World Record Elk from Texas?

Archery Elk Taken in Texas

“This is a picture of Ronnie’s #1 world record elk taken with a bow near Alpine Texas on a free range (not high fenced) ranch. It had a green score of 455 7/8 B&C points. Texas Trophy hunters wants to have it mounted and take it on tour for 6 months.”

Many of you by now have seen this email or at least heard about it from a message board. It includes the photo and caption stated above. This email first hit the scene back around the first week of November 2005. I gathered some information about this bull and was going to do this post a long time ago. However, I was waiting on some other information and then got tied up in the Holidays and I wasn’t able to get to making this post until now. I continue to get phone calls and emails about this monster bull. Therefore, I have decided to post what information I know and try and help clear up some of the information contained in the email.

Let me first start by saying that this is quite a unique situation. The conclusion is not as cut and dry as you may expect, but hopefully I can provide the information that best explains the situation and still give respect to the people involved. I will go through and breakdown every aspect and give you my best conclusions.

Hunt Background:
Ronnie Urbanczyk was hunting with CF Ranch near Alpine Texas for elk. He was hunting with a bow and was being guided by Chris Chopelas. The ranch and hunt area was not in any kind of high fence surrounding. The hunt was touted as a fair chase elk hunt and the area in this part of the state is home to free ranging bull elk. The weather was hot and dry and Chris decided that they would hunt some water holes and test their luck. On the second day of the hunt, Ronnie and Chris were on a water hole. Late that afternoon this monster bull came in to water. Ronnie made a shot with his bow and the rest is history. This great bull is a 7×7 and green scored 455 7/8 gross typical using the Boone & Crockett scoring method and a potential world record archery bull.

Behind the Score:
I have been asked several times about the score of this elk and if it really is a “typical” scoring elk. This question is usually directed towards the extra browtines that are on both sides. Usually typical elk will have two browtines, the third point and then the royal fourth point, etc. It is very rare to have a bull elk that actually has matching third browtines. If there is only one side with an extra browtine, then it is considered abnormal and counted as a non-typical point. However, if it is matching on both sides, it is considered a typical point and counted as part of the typical frame. The bull has seven points on both sides. I have heard of two different scores for this bull. In the original email that was sent around, there is a score of 455 7/8. The net score came in at 444 2/8 net. I understand that this bull was later officially green scored again at 462 gross and 433 net typical. The antlers have a narrow 34-inch inside spread with 54 and 55-inch main beams, but the tine length and mass are incredible.

Controversy:
A guy arrows a “fair chase” bull that is not in a high fence environment. So why all of the questions, and why all the doubt? Two things made me think twice and spark my interest in wanting to find out for myself, if this in fact was a new world record archery bull. The first reason is the fact that this elk was taken in Texas. The second reason is that this bull is reported to have a score of 455. A score that would shatter the current world record typical for Pope and Young. A very interesting combination that you do not see very often (I have never seen this before). Could a bull this big legitimately come from Texas and be considered a world record under fair chase standards? A big question arose knowing that elk in Texas were not accepted game in either Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young. Would this bull cause a change in the rules?

Texas Elk and Boone and Crockett:
I contacted Jack Reneau at B&C in November and ask him about the situation of Texas elk not being accepted entry in their record book. Jack continued to explain the following, “Boone and Crockett Club does not yet have a position on the eligibility of elk taken in Texas for listing in the records book. This possibility came to our attention recently when someone circulated a photograph of a massive elk rack that was allegedly taken in Texas with a bow. Whoever sent out the email declared it a new World’s Record. It has not been submitted to either B&C or P&Y, so neither organization has any concrete information about this trophy, and it is definitely not a new World’s Record just because some unknown entity said it is. Our records committee will be discussing the eligibility of Texas elk at its December meeting in New York City.”

I thought it was very interesting that Boone and Crockett would be discussing further the possible eligibility of Texas elk in their record books. I decided to wait and see what conclusion B&C would come to later in December. After the meeting in December I followed up with Jack and received this update. “We do know that there are elk in Texas and that there have been elk transplants in Texas. However, Texas does not consider elk a game animal; they do not have an elk season; and they do not have a separate elk tag. In order to shoot an elk, you only need to have a Texas hunting license. Texas elk are not eligible for entry in B&C. Texas Parks and Wildlife does not classify elk as game animals, and does not issue an elk hunting license. In addition, there is no season or bag limit for elk in Texas. Instead, they are classified as “Exotics.” The State classified elk as game animals a few years ago, but ranchers petitioned the state legislature to reclassify them as exotics, so it did.”

Therefore, the conclusion on Texas elk being a potential world record? It won’t happen. Even if this bull truly is a “fair chase” bull, really scores higher than any other archery bull, it will not make it into the record books.

A “Fair Chase” bull elk:
The next question, and a really big one at that, is the issue of fair chase. Would this be the case of a legit bull not getting the recognition it deserves? Talking with Chris at CF Ranch, they don’t issue very many elk hunts on their ranch. The area of west Texas is wide open country with no high fence enclosures. The only fences you will find are the normal cattle fences separating different property lines, similar to what you will find all throughout the west. This area also contains the largest herd of free ranging elk in the state. There are about five to six ranches in the area who offer elk hunts, and only a total of about six elk are taken each year. Apparently there have been some elk transplants in west Texas many years ago and I ended up doing a little research on the history of elk in Texas and if there really are free ranging bulls.

Map of West Texas - Area of Free Ranging Elk
Map showing west Texas and the area of free ranging elk

Of the six North American subspecies of elk, two are extinct: the Eastern elk (through hunting, habitat loss and human settlement), and the southwestern or Merriam’s elk (through hunting and increased desertification). A population of Merriam’s elk existed in the Guadalupe Mountains of Texas. The Guadalupe Mountains are a mountain range located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. The range includes the highest summit in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, and the “signature peak” of West Texas, El Capitan. In1928, free ranging elk were transplanted to this area from North Dakota. From what I understand, there have been some additional transplants from the Yellowstone area in the 1940′s.

There are free ranging elk in west Texas that you can hunt under fair chase standards. However, how big are these elk and is there a potential for a 400 class bull? I talked with some other ranches in the area that promote elk hunts and asked them what caliber of bulls they usually take. In general, a 300 to 320 class bull is excellent. There have been some 350 class bulls taken in the past, but no record of 400 class bulls taken from this area. I asked Chris from CF Ranch what caliber of bulls they usually take off their ranch. The results were the same, however, he did mention that two years ago in the Glass Mountains a 370 class bull was taken. I asked if he had any idea that a bull this big was running around. Chris mentioned that he did in fact pick up a set of sheds about two years ago that went 430.

So how did a bull this big get in this area? Was this a freak of nature, or something else? Most people who doubted this bull from the start made the conclusion it must be a high fence bull. It’s just too big. Could this truly be a high fence bull taken in a fair chase environment? Asking Chris further about the history of the ranch, I asked if this could be a ranch bull. He told me that about seven to eight years ago, the ranch did in fact bring in some ranch bulls from a high fenced environment and were released into the wild. The bull that Ronnie shot was estimated at 10-11 years old. Usually ranch bulls that are bought are around three to four years old. Could this bull actually be a ranch bull that has lived in the wild the last seven plus years? The numbers definitely added up. Was this bull released in to the wild at age 3 1/2 and taken by Ronnie with a bow 7 1/2 years later? It started to look that way.

I received further proof about the conclusion it was a ranch bull when I received some interesting news. Chris mentioned to me that all the ranch bulls have tags in their ear. Even the ranch bulls that were released would still have a tag in one ear. When Ronnie arrowed this bull, Chris didn’t notice a tag in its ear and didn’t think much about it at the time. However, some time later, after the hunt, the cape and antlers were being scored and prepared for taxidermy work. The cape was inspected and it was discovered that one of the ears had a round hole in it. It was not a natural tear or hole from an injury. It was a clean, round hole. Chris admitted that the round hole sounded just like the hole that would be made to secure the metal tag from a ranch bull. It looks like this bull originally had a tag in it, but fell out.

Conclusion:
Ronnie took this great bull in a fair chase environment, however, this bull is not a fair chase bull. It will not be accepted in the Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young record books because of the managed status of elk in Texas through the Fish and Game. Furthermore, even if elk in Texas were accepted entry into the record books, this bull would still not be eligible due to the fact that it is linked to a high fenced game farm.

Due to the age of the elk and the fact that the CF Ranch released ranch bulls into their ranch about seven to eight years ago, this elk is directly linked to a high fence ranch. It is not even a generation removed from a high fenced environment. I believe it is a bull that directly originated from a game farm, bred in a game farm, and later released into the wild. However, this bull was not released and immediately hunted or shot like some operations. It was in the wild for several years, but this does not change the fact that it is a ranch bull.

I appreciate the time that Chris Chopelas took in answering all of my questions and being very up front about the whole situation. He also gave me permission to post this photo of Ronnie and the bull. I know at that time in November when I talked with him, Chris was also looking for answers and trying to figure out the best way to approach this bull. He wasn’t sure what record book to approach and how to legitimately promote this bull. He wanted to do what was best and fair for the bull and the hunt. After going over all of the facts and information with him, I concluded that SCI (Safari Club International) was probably the only option he had with this bull.

Problems with elk in Texas:
Will elk in Texas ever get the acceptance from Boone and Crockett? I have my concerns the more I found out about the release of ranch bulls into the wild. I found that this is quite common with other ranches. I don’t know how this can be managed enough to ensure that the wild elk herds in west Texas stay that way. Regardless of whether the Texas Fish and Game (sorry…Texas Parks & Wildlife Department) start to manage the elk and provide a proper season and license, I feel there are problems with the elk in Texas. Land owners and ranch owners can do whatever they want on their property. If they decide to release ranch bulls on their open property, that is their choice. However, if this type of management continues, I don’t know how the elk herds can maintain the free-ranging status they now carry. Time will tell if free ranging, record book eligible elk will be in the future for Texas. I don’t see it changing any time soon.

Once again, 2005 has another controversial bull elk. But with proper information, we got it figured out.

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130 Comments on "World Record Elk from Texas?"

  1. Cooper says:

    Well spoken Texas West….we all may not hunt the same way or appreciate the way others may but its all in what floats your boat. We do need to stick together at the end of the day though because we may loose these rights if we don’t

  2. jonathan says:

    The way I see it texas deregulated elk they are considerd a exotic spieceis in the state of texas I don’t think it should make the books because of the state it was killed in

  3. Woody says:

    I just bought a small ranch right smack dab in the middle of where these elk are. There are no fences for miles around and I do not plan on fencing. So my sons and I hope that some of these free-ranging elk will paay us a visit. Congratulations on such a wonderful BULL. A wise man once told me that a thropy is in the eye of the beholder. And if the boys and I ever get a chance to harvest an ELK, it will be free-ranging. Again the Bull is breathtalking and one to be pround of and remember for what he accomplished in his long lifetime.

  4. El Paso says:

    I honestly don’t know the complete history of this particular kill (and neither do the rest of you).

    I can tell you that is is definately plausable that this animal was as wild and free ranging as any (Yes ANY) elk taken in North America.

    This is an extremely rugged, VAST and untamed region we are talking about folks.

    We are so married to the artificial boundries we call states it is nauseating sometimes.

    This part of “Texas” is BY FAR more similar to most of Southern New Mexico than the other two thirds of the state.

    There are NO native elk left in New Mexico by the way. They were extirpated long ago.

    What a stunning example of the species.

  5. george evans says:

    Nice article, Im glad the truth was discovered about it being a high fence bull, and ranch bull, I just don’t see how any man can be proud of that. People hunting ranches are giving us real hunters a bad image, trying to claim huge bulls all the time its a new record!!!If you ask me thats not hunting at all.

  6. jace says:

    Ranch hunters, fence hunters, its a joke people hunt for horns anymore and its a tragic blow to hunting. The size of the horns on the animal is not what matters and I wouldn’t want to hunt with a man like that.

  7. EcoRover says:

    A lot of this discussion begs the question: elk (and other game) should not be raised like livestock.

    It spreads disease like CWD from domestic to wild animals, and it promotes unethical canned hunts.

    Any game farm escapee should be treated like rogue livestock, and not as wild, fair-chase game. No record book.

    As someone pointed out, many game farm animals are fed steroids and other “supplements” to grow big racks.

    Geez, as hunters and a hunting nation, is this what we’ve come to?

  8. elkkilla says:

    well it is not a wide bull but i will
    give you your mass and points.

  9. Doug says:

    Nice bull. Nice article that covers all the angles. I enjoyed reading it a lot more than all these posts. Only a few were worth the time.
    Sounds like the guy had no idea it was “ranch-raised” or had ever had a tag. For that matter, the hole in his ear could have easily been a bullet hole.
    I have only ever seen ONE (and only one) that might come close in Idaho, and I would shoot it in a second if allowed. Until then, raghorns and cows taste fine.

  10. howell clark says:

    great article so balanced and fair what a relief from the usual politcal slant in so many sport reports

  11. Stetson says:

    For the 50,000th time, “Nice Bull.” By the way, the claim made above by “El Paso” that there are no native elk left in New Mexico is bull, no pun intended. However, I do agree with his statement that West Texas is vast and untamed. I believe that there are native elk left in Texas or at least some that have wandered down from New Mexico. Most folks are unaware of the fact that species such as elk, black bears, and even grizzlies are native to Texas, though most of them were killed out in the 1800s (all of the grizzlies, most of the black bears and elk). I would like to see these species make a comeback. Also, all you tree huggers need to quit whining and stay out of Texas’ business. If you don’t like hunting, don’t read hunting articles. You can take your Bambi mentality somewhere else. Keep Texas wild.

  12. Ash says:

    I don’t have a problem with hunting. I live in Mississippi so I am around it all the time and even went hunting when I was younger with my dad. But something that big and magnificent should have been left alive. I guess all we could hope for is that he was able to get his genes out.

  13. joe says:

    I worked down there in the oil fields. all of the elk that I saw had eartags which means that they were all imported, probably from new mexico where elk are meant to be!

  14. Rick Payne says:

    Hi Guy’s,
    The Elk (Wapiti) that was harvested here is magnificent, and yes this Bull is most definately an “exceptable example” of nature at it’s “Best”……….on the other hand, the other bull (trash talk), would also be an “exceptable example” of nature at it’s “Worst”!!!…………..Please remember that we are blessed to be able to enjoy these awesome creatures, and that when you are layin your head on the pillow at night,….. you know what’s right and wrong!!!!……………….Work with the facts, throw out the opinions, and understand that we are not in a posistion to point the finger!!

    P.S. Antlers not horns, are what these animals have topside……they are replaced every year by something better, or possibly larger…..and the beauty of the animal is greater than the bounty, although the best looking Elk or Deer I have ever seen, was on the barbeque grill!!!
    Rick/Traditional bowhunter!!

  15. Greg Taylor says:

    Nice bull but several disturbing facts are misguided. First is the mention of how Eastern and Merriams subspecies became extinct. This was not due to hunting but as a result of Market hunting. Hunting as a managed practice did not cause the extinctions. Secondly it is disturbing that elk are being released from farm operations which introduces the great chance of spreading diseases into wild populations. CWD, Tuberculosis and Brucellosis as prime concerns! This is a prime concern and dangerous to our wildlife!!

  16. shane says:

    it should be in the B&C, it doesnt matter that elk are not native to texas because we raise them and sell them them to new mexico and colorado ranches anyway

  17. magdalene says:

    The only bull in this picture and story is the kind left after the cows come home. The model is as real as a 3 dollar bill.

  18. Nicho says:

    things sure are a lot different in Montana, where a trophy comes from hours of effort not dollar bills in the back pocket. regardless to all this talk about legit hunting ethics and the debate between grain/steroid fed, this is a lot better than climbing out of a jeep and blasting an elephant bull from 15 yards and claiming “an amazing hunt”. Congrats to you on the bull.

  19. Kacey says:

    What a joke. That bull is huge, but they get that way when they are selectively bred on a farm. Even the friggin ranch owner admitted it had a hole from a tag in its ear. I dont have a problem with the guy paying money to shoot a huge bull, thats what the majority of hunting is moving towards. Just dont try and tell me west texas is an elk mecca that could naturally produce a bull that size without selective genetics. Also, what elk couldnt live 8+ years in texas, where are the predators? coyotes? Mountain lions? gimme a break it was released full grown. it has no competition for food, cattle cant jump fences. if coyotes and cats were so hard on elk then why were’nt western elk killed off till wolves were re-introduced? where are the grizzly bears? hey texas elk experts, are there free ranging herds of grizzlies too? Just because it isnt in a high fence doesnt make it natural. I am glad there are herds upon herds of huge elk in texas. All you texas hunt masters dont have to come to Montana.

  20. Dale Parker says:

    Congrats on the nice bull. I think anyone on here would’ve pulled the trigger on him. I live here in the area and work on a place that neighbors the CF. I don’t know if the hunter reads this blog or not…I kind of hope he doesn’t. It’s a shame to me to hear all the bashing of this guy. Hunting has changed over the years…most of us aren’t trying to feed our families. Those of you disparaging these trophy hunters don’t seem to have any problem having their license fees subsidize your public lands. I’m all about maintaining the integrity of fair chase, and I probably never will be able to pay for a really great elk…but I don’t have to trash the guy that can, unless he’s putting a bullet in something they just kicked out of a trailer. That’s not the case wtih this bull. There’s sure been a whole lot of talk from folks that don’t live around here,speculating on this hunt. Ronnie sure didn’t shoot him out of a feed bucket on the CF. You can say all you want about where folks should hunt, but in Texas this is our option…small percentage of public land. That talk about “this ain’t Europe” smacks of redistribution of wealth. My opinion is this guy has nothing to be ashamed of…he took a great bull on a fair chase hunt. After the fact it seems this bull may have come off a game ranch, but he’s been running wild for a long time, and Ronnie didn’t get to see his pedigree prior to laying him down. I can see why he couldn’t be in the books, with him being born on a game ranch and all. I really don’t see Texas elk ever being recognized because there’s just too much money to be made releasing these elk to sell for high dollar hunts. Even if they were to somehow legislate the release of bulls, I don’t know if the herd would thrive based on the amount of habitat and predation. Anyway, good bull no matter what and nice to be able to discuss him. Good hunting!

  21. oneshot says:

    I lived in the Fort Davis/Alpine area for several years. There have been elk there for many more than 7-8 years. For all of you folks who do not know it, Mount Livermore, northwest of Fort Davis, has seen the harvest of several large bulls, none of which have ever had ear tags. They were born there and, having been on hunts, the terrain is mountainous with pine trees, etc. and no fences. The animals are “free range”, not fed, and the hunts are real.

  22. John says:

    In the 1950′s and ’60′s a rich old man named Cap Yates brought in many elk in the southern part of the Glass Mountains near Marathon Texas. These Elk populated and spread across the range and over the years some wound up in the Davis Mountains between Alpine and Fort Davis. The distance is not that great. I have seen many 300+ class bulls during my cowboying days in that country. They are sparse, but still there. I doubt if this bull was a CF import. One Ranch, near the original Cap Yates property, where he is buried in a high canyon by the way, used to wake us up bugling just a few hundred yards from our bunkhouse. He was as reliable as a rooster and would have scored well over 350 BC. We never bothered the elk because it was just kind of cool having them around, except for the fact that they play immortal hell on fences.

  23. cw says:

    there is no high fence between nm and texas. so elk have crossed into texas and vice-versa forever. same as pronghorn. the country in question is desolate and extremely rugged.

  24. Adam says:

    Nice Bull, thats all im going to say about that.

  25. bubba says:

    In the 1950 Cap Yates brought elk in to the glass mountains.
    No elk before that there or in the the davis mountains. The elk in question was brought in and raised and feed. Either by CF Ranch Or Beal ranch. In no way should this be a record although it is a great elk.
    The terrian is not that good the have an elk that good in this area without feeding thern. Those ranches feed them all the time. I was raised here and my family came to davis monutaina in 1896 an on the Marathon basin we were friend with Cap Yates. no natural elk no record

  26. justin says:

    no biggie. I killed a bear the size of a jeep

  27. DavidM says:

    An added thought- if you could breed them that big, promote them as a tourist attraction- the Prehistoric Elk park.

  28. Mike says:

    I have a little land in the area and I have seen mule deer and pronghorn antelope but there is such tremendous pressure from cattle and sheep, and melon farms and irrigated golf courses and fences of course. Elk are native to the region since the Pleistocene folks, the wander freely between the TX and NM border. I have mixed feelings on trophy hunting but you know the facts are that hunting dollars have kept animal habitats INTACT around the planet from Africa to West Texas, which is a feat that no NGO or save the cuddly wuddly animals private non profit can do. I think there is a huge opportunity here–the Trans Pecos could be rewilded, cattle could be minimized and elk, bison, jaguars could be brought back to the region. The pronghorn antelope which have had a terrible time of it and the native Desert Bighorn sheep are also just hanging on as well, and they would thrive if the region gets on a campaign to replant with native grasses and forages. And thats just the mountain regions, there is a whole fast area between the mountains and the Pecos River and that whole region could be a new home for endangered Rhinos, The Somali Wild ass and some other african species–safari eco tourism would be a sustainable and lucrative industry to revitalize the region, which is in a constant state of semi depression and drought. The hospitality industry on down would benefit–it would revitalize the ecology and be sustainable..in my eyes, unless I am totally niave it would be a win win all around…Mike

  29. Terry Honeycutt says:

    It’s all about the money, what does the Elk know about high fences or for that matter any fence. Just because they are protected by private property, and fences does that mean there not a trophy. You people act if they were a hybred or some special cross breed Elk. it all has to do with longjevity, nutrition and not being persued on a daily basis. Folks an Elk is a Elk. But as I stated in the first part of this response it’s about money, It’s also about very jelous people wanting it all to theirself, to charge hunters more money. I’m suprised someone has not sued these outfitters for charging higher fees for trophy animals, if there are not farm raised like cattle then they are public property, managed by the game department. Therefore, the Lacey act will prevail, no different in selling game animal parts than charging more for a animal that God has created in a old trophy size.

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