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The Biggest Tule Elk in the Book

Native to California, tule elk are the beach bums of the elk world. In 2021, one North Dakota hunter was able to break a nearly 20-year old record and fill his tag with the largest hunter-killed tule ever recorded. Check out these stories. 

Only found in California, tule elk are named after the dense stands of this tall sedge that grows along freshwater wetlands. Market hunters reduced thriving populations down to roughly 30 animals by the mid-1870s. Today, populations have rebounded enough for a few rare opportunities to hunt them. While there are around 5,700 tule elk throughout the state in 22 herds, hunters are still able to find a few big ones. 

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Number 1—Ranch Pick Up 

B&C Score: 379
Location: Glenn County, California 
Year Found: 2005
Owner: Jeff & Julie Lopeteguy 

Tule elk, it seemed, thoroughly enjoyed Jeff and Julie Lopeteguy’s ranch. The elk would mosey through the ranch, sometimes stopping within a few yards of the backdoor. “For years, we have enjoyed watching these ‘giant fellas’ rest, graze, and roam freely on our property,” Jeff wrote. Their ranch sits in Northern California, nestled between the tiny towns of Elk Creek and Stonyford. In October 2005, a large bull was found dead near their home. California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists could not determine a cause of death and returned the skull and massive rack to the family. The bull was likely around seven years old, and it was quite possibly some sort of record, a game officer told the family. It was, in fact, a World’s Record and the largest tule elk ever recorded.

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Number 2—Smith Bull 

B&C Score: 369-1/8 Points
Location: Mendocino County, California
Year Taken: 2021
Hunter: Cory J. Smith

On a sunny, 60-degree day in Mendocino County, Cory Smith was hunting tule elk with Miller Ranch Outfitters. Smith had driven all the way from his North Dakota home with what he calls his “redneck Yeti” cooler in the back of the truck. This homemade cooler is simply a plywood box with blue foam insulation sheets screwed to the inside to get that delicious elk meat home. And yes, Smith slapped a Yeti sticker on it. He was headed back to California for another shot at a bull he had seen on his trail camera in the area back in 2017. Few had seen the bull since. While on a ranch, Smith and his guide saw a big bull jump the fence, heading toward a wallow—and them.  The outfitter asked Smith if he wanted to shoot it. “There was no hesitation on my part,” Smith said. While the bull is only 26 inches wide, the main beams are both north of 50 inches. With a net score of 369-1/8 points, Smith’s bull is the largest hunter-killed tule elk in the Boone and Crockett records, and it will be recognized at the upcoming 31st Big Game Awards. Needless to say, the redneck Yeti was full on the way home. 

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Number 3—Evans Bull 

B&C Score: 365 
Location: Solano County, California
Year Taken: 1997 
Hunter: Bryce Evans 

For tule elk hunters, the Grizzly Island Wildlife Management Area is the place for big tule bulls. This state-run area is a sprawling wetland tucked between San Francisco and Sacramento. For hunters lucky enough to hold a bull tag, chances are they are going to kill a brute. And so it was with Bryce Evans and his hunt in 1997. Alongside his guide, Evans spotted a big, bedded 9x8 below him. He and his guide belly crawled to within 150 yards. With the wind in his face, Evans built a solid rest with his backpack. Once the bull stood up to stretch, the marsh echoed with the report of his rifle. That bull would become the World’s Record tule in 1998 when the Boone and Crockett Club created the tule elk category.

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Number 4—Leport Bull 

B&C SCORE: 353-5/8
LOCATION: Colusa County, California
HUNTER: David E. Leport  

In 2004, David Leport drew a tule tag and hunted at East Park Reservoir in Colusa County. Producing a solid 16 record-book tule entries, Colusa County is tied for the fourth spot as the county with the most entries, according to Big Game Records LIVE County Search. Leport chose to use a .50-caliber Thompson Center muzzleloader for his hunt, which seemed to do the trick. Early one mid-September morning, he stalked to within 115 yards of this bull, and his 300-grain bullet found its mark.

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Number 5—Hughes Bull

B&C Score: 351 
Location: Solano County, California
Year Taken: 1990 
Hunter: Quentin Hughes 

Quentin Hughes and a friend both drew tags to hunt tule elk on California’s Grizzly Island in 1990. In late August, the men scouted for big bulls until dark one evening. The next morning, one of those giant bulls stepped out of the grass and Hughes was ready. With his 7mm, he dropped a true giant. With the temperature rising to 85 degrees by 11 a.m., the men had to work fast, and thankfully a person in camp knew how to cape an elk. When Boone and Crockett Official Measurer J.J. McBride measured the elk, he asked Hughes if he would allow the public to view his trophy as part of the National Collection of Heads and Horns. He agreed, and today  it’s on display in Springfield, Missouri, at the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium

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The Importance of Records in Big Game Management

When you enter your trophy into the Boone and Crockett system, you aren’t just honoring the animal and its habitat. You are participating in a data collection system that started in the 1920s and was refined by Club members in 1950. Today, there are nearly 60,000 trophy records. By establishing a records database more than 70 years ago, the Boone and Crockett Club established a scientific baseline from which researchers can use to study wildlife management. If you’re still  on the fence about entering your trophy, we encourage you to read Why Should I Bother to Enter My Trophy. To the best of our ability, we ensure that the trophies entered into the records were taken in accordance with the tenets of fair chase ethics. Despite what some may think, the Boone and Crockett records are not about a name or a score in a book—because in the end, there’s so much more to the score.



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

-Theodore Roosevelt