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Boone and Crockett Club Celebrates Centennial of National Collection of Heads and Horns; New Bighorn Sheep Ram Added to Collection

The Club's National Collection liaison and assistant director of big game records, Kyle Lehr, reviews the current big game mounts on display in the National Collection in April 2022. 

MISSOULA, Mont. – May 25, 2022, marked the centennial anniversary of the opening of a building housing the National Collection of Heads and Horns at the Bronx Zoo in 1922. Organized by several Boone and Crockett Club members, the Collection was intended to raise visibility for declining wildlife species and was officially dedicated “In Memory of the Vanishing Big Game of the World.” The collection, now housed at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri, will be getting a new addition to the Collection—a bighorn sheep ram that was found by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on Flathead Lake’s Wild Horse Island. The ram scored 206-3/8 during the recent 31st Big Game Awards Judges Panel and now ranks #9 all time.

31st Award Judges Panel member, Bucky Ihlenfeldt double checks the quarter location for one of the circumference measurements on the bighorn sheep found on Montana's Wild Horse Island. The ram, scoring 206-3/8 points, was donated to the Boone and Crockett Club's National Collection and will be added to the exhibit once the 31st Big Game Awards Trophy Display concludes the end of July 2022.

When the National Collection of Heads and Horns was dedicated in May 1922, Boone and Crockett Club member and the collection’s original curator William T. Hornaday noted that, “As wild animal extermination now is proceeding all over the world, it is saddening to think that 100 years hence many of the species now shown in our collection will have become totally extinct.” His prediction, however, did not come true—most of the North American species that are part of the National Collection have thrived thanks largely to sustainable wildlife management and consistent funding championed by the Club.

“The nation’s awakening to the conservation crisis a century ago led to policy changes like the Lacey Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the Pittman-Robertson Act and more—and the Boone and Crockett Club helped lead the charge on many of these issues,” commented Tony A. Schoonen, chief executive officer of the Boone and Crockett Club. “We are proud of our organization’s contribution to conservation and the centennial of the National Collection of Heads and Horns is an excellent opportunity to celebrate these achievements.”

The centennial of the National Collection of Heads and Horns comes in the same year as the 31st Big Game Awards and one of the trophies honored in the awards—a bighorn sheep ram found dead on Wild Horse Island—will be added to the collection. The ram is an excellent example of how the Boone and Crockett Club’s official measurement and scoring system for trophy big game helps to track the success of conservation policies and programs. The current World’s Record bighorn sheep scoring 216-4/8, another ram that scored 209, and the new ram found in 2021, show that quality habitat and healthy populations found on Wild Horse Island can produce remarkable representatives of the species. Wild Horse Island is also providing a nursery herd for the reintroduction of bighorn sheep and supporting the continued restoration of bighorn sheep in other states. A recent video produced by the Wild Sheep Foundation documents the recent translocation effort to the Tendoy Mountains in Montana.

“We are excited about this new ram that is now displayed with the 31st Big Game Awards trophies and will ultimately stay on display within the National Collection of Heads and Horns,” said Gray N. Thornton, president and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “He is a true testament to the reversal of fortune our big game species experienced, which was the primary purpose of the National Collection 100 years ago. The celebration of this ram also honors the Wild Horse Island herd that is so incredibly important for bighorn sheep restoration, as we document in our Return to the Tendoys video.” 

A vintage photo of the original collection. Note the skylights that have been replicated in the current display.

“The National Collection of Heads and Horns was originally established in memory of vanishing big game, but conservation practices have allowed these species to survive and thrive,” noted Kyle Lehr, the Club’s National Collection liaison and assistant director of big game records. “Because we continue to see bigger, more impressive animals for many species, like the ram found on Wild Horse Island, it is appropriate to add to the Collection to show how wildlife conservation is continuing to benefit species.”

The public display of the 31st Big Game Awards mounts opened on May 1 and is displayed in the Bucks and Bulls exhibit hall adjacent to the National Collection of Heads and Horns at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium. The 31st Big Game Awards celebration will take place in Springfield July 21-23 and registration for all events is available now on the Boone and Crockett Club website. The Wild Sheep Foundation is the presenting sponsor for the 31st Big Game Awards banquet as well as the sheep display.

More About the Boone and Crockett Club

Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. Click here to learn more about the Boone and Crockett Club.

About Wild Sheep Foundation

The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 10,000 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $136 million on wild sheep habitat and population enhancements, education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations in North America from historic lows in the 1950-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today.