from Dark Canyon.

You need to register on B&C’s website to view score charts. It's FREE and takes less than a minute to complete. If you already have an account, simply log in to gain access.
Register for FREE 

About Adventures from the Archives

The Boone and Crockett Club’s records contain more than 70,000 big game entries, from musk ox to mule deer. Among those entries are more than a few stories of adventures afield. To celebrate those trophies, their habitat, and the hunter, we’re bringing those stories back to life with each installment of Boone and Crockett’s Adventures from the Archives.


Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt