Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

New World's Record Musk Ox


A local bush pilot looking to fill the freezer finds way more than a few hundred pounds of hamburger on the tundra  

By PJ DelHomme, photos courtesy of Alex Therrien

At four in the afternoon, the three men started cutting up the massive musk ox. Six hours later, they had it quartered and stuffed into their packs. After all, this is how these guys pack their Dall’s sheep out of the Northwest Territories every year. They left behind a front shoulder and hindquarter but placed the head and hide on top of the meat so the grizzlies and wolves would get that first. After a three-mile hump across the muskeg, they got back to camp at one in the morning. At dawn, they returned for the rest. 

On the return trip, Alex Therrien loaded up the head and hide onto a frame pack; it weighed 175 pounds. Yes, he weighed it. “I go to the gym, but it was pretty brutal,” he says. “But at least the elevation wasn’t bad. This was only 1,500 feet.” Therrien can’t help but compare any hunt to hunting Dall’s sheep, his favorite. “They are the pinnacle of hunting around here and by far the toughest hunt,” he says. “We do about 18-20 hour hikes, and we each get a sheep every year.” 

Therrien and his hunting buddies, Trevor Murdoch and Caleb Kirby, are do-it-yourself hunters and bush pilots. When he’s not hunting, the twenty-seven year old flies hunters and fishermen to various lodges around the North. Because everything north of Yellowknife is flown in, he flies in food and supplies to local communities as well. 

Originally from Nova Scotia, Therrien’s parents were teachers, and he spent time as a kid in countries like Egypt. He’s been hunting small game and bass fishing since he was two. He still hunts rabbits with his grandfather every year. Quite simply, he came to Yellowknife seeking adventure. 




ENTRY SCORE: 130-4/8 points*
LOCATION: Aylmer Lake, Northwest Territories 
HUNTER & OWNER: Alex Therrien  
DATE: 2020

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In 2020, he drew one of four resident musk ox tags and invited his hunting buddies along for the hunt. They found their adventure, one really big bull, and one intense logistical challenge. 

Global Pandemic Record

A holdover from the Plesitocene, musk ox live on the Arctic tundra where they eat lichen and moss. They grow a distinctive long, shaggy coat, and during the rut, the males secrete a highly potent odor—hence their common name. While they belong to the Bovidae family with cattle, they share the same subfamily (Caprinae) as Dall’s sheep, which might explain why Therrien found a really big one. Yet the whole story may never have happened if not for a global pandemic. 

Thanks to COVID and a lack of Americans coming into Canada to fish, many fishing and hunting lodges all but shut down in 2020. The owner of Aylmer Lake Lodge had asked Therrien to check up on things at the lodge.The area is thick with grizzlies, and lodge owners never know what sort of destruction they’re going to find when they try to open. 

To get there, Therrien and his hunting partners took two planes. They spotted some musk ox from the air. The next day, Therrien climbed a small hill and spotted a herd about three miles away. There were few hills for cover and nothing but boot-sucking muskeg between them and the herd. Having never hunted musk ox before, all they knew to do was play the wind. They left camp at nine in the morning and got to the herd by two that afternoon. 

Therrien’s tag allowed him to take any musk ox, but he’s a firm believer in killing only bulls, he says. He wasn’t really out for a trophy, but he knew he wanted a bull. As they glassed, Therrien saw one large, shaggy bull on the outskirts of the herd that seemed like the main bull. Plus, it was one of the few animals that actually provided an ethical shot opportunity by offering a clear shot.

He took a shot with his .30-06 shooting a 180-grain bullet. Another shot. And another. None of the shots missed; two were solid lung hits. Even so, the bull was still getting up. It was one of the toughest animals Therrien had ever seen. (For the record, he now shoots a .300 Winchester Mag. for everything.) When the bull died, Therrien and his hunting partners approached. There was no ground shrinkage. In fact, it was just the opposite. The animal was massive, both the horns and the body. The hide alone was bigger than a queen-size mattress. 

“We’re just guys who like to hunt and get meat for the family,” says Therrien.” And get meat they did. That afternoon, the men were staring down 450 pounds of musk ox meat, bones, head, and hide—but there was a problem. Even with two bush planes, there was way more weight than runway. Getting airborne at take off was going to be an issue.

Meat’s Revenge 

The strip of beach where they landed both planes had now become too short for takeoff. The amount of meat they had to fly out was just too heavy. They needed more room, so they had to shuttle the meat and the planes to an esker, a natural glacier runoff or gravel bar. And that’s when the grizzly showed up. 

On one of the last meat shuttles to the esker, Therrien could see his buddy circling his plane just ahead. Then he came in hot and low about 350 yards from Therrien, who was hauling fresh meat and covered in blood. His buddy had just buzzed a grizzly that was coming in to investigate the meat cache. The tactic scared off the grizzly. Therrien waited on the esker with the meat, his head on a swivel.

They got all that meat out, and each man took home about 65 pounds of processed musk ox. Therrien admits that he’s tasted better game, but he mixes about one-third pork in with his musk ox burger. There is, of course, Hamburger Helper, which helps, he says. The meat could have been worse. “You definitely don’t want to get them in the rut,” Therrien says. “Musk ox are part of the sheep family, and they have scent glands that get stuck in all that long fur. It makes them very stinky. And this affects the meat in a bad way.” 

Therrien is a fan of European mounts for everything, so that’s what he got for his bull. He showed the photos to a friend who suggested he get the horns measured. If the score is confirmed by the scoring panel at the 31st Big Game Awards in July, his bull will beat the old records (there’s a tie) by more than one inch. That may not seem like much, but when you consider the old records are more than a decade old, that’s quite a feat. Plus, considering one of those records is held by none other than Jim Shockey, the cool factor gets serious—a fact not lost on Therrien. “I’ve been telling people I beat Shockey for a year now.” 

Even so, shooting a world record musk ox never entered Therrien’s mind. “I didn’t even know what the record was,” he says. “I just knew how big a regular bull was, and this one looked bigger.”

* If the entry score is confirmed by next year’s judges panel at the 31st Big Game Awards, it will take the top spot for musk ox in the Boone and Crockett Records.

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-Theodore Roosevelt