A few weeks ago, we told you about the World Record Bull Elk that was shot behind a high fence operation in Southern Idaho. Many questioned the legitimacy of the “world record” claim made by Broadmouth Canyon Ranch. To clarify, the two major record keeping organizations, Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett, do not count an animal for the record book unless it is fair chase.
But the real question is: How the heck did that bull elk get so freakishly large? The next biggest bull elk ever harvested during a “fair chase” did not surpass the 500-inch mark, and the farm-raised bull clocked in at 526 inches. That's a big gap.
A few things cause antlers to grow large: culled hunting, selective breeding and food treatments.
But mostly it's genetics. In the case of of Broadmouth Canyon Ranch bull elk, natural selection was not an option. The herd is “culled” (called management hunts) of lesser-horned bulls with discount hunts. These little bulls are not allowed to breed and thus do not pass on the diminutive horn genes to the remainder of the herd. The big bulls are allowed to grow and breed with the cows. Therefore the progeny will have bigger horns leading to the new, albeit not fair-chase, record.
Another thing that can contribute to increased horn size is an increase in the bull’s nutritional intake. If a bull is fed minerals that lead to bigger horn production, the bull will have bigger horns.
Combine culled hunting, genetically-selective breeding and mineral treatment and you might get a new, but not recognized, world record bull elk.