The ‘Spider Bull’

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Video spider bull elk score

An Idaho hunter tagged what looks to be a new world record Rocky Mountain elk. The huge-racked “Spider Bull,” as the outfitter calls it, reportedly green scores more than 500 Boone and Crockett Club non-typical gross points (the current world record is 465 2/8).

“The Spider Bull is an outstanding specimen and aptly named,” said Keith Balfourd, B&C’s director of marketing, as he looked at a photo of the bull on the Internet. “Its tines are splayed out” like a spider’s legs.

Denny Austad poses with the ‘Spider Bull’ that stands to be a world record. Courtesy KIDK-TV

Hunter Denny Austad hired MossBack Outfitters to help him find this 9×12 bull elk on public land in the central Utah area near Monroe. On Sept. 30, 2008, Austad dropped it with a shot from a rifle he designed himself.

Since then, the Spider Bull has had a life of its own on Internet chat rooms and outdoor sites.

Most hunters have a big congratulations for Austad and the MossBack guides. The armchair sportsmen recognize that they’re watching hunting history being made.

Never before in the record-keeping club’s 100-year history has anyone come close to taking, or even finding, an elk with these proportions: a green-score 500 4/8 inches total antler length, and a net score of 488 B&C inches. The current world record non-typical is a 465 2/8 bull found dead in 1994 at Upper Arrow Lake, British Columbia.

“The reality still hasn’t set in,” said Brandon Verde of MossBack Outfitters. “Something like this, a pending world record, hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s starting to.”

The term “spider” comes from guide Doyle Moss’ reaction to the way the tines form what looks like the legs of a spider. All bulls have unique tine lengths, points and shapes, but the Spider Bull is overwhelming to elk-hunting experts. It’s an explosion of points. The G1s, also called fronts, and G3s are especially mesmerizing.

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While sentiments of congratulations pour in, just as many observers complain about the way the majestic bull fell.

Maybe it’s sour grapes. Maybe there is something to the accusations.

Austad is a well-known hunter in the Western big-game circles. The Ammon, Idaho, man has taken record pronghorn antelope and mule deer among other hard-to-hunt game. Austad claims he hunted just as hard for two weeks to take the Spider Bull.

But he used a centerfire rifle in muzzleloader season. He also had a large number of guides scouting out the location of the bull for him while he was still in Idaho.

Austad had purchased a six-figure Governor’s Tag for the right to hunt any game management unit in the state with whatever legal weapon he wanted to use (Governor’s Tag proceeds go to wildlife conservation organizations).

Field & Stream writer Andrew McKean called this hunt “troubling.”

“There are a couple of unsettling aspects to this story,” he wrote on the F&S Web site. “For hunters who are passionate about America’s tradition of free, public hunting and fret the implications of trophy hunting at any cost, the Spider Bull represents a troubling trend.”

In phone interviews with ESPNOutdoors.com, some wondered if it was even a wild bull at all.

“Looks like a ranch elk,” said one central Utah taxidermist who asked that his name not be mentioned. “There are a few elk ranches near Monroe and this elk looks pretty ‘ranchy.’ No way of saying for sure though.”

Ranchers give bulls lip tattoos. No tattoos were present on the Spider Bull, said Verde of MossBack.

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Other accusations range from MossBack guides blocking public access to the hunt area and intimidating other hunters who had heard of this public-land trophy.

“Not true,” said Verde. “To discredit the bull is sad. This bull is real. We wouldn’t be in business if we did things like that.”

Verde said many other hunters had the same opportunity to bag the Spider Bull. It’s a fact that about every hunter in the area knew about the bull.

In August 2008, a video of the live bull walking public land surfaced on the Internet. Anyone who drew a tag for the Monroe Mountain Unit was hunting there in bow and muzzleloader season.

Someone e-mailed that video clip to a MossBack guide and he contacted longtime client Austad. Austad hunted the bull with MossBack guides for two weeks in September before Austad had to return to Idaho, reportedly to deal with carbon monoxide poisoning.

When Austad returned to central Utah two weeks later, he wasn’t at camp more than an hour before the MossBack guides brought him to the bull, according to reports.

“It was probably one of my most difficult physical and mental hunts,” Austad told KIDK TV in Pocatello, Idaho. “Whether it is a world record or not is OK with me. It’s just a great animal, and it’s created a lot of excitement.”

What’s next for the spider bull

Austad is expected to enter his Spider Bull for Boone & Crockett Club recognition.

First, he must wait for the mandatory 60-day drying period to end on Nov. 29. Then, B&C will ensure that it meets their trophy entry standards before it is accepted. It must be taken with a legal weapon, be taken in a fair-chase manner, that is, it wasn’t in a high-fence enclosure and the bull’s antlers must not have been altered in any way, among other prerequisites.

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If the entry score is anywhere near the current world record, a special judges panel would convene to confirm the final score and decide if it is the new non-typical world record.

Although the record-keeping body hasn’t gotten its hands on this bull yet, B&C’s Balfourd said he had a lot of faith that this could be real deal.

“Doyle Moss isn’t an official scorer, but he knows how to score accurately,” said Balfourd. “I don’t suspect the score will be that far off.”