“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.
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.
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 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.
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.