Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Honoring Where We’ve Been

Undated photo of the original National Collection building at the Bronx Zoo.

In 2022, both the Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads and Horns and one of B&C’s great partners, Federal Premium Ammunition, are celebrating their centennial anniversaries. The building that housed the National Collection was dedicated in May 1922 and marked a critical time in turning the tide toward wildlife conservation. Federal Cartridge Company was incorporated in April 1922, and when the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act passed in 1937, Federal became one of the primary companies paying the excise tax that helped restore our native wildlife populations. Conservation became a success story over the next 100 years, and the Club and our members and partners were at the center of the discussion.

At the 31st Big Game Awards celebration in July, we will once again see our conservation successes when the Club will recognize the biggest heads, horns, and antlers from North America entered into our record book over the last three years. The event will be hosted by Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium (current home to the National Collection of Heads and Horns) and Federal Premium Ammunition is the Centennial Sponsor.

A Centennial Year

“The 31st Big Game Awards only happens every three years and it is a true tribute to the fair chase hunters who found such success in the field. With this year’s event coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the National Collection of Heads and Horns and our great partners at Federal Premium Ammunition as well as the 50th birthday of Bass Pro Shops, we will be honoring the history of conservation that continues to support the healthy wildlife populations that make these successes possible.”

Tony A. Schoonen 

Enjoy the following stories on the history of both the National Collection of Heads and Horns and Federal Premium Ammunition. We hope you will join us July 21-23 in Springfield, Missouri for the 31st Big Game Awards to celebrate our conservation legacy and these centennial anniversaries!

Celebrating where we’re going

William T. Hornaday, one of the earliest and most influential members of the Boone and Crockett Club, had an apocalyptic prediction for the wildlife of the world. “As wild animal extermination now is proceeding all over the world, it is saddening to think that 100 years hence many of the species now shown in our collection will have become totally extinct.” He wrote those words right after the dedication ceremony for the Heads and Horns Museum at the Bronx Zoo exactly a century ago. The museum was built to house the National Collection of Heads and Horns. Thankfully, his prediction was largely wrong.

Hornaday was a passionate conservationist, pioneering taxidermist, and visionary. That vision included a memorial to preserve, through museum displays, species that he thought would be extinct by 2022. His goal was to create two complete collections of all the heads, horns and antlers of the world’s ungulates. It would be called the National Collection of Heads and Horns (NCHH). But first, he needed two of every ungulate.

In 1907, Hornaday used his connections to Boone and Crockett and other organizations to spread the word to sportsmen that they were looking for donations. And those sportsmen delivered. Contributions to the collection came from all over the world. Hornaday donated his personal collection of 131 heads and horns representing 108 species. Many others followed.

When the NCHH was installed in the administration building’s picture galleries in February 1910 it consisted of 688 specimens. By 1916 it had grown to 850 specimens, far beyond the capacity of the two picture galleries to be properly displayed in a scientifically meaningful fashion. They were going to need a bigger building and money to build it.


Finding a permanent home for some of the largest and most historically important trophy specimens, not to mention hundreds of them, isn’t easy. Hornaday would need to raise the money to build something worthy of the collection. At first he did rather well, collecting $100,000 from ten donors. Then came the Great War, which pushed material costs through the ceiling and delayed construction. Hornaday waited until more reasonable times, and by May 1922, the building was complete.

At two stories and 10,842 square feet, the new home of the NCHH was built of brick and Indiana limestone. Two main public exhibition halls were on the upper level. Some ceilings were built of glass that flooded the exhibits with sunlight. There was enough space to house two distinct but equally complete series of heads and horns, arranged zoologically and geographically.

Pictured here is the original home of the National Collection of Heads and Horns, which opened to the public in May 1922.

Hornaday valued the collection at $450,000 in 1922—that’s $7.4 million in 2021 dollars. The collection contained 11 world record trophies and 14 seconds, plus other irreplaceable specimens of extreme rarity and value.

The collection served its purpose for three decades, making the public aware of the potential loss of these great wildlife species and the need for conservation. But by 1950 funding to maintain the collection had all but dried up. There was talk of selling the collection in 1949 to the American Museum of Natural History. As the years went by, interest in the NCHH waned, and some of the original 800 specimens began to disappear.

In 1959, the Zoological Society appropriated $21,800 to renovate the Heads and Horns Museum, and the collection was consolidated to show only the most important and significant heads. That reduced the collection to about 300 specimens. By 1968 the NCHH was closed to the public. After thieves stole 13 heads in 1974, the Zoological Society started to look for a new home for the collection.

Boone and Crockett Club staff and members at the entrance to the National Collection when it was relocated to the National Rifle Association Firearms Museum. From left: Larry Means - Executive Director, and members Jack Parker, William Harold Nesbitt, and Lowell E. Baier.

The Boone and Crockett Club took ownership of the collection in 1978. An inventory revealed 238 specimens, which included only 34 of North American origin. The National Rifle Association renovated one section of its Firearms Museum in Washington, D.C., to display the North American specimens. The rest of the collection was deeded to Safari Club International. Then in 1982, the NCHH was relocated from D.C. to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming where it stayed on display until 2016.

The entrance to the National Collection at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Today, the NCHH is a featured exhibit at Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri. Located adjacent to Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store, the all new, state-of-the-art showcase of hunter-and-angler led conservation is the vision of Bass Pro Shops founder and Boone and Crockett Club member Johnny Morris. The collection features more than 40 historically significant North American game animals that helped spark America’s conservation movement in the 1920s, but that may not be the most impressive feature.

The display is housed in a replica of the same building that was dedicated a century ago, complete with ceilings made of similar windows to illuminate the trophies. The exhibit also includes highlights of B&C members who contributed to conservation in North America. In addition, visitors to the NCHH are greeted by a replica of the sign that was part of the original collection. It reads, “In Memory of the Vanishing Big Game of the World.” While the original purpose of the NCHH was to serve as a memorial, we are proud to say that it is now a celebration of successful conservation efforts spearheaded long ago by members of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Today the National Collection is on permanent exhibit at Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium in Springfield, Missouri.





Click to read the full story about the Boone and Crockett Club's National Collection of Heads and Horns.


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

-Theodore Roosevelt