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Montana Mega Bull – A B&C Audio Adventure



By Chuck Adams
25th Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

The huge elk caught me by surprise. I was hunting mule deer with my guide when a bull bugled 200 yards away. I say “bugle,” but that’s really not the word. “Growl” would better describe the sound.

Seconds later, a line of cow elk streamed from the timber, fanned across a clearing, and dropped their heads to feed. I locked my binoculars to my eyes.

I’ll never forget what happened next. A very large 6x6 galloped into view, scattering cows as it charged headlong through the herd. And right on its tail was the biggest, gnarliest bull elk my guide and I had ever seen.

There was a deer tag in my pocket, but I had bagged my Montana elk four days earlier. That bull was also a stunner, with massive 6x6 antlers. Incredibly, the bull in front of me dwarfed my 6x6 in every sort of way.

The monster had heavy, deeply arching beams and seven long points per side. The spread was impossibly wide, and every point was long. Even the seventh tines would easily measure a foot. The third points (normally shortest on an elk) looked to be 17 or 18 inches long.  Brow tines stretched forward beyond the nose, a sure sign of exceptional length. Main beams dropped downward over the bull’s rump, making the huge “whale tail” back forks look even bigger.

We watched that elk until nightfall, and during those two final hours, I inspected the bull from every possible angle. I carefully compared it with the elk I’d already taken, and reached an astonishing conclusion. With main beams pushing 60 inches, an inside spread at least 50 inches, and long points all around, I decided this elk would score at least 50 inches more than mine! That meant we were looking at a bull that would score well over 400 points!

I shot a decent mule deer a few days later, and headed home with the image of that huge elk permanently burned in my brain. I told a few friends about it, and thought about that bull every day and every night for the next 11-1/2 months.

September 14, 2000, found me hiking the same drainage where the giant bull had been the year before. My trusty guide, a good friend of mine, was across the canyon glassing and listening for the bull. My pal prefers not be mentioned by name because he’s afraid people will zero in on his elk hot spots. I don’t blame him a bit.

I knew from past experience that mature elk often rut in the same place year after year. “Please, God,” I thought. “Let that theory be true!”

I felt my neck hairs prickle as a familiar, single-note bugle rolled down the draw. The gravel-voiced monarch was back, less than half a mile from where we’d seen it in 1999. There was no mistaking the sound.

Half an hour later, I caught the herd as they crossed the last opening below a dog-hair-thick bedding hillside. Weather was beastly hot — already 80 degrees — and animals were racing for shade.

My view was not a good one, but I instantly recognized the bull as it trudged between two trees. It looked a bit smaller than I remembered. It had the same wide and downward-curving beams, and the same very long points, but only six tines on the right and a shorter seventh on the left. Yet, it was still a huge elk.

I believe it’s always a mistake to pressure elk in their bedding areas. If you do, you risk running them off for good. We called it a morning, and went back to camp for lemonade and a snooze.

Elk move around a lot and don’t bugle consistently when weather is warm. It was very warm in mid-September 2000. My guide and I heard and saw nothing that evening.  We located only ten cows and one small bull the following day. The country was steep, remote, and densely overgrown — just the place for a giant herd bull to feed and breed silently without being detected.

I was certain the bull was still nearby.  I could feel it in my bones.


Pale pink arrows shot upward across the sky as we hiked uphill at dawn on the third morning.  Hot yellow light soon oozed over the mountains, followed by a blazing sun. I could barely see to shoot, and it was already 75 degrees!

We split to look and listen from opposite ridgelines. A cow elk popped into view 300 yards ahead followed by another and another. Soon more than 30 cows and calves were feeding in front of me, slipping in and out of the trees like ghosts.

I saw only one antler at first, but I recognized the rack as the animal came into view. The colossal bull crossed an opening and nudged a cow with its rack.  Its left seven-point side flashed clearly before the bull disappeared, showing the dramatic down-sweep of the beam.

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My heart was doing handsprings as I trotted crosswind and closed in on the herd. I knew my guide had seen them too and would be close behind. We’d hunted together like a well-oiled machine. As always, I’d hunt and he’d hang back to watch.

The elk were moving rapidly toward the same hillside where they’d vanished two days before. I veered away and loped uphill in a huge half-circle, well hidden by trees. With luck, I just might get a shot.    

The big bull pushed its herd up a densely wooded draw. Cows chirped now and then, and the bull growled once. From past experience, I knew the ravine took a 45-degree bend half a mile ahead. I eased around a hill, chugged up a draw, and hooked back over the top at the most likely ambush point.

Good Lord! Elk were streaming past as I peeked above the ridge. A split-instant later, the giant bull appeared 50 yards below, strutting along the same trail as its cows. I grabbed my range finder, swung the reticule on the nearest elk, and punched the distance button — 39 yards.

I ducked down, drew the bow, and eased back up to shoot. I had to crouch, twist, and lean to clear a low-growing branch.

The bull came broadside, and I let go a single cow chirp with the diaphragm call I always clench in my teeth during an elk stalk. The monster stopped and whipped its head to stare. My 40-yard pin found its heart. Thirty minutes later I wrapped both hands around the biggest elk antlers I had ever seen. The animal had gone less than 75 yards before dropping.

The giant 6x7 rack spread 60 inches, weighed 39-1/2 pounds, and scored 411-3/8 official B&C points, making it one of the largest typical American elk ever measured by that fine organization. My bull was also declared a new Pope and Young Club’s World’s Record. In 2001, I was presented the Ishi Award, Pope and Young Club’s top honor and only the 14th given in the Club’s 40-year history, for taking this extraordinary elk.  This bull stands as the second largest typical elk taken by bow or gun in Montana. Taking this elk is a high point in my bowhunting life. 

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

-Theodore Roosevelt