Stewardship

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The Greatest Typical Elk of All-time

The echo of their bugles through the aspen is the quintessential sound of fall. When heard on the hunt, those screams trigger a primordial drive. The hunters in the following stories know that drive. They are cowboys, miners, Army medics, and a maintenance guy from the highway department. These are their stories of elk hunting legend.

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Number 1 
B&C Score: 442-5/8
Location: White Mountains, Arizona 
Year Taken: 1968 
Hunter: Alonzo Winters 
Owner: Alan C. Ellsworth 

Alonzo (Lon) Winters was born in 1917. His mother rode a donkey to the hospital in Globe, Arizona, where Lon was born. During WWII, he served as an Army medic. He came home from the war to punch cows, raise a family, and hunt. In the fall of 1967, Winters and his friend spotted this bull in the White Mountains near the Black River. Winters shot the bull with his Savage Model 99 .308. Even though the rack was stored in a garage for years, Winters would show it off every chance he got. The rack was given to Lon’s sister, and one day in 1995 it ended up in the back of a pick-up parked outside of a bar. Also in the back of the truck was a washer/dryer set. When Alan Ellsworth pulled up next to the truck, he was only interested in the rack. 

Ellsworth is an antler buyer who grew up in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona—a place that has now become synonymous with giant, record-book bulls. Ellsworth tracked down the owner of the truck and ended up buying the rack. Ellsworth’s mental “rackulator” paid off. The score, along with proof of a fair chase hunt, established this elk as (and still is) the typical World’s Record.

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Number 2 
B&C Score: 442-3/8 
Location: Dark Canyon, Colorado 
Year Taken: 1899
Hunter: John Plute 
Owner: Matt Miles 

More than a century old, this rack has plenty of details relating to its demise. We have outdoor writer Jim Zumbo to thank for that. Decades ago, Zumbo tracked down the details of what was then the world’s largest typical elk. At 31, John Plute was a miner around Crested Butte, Colorado. He lived in a boarding house, occasionally trading wild game meat for rent. One day in 1899, he went up Dark Canyon, 12 miles west of Crested Butte and killed a fine bull. As usual, he took the meat and left the antlers. When he got back to town, though, no one believed Plute when he told them how big the rack was. So, he had to go back and get them. By 1915, Plute had run up a decent bar tab, and he paid it with those antlers. The rack hung in the saloon and was officially measured in 1961. The antlers returned to Crested Butte in 1971, where they sat in a hardware store. In 2016, the antlers sold at auction for $121,000, and the new owner agreed to keep them on public display. Today, those antlers hang in Crested Butte’s Heritage Museum. 

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Number 3 
B&C Score: 441 6/8
Location: Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming 
Year Taken: 1890
Hunter:  Unknown 
Owner: Jackson Hole Museum

While some record-book trophies have a Boone and Crockett file folder an inch thick with photos and stories of the hunt, there are some very old entries that have a very short paper trail. This is one of them. What we do know is that the Jackson Hole Museum purchased the antlers in 1958 from Dr. Raymond C. Bentzen of Sheridan, Wyoming. The date on record of the elk’s demise is 1890, making it one of the oldest elk in the records. It is the largest typical elk ever recorded in Wyoming by a good 20 points. If you happen to be traveling to Jackson, Wyoming, stop and see it at the Jackson Hole Historical Society Museum.

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Number 4
B&C Score: 430 
Location: Powder River County, Montana 
Year Taken: 2016
Hunter:  Stephan F. Felix 

Steve Felix is the maintenance chief for the Montana Department of transportation in Missoula. He likes to bowhunt for elk in eastern Montana, a good eight-hour drive from his home. In September 2016, Steve made the drive solo, set up camp and woke at 3 a.m. the next day. He had a spot in mind, and he wanted to be in it and glassing by 8 a.m. Sure enough, he got into elk. And then he saw a really big bull. Getting into position, Felix hoped the bull would walk by him. It did, and at 61 yards, Felix watched his arrow bury into the bull. By 9:30, he stood next to the biggest bull he’d ever seen. That bull is the Montana typical state record and sits at the Pope and Young World’s Record. 

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Number 5
B&C Score: 425-3/8  
Location: Nye County, Nevada 
Year Taken: 1999
Hunter:  Jerry McKoen 

As a teenager in 1969, Jerry McKoen bowhunted the Oregon desert. Shortly thereafter, chasing trophy mule deer in the high desert of Oregon and Nevada became his passion. In 1999, he held an elk tag for the Monitor Mountains in south-central Nevada. The tag, which allowed any weapon, would test his allegiance to bowhunting. He packed his rifle on that hunt just in case. After a couple of summer scouting trips, McKoen’s time to hunt finally came. Glassing from a high point, he saw a massive bull among scattered mahogany. With other hunters in the area, he went back to camp and grabbed his rifle. The next day, elk materialized from everywhere. The wind was playing games, but McKoen finally found his bull and worked his way close enough for a shot.

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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