Hunting Ranches

General Information and Background

The elk is one of the most highly prized trophies on the North American continent. Each year, hunters spend lots of time and money in search of trophy elk. As the human population increases and the trophy quality of the wild elk decreases, hunting ranches are flourishing.

Hunting Ranches To Visit

Elk hunting ranches are usually very large acreages in rough terrain. You can buy hunts in many different ways with amenities ranging from primitive to executive, and trophies from average to spectacular. Some ranches guarantee a kill, some a shot, others offer no guarantees. No state license is required since the herd does not belong to the government. You do need a reservation and a down payment.

In the hunting world, there are two types of elk antler. A typical rack is one in which both antlers look like the "normal" elk antler and where both antlers look very much like each other. A great typical bull will have 6 points on each side. A spectacular typical bull will have 8 points per side. A non-typical bull has extra points here and there and his antlers may look different from each other.

Elk trophies are scored by measuring the rack. All of the scoring systems basically sum the total inches of antler by measuring the main beam on each side and then adding the length of each tine. Then they add the circumference of the beam at 4 strategic points and the width of the inside spread (distance between the 2 antlers at the widest point). The basic difference between the Safari Club International system and the Boone & Crockett system is that for a Typical score, the B&C system subtracts the extra length on each tine so that both sides are essentially equal while the SCI system does not subtract.

Antler competitions, sanctioned by the North American Elk Breeders Association, are held each year to determine who grows the biggest rack. Until recently these competitions were for velvet antler only. Recently, both a typical and a non-typical hard antler class have been added. NAEBA has adopted a modified SCI scoring system, where the inside spread is calculated based upon the total beam length. This was necessary because the bull is not present at the competition (he shed these antlers in early spring) and there is no way to measure the spread if the antlers are not connected to the skull.

Besides "herd sire", there are three different roles that a bull can play on an elk farm. Some elk ranches breed specifically for first-class trophy bulls to sell to hunters or hunting ranches. They often velvet them as they are maturing to pay the feed bills. Velvet ranches selectively breed for velvet production. They might, however, sell their old bulls or their culls that do not produce impressive velvet as trophy bulls. Meat operations typically do not participate in either the velvet or the trophy market because the animal is slaughtered at 24-27 mos. There are very few meat operations yet because elk are worth considerably more as velvet bulls or as trophy bulls than as meat bulls. Eventually this will change, but that is many years away.



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