In addition to population estimates, habitat management and conservation, a key component of wildlife management for most popular game animals includes regulated hunting. This holds true for elk hunting, too, but the recently-discovered record elk from Minnesota was not shot by a hunter at all. After learning about this lucky deer hunter that stumbled into a bull elk of record proportions, it seems you just never know when you are going to run into a wall hanger!
Whitetail hunter Ryan Muirhead had set out to fill his buck tag on December 12, the final day of Minnesota ’s muzzleloader season, but little did he know he would bump into a huge 9 x 10 bull elk with antlers that may rewrite the record books. The manner in which he found the bull was even more extraordinary…it was pinned flat on its back with its antlers stuck in the mud.
The bull’s antlers green-scored 475 5/8 gross, with a net of 456 4/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale. Based on the green score alone, the elk ranks as the third largest nontypical in the world and the largest ever bull elk in Minnesota. The Boone and Crockett nontypical world record elk, a 9 x 14 taken in 2008 on public land in Utah, scored an amazing 478 5/8 with a gross of 499 3/8.
“The big bull elk was on his back, chest heaving, steam pouring from his nose,” he recalls.“He’d been kicking for quite a while and he was worn out.” On closer examination they saw that the animal’s antlers appeared to be embedded in the muddy ground, pinning its head to the snow. “He’d stuck himself like turtle upside down. No way he was moving. We just sat there for a while trying to think what to do,” Muirhead says. “We were in awe.”
The guys sought help from a local rancher, who supplied a two-by-four, which they used as a lever to pry the rack from the ground. “It took a few minutes, but we finally got him three-quarters of the way turned and he flopped over and staggered off. You could see by the holes in the ground how his antlers had been dug down in the mud 8 to 10 inches.”
The bull didn’t go far. “His legs were like Jello. He kind of staggered to the fence and fell down. We all backed off and let him be. After resting a few minutes, the bull stood and began walking toward the woods. “I just had to go back; I knew he wasn’t going to make it far.” On Tuesday, December 14, Muirhead returned to the site with his wife, Josie. They found the bull 600 yards back in the woods.
Since the elk was on state land, Muirhead called the Minnesota DNR so that he could have a chance of legally possessing the antlers. Interestingly, the record bull elk was found in an area where elk hunting is prohibited in Minnesota. Finding this big bruiser dead was the only way a hunter could have legally bagged this monster elk. Now the head, giant antlers included, hang in his house. Heck of a deer hunt!