New SCI World Record Archery Elk Raises Questions

Pictures of a giant elk blew up social media this past week. They feature a monster bull killed by Chuck Dawson on the Broadmouth Canyon Ranch in Idaho. According to the published SCI score sheet, the bull scored a “whopping a 643 4/8 SCI.”

We thought everyone might enjoy a look at the new #1 Nontypical bull elk harvested with a bow. One of our long time hunters Chuck Dawson was able to put this once in a lifetime trophy down with a well placed shot at our Idaho ranch. It scores a whopping 643 4/8 SCI. Wow!

Many commenters asked if the bull was a free-range and high fence. Based on the way the bull was presented and where it was killed it is most certainly high fence. Which is fine if that is how you choose to hunt, but it did have some hunters asking a few interesting questions. Like how big does a piece of land have to be considered fair chase?

I tackled this question in an article I wrote a few years back. I postulated that is Donald Trump succeeded in building his wall with Mexico and for some reason also decided to build a second wall separating us from Canada, would that make the lower 48 all high fence hunting? Of course, that seems just as crazy as calling a 1-acre pen free range.

I looked up Broadmouth Canyon Ranch and they say that their high fence area totals 10,000 acres. Is that enough for it to be considered hunting? I think depends on other factors.

Species is one factor, if I went rabbit hunting behind the fence I can not really see how the fence affects the hunt. However, for an animal like elk or mule deer that have a large home range the fence could definitely be a factor.

Population densities and how tame the animals are also should factor into the equation. If the fenced in area have a natural populations of animals and they are truly wild, meaning a healthy fear of humans.

While not every place fits these requirements, I truly believe there are places behind a fence that you can legitimately hunt. Population densities and age structure should be taken into account. The goal should be a natural habitat where animals are wild. Here are a few places I have found that demonstrate this.

In Africa, a majority of hunting is done on game farms that are in upwards of 1 million acres. That is an area that is way bigger than the natural range of probably all the animals inside. The animals have free range and live a natural life.  The fence is more to keep people out than keep the animals in.  I believe most people would consider it hunting to take an animal on one of these farms.

Camp James A. Garfield in Ohio, a place I have personally hunted deer, is another enclosed property that fits the criteria of hunting.  It is an old ammunition plant and current National Guard training area. It encompasses over 25,000 acres with at least 95% of it prime whitetail habitat. In order to hunt there, you need to be drawn in a lottery, so there is very little hunting pressure. This results in big deer with a natural age and population structures.

I killed my largest whitetail to date on the camp and consider it a free range hunt even though it is surrounded by fence. The deer have plenty of room to run, plenty of escape routes, and it is not guaranteed that you will kill a monster. It is hard hunting and a challenge.

I do not know the particulars behind this elk that was killed, but I do want to offer a few things for people to think about before they call shooting an animal behind a high fence a pet. I am sure there are places out there where that is the case, but probably not all of them.

High fence hunting will always be controversial in and out of hunting circles. Not all operations are created equal and they should be judged accordingly. Personally, I have no desire to hunt a high fence farm, but if you are into that more power to you.