The rack of a trophy elk that died last December in Kittson County of northwest Minnesota has been confirmed as No. 4 in the world, a measurer for the Boone and Crockett Club says.
Randy Dufault, East Grand Forks, said he scored the rack this week, and the massive antlers measured 458 4/8 inches after the 60-day drying period that's required before the score can become official.
A second Boone and Crockett measurer, Rodney Dehart of Bemidji, also measured the rack and got the same score, Dufault said.
"I called Boone and Crockett, and it's best to measure with a couple of guys to make sure we get it right," Dufault said. "We believe we got the right score."
The rack, a 6x7 typical with some non-typical points, green-scored 456 4/8 when Dufault initially measured it in December. Typically, the score goes down after the drying period; not this time.
"I do it real conservative when I green-score them," Dufault said. "When I do the final score, everybody hates when it goes down."
The world record non-typical elk, taken in Utah and certified in 2009, officially scored 478 5/8.
The Kittson County elk made headlines in December after Ryan Muirhead of Roseau, Minn., and some friends came across the animal while driving a rural road on the last day of Minnesota's muzzleloader deer season.
The elk had tripped while trying to cross a fence and landed on its back. Its antlers were mired 8 to 10 inches into muddy ground that remained unfrozen beneath the deep snow.
With the help of some local residents who came driving by, Muirhead and his hunting partners managed to free the elk by using a 10-foot 2x4 to pry the antlers from the mud. The bull struggled to regain its footing but eventually staggered into the woods.
Figuring the elk would die, Muirhead returned to the area each of the next two days. He and his wife, Josie, found the bull bedded down, too exhausted to move, the second day. They stayed only briefly, but Muirhead returned a few hours later; he watched and waited nearly six hours before the bull died.
Muirhead, who was interested in retaining the antlers, contacted Ben Huener, a conservation officer for the Department of Natural Resources in Roseau. Huener took possession of the the animal for a few days but returned the elk to Muirhead after determining it hadn't been taken illegally.
Dufault green-scored the antlers a few days before Christmas.
"I've never seen a rack like this before," he said.
According to Dufault, Boone and Crockett has separate categories for racks from elk that are found and racks from bulls that are hunted. But that's not a factor in determining the world record.
"The world record is the world record," Dufault said. "This is No. 4 in the world as far as wild roaming elk. There are bigger ones in pens that are fed every day, but in our world, they don't mean anything to us. These have to be free-ranging animals."
Hectic few months
Contacted Thursday, Muirhead said the past few months have been hectic, given the interest the trophy rack has generated. Field & Stream magazine recently ran a story about the encounter, and Muirhead said it also will be featured in a future issue of Bugle magazine, published by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
"It's been just kind of unexpected," Muirhead said. "It's kind of overwhelming. It quieted down, but I'm sure it's going to pick up again once the score gets out there."
Dufault said a special Boone and Crockett judging panel set to convene in 2013 will have to measure the antlers before the score is officially recorded in the record book. That's required for all top 10 scores, he said.
Until then, he said, the score stands at 458 4/8 -- fourth in the world.
"I'm sure it's pretty close," Dufault said.
Regardless of the score, one thing's for sure: The rack is going to occupy a prominent place in the Muirhead house, which fortunately has a 22-foot cathedral ceiling.
"Absolutely," Muirhead said. "I've got a spot in the living room.
"Just to see it in person ... it really is amazing."
Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.