Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Adventures from the Archives - Bert Riggall’s Bighorn Rams

Alberta 1906

Bert Riggall was Alberta’s first Renaissance Man. He was a mountain guide, outfitter, hunter, trapper, rancher, naturalist, photographer, and writer—all wrapped up in one hell of a mustache.


Frederick Herbert (Bert) Riggall was a legendary Alberta outfitter. He guided his clients to World's Record bighorns, and shot a few bruisers himself. Today, it isn't necessarily the rams for which he is remembered. His thirst for adventure in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies was matched only by his artistic eye and ever-present camera. His photos transport viewers to the early days of outfitting and Canada's frontier. And his stories of hunting rams in the early 1900s are just as impressive.

Born in 1884 in Lincolnshire, England, Riggall spent his youth in the North Sea port town of Grimsby. He excelled at athletics and was drawn to the outdoors. On holidays, he got a taste for the alpine in Switzerland. By the time he was 20, he was on a steamer bound for the wilds of North America.

Bert and Dora on horseback soon after they homesteaded. ca.1906

He made his way toward Calgary, and worked on a farm where he met Dora Williams. The two would marry in 1906. Riggall took a job on a survey crew in southwestern Alberta where he explored Waterton Lakes National Park. He was so taken with the area’s rugged beauty that he and Dora homesteaded there until 1946. They built boats and guided fishermen. In 1909, Riggall started guiding and outfitting for bighorns, goats, black and grizzly bears. Dora was the camp cook.

As Riggall’s outfitting business grew, he explored vast stretches of Alberta, establishing trails and taking photographs with his Kodak Panoram No. 1 camera. “Bert Riggall’s photographs are representative of the indistinct line between the use of the land that his livelihood depended on and his appreciation for the areas he wished to see protected,” said one museum archivist. "Bert's images take the viewer beyond iconic or popular views of the Canadian Rocky Mountains exposing a distinct interpretation of life in the Rockies.”

Watch this short video on the importance of Bert Riggall's photographs in early conservation efforts in the Canadian Rockies.

Over the course of his extraordinary life in the Canadian wilds, Riggall took more than 14,000 photographs, and recorded his family’s life in diaries, maps, and letters. He was a masterful storyteller, penning articles for American Rifleman, Outdoor Life, and others. His record of life on the Canadian frontier promoted toursim in the region and helped conserve the wild places where Riggalls rams called home.

The Hunts

Riggall’s name appears only once in the Boone and Crockett records. It’s next to a beautiful bighorn that measures 193-6/8 points. Not much is known about that particular trophy other than it was taken in 1906 around Yarrow Creek, Alberta, which is just north of Waterton Lakes National Park and southeast of Castle Wildland Provincial Park—both of which were Riggall’s backyard.

F.H. Riggall and packhorse crossing Boundary Creek in 1909. Archives and Library, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies.

It seems that Riggall saved the truly massive rams for his clients. Take Martin Bovey’s ram, which was a World’s Record in 1924. Riggall first spotted the “Bovey Ram” ram when he was tracking down runaway pack horses in the fall of 1917. In 1920, he took two men, Martin Bovey and Meridian Bennett into that country. Bovey had hunted with Riggall when he was 14. Now, he was back from WW I. The men tracked down those three rams Riggall had seen three years prior and Bennett ended up shooting the smallest of the bunch. The biggest one got away. In 1924, Martin Bovey returned, this time with his brother Charlie. Eventually, the men caught up with a group of rams, and Bovey, with his Savage .250-3000, shot the ram with an 87-grain bullet right in the jugular. Jack O’Connor later told Riggall, “That was probably the best trophy ever taken on the North American continent.” Riggall wrote about that hunt for Outdoor Life in “The Three Musketeers.”

And then there is the curious case of the missing World’s Record ram. A. Phimister Proctor was one of America’s greatest sculptors, and in the fall of 1912, he went sheep hunting with Riggall. The men saddled up and ventured into the Yarrow Creek country, which Riggall knew well. On this hunt, Proctor was hunting with a new rifle. When Riggall spotted a shooter ram, Proctor’s bullets flew everywhere but at the target. After figuring out the problem, Proctor connected on two massive bighorns, but their fate remains unknown.

Writing about the ram in the Club’s Records of North American Big Game, 15th Edition, Club member Tony Caliguri writes, “The ram was on loan for a time, possibly to the Camp Fire Club or the American Museum of Natural History. It was heralded as the World’s Record, but no records or score charts exist. Riggall guided for 66 bighorn rams, all over 36 inches, several over 40 inches, and many of record-book class. He remembered the Proctor ram as the largest bighorn sheep he ever saw, even bigger than the World’s Record Bovey ram. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation using the 18 6/8-inch bases, 41-inch length, and, assuming the mass would be carried out the same as similar western Alberta rams, Proctor’s ram might score over 215 points, possibly eclipsing the current Wild Horse Island World’s Record.” Proctor's ram remains AWOL.


You need to register on B&C’s website to view score charts. It's FREE and takes less than a minute to complete. If you already have an account, simply log in to gain access.
Register for FREE 

About Adventures from the Archives

The Boone and Crockett Club’s records contain more than 70,000 big game entries, from musk ox to mule deer. Among those entries are more than a few stories of adventures afield. To celebrate those trophies, their habitat, and the hunter, we’re bringing those stories back to life with each installment of Boone and Crockett’s Adventures from the Archives.



Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt