The Spider Bull elk, named for the unusual shape of his antlers, was a sensation among hunters and wildlife enthusiasts when he was sighted in the wilds of Utah in 2008. He was hunted and killed in September of that year, and his massive spread of antlers set a new world record among wild, non-typical elk.
Spider Bull Elk Sightings
The Spider Bull elk was sighted numerous times in the summer of 2008 on public land in Utah, with videos of this non-typical male circulating on the Internet. At the time, the Spider Bull was still "in velvet," meaning he was in the annual stage of still growing his antlers. The rack of antlers on the Spider Bull were unlike any seen before -- a large spread similar to that of an upside-down spider. It was this rack that earned him his nickname.
Hunt of the Spider Bull Elk
Because the Spider Bull was on public land, he could be hunted only by approved hunters with permits. When archery season opened in August 2008, the hills where he had been seen swarmed with hunters, but no one spotted the renowned bull. He remained elusive come September, when rifle season began, until he was found on Utah's Monroe Mountain on Sept. 30, 2008, and killed by hunter Denny Austad.
In 2008, Denny Austad bid $155,000 for the Governor's Tag -- a unique hunting permit allowing him to hunt anywhere in Utah, and with any weapon. Austad hired a group of guides to search the mountainous area where the Spider Bull had been seen, to help pinpoint his location. Austad missed his first shot and the Spider Bull bolted. He was found again, however, and this time Austad fired the killing shot.
A World Record Score
Among hunters, elk are scored based on antler mass. Typical elk are those of normal size and having a normal antler spread. Non-typical elk have antlers that are not normally seen in other elk, and they're renowned for their larger size. The Spider Bull elk netted the highest number of points ever awarded a wild non-typical elk: 499 gross points, a world-record kill. The score was awarded by the Boone & Crockett Club, the organization that sets the standards for big-game points, scores and trophy kills.
Canned hunting of ranch-raised elk, which are typically larger than wild elk, is scored differently than wild elk hunts. Controversy arose in the hunt of the Spider Bull elk because it was widely suspected the unusual bull was either a deliberately transplanted ranch-raised elk or that it had escaped the high fences used in canned hunts to live in the wild. Either case would have disqualified the Spider Bull from the B&C Club record. Both sides of the Spider Bull disagreement were largely fueled by speculation, however, and neither side of the debate could supply evidence either way. As the controversy is not formal in nature, the record awarded the Spider Bull still stands.