‘Dirtbags’ Strike Again: Huge Elk Rack Stolen From Backyard In Lander

Somebody stole a trophy-sized bull elk skull and antlers from a backyard in Lander, mirroring the actions of thieves another hunter called dirtbags after his trophy mule deer rack was stolen in the Wyoming backcountry.

Mark Heinz

October 18, 20223 min read

Stolen elk head 1 10 17 22
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The “dirtbags” are at it again.

Thieves stole a trophy-sized elk skull and antlers from a backyard in Lander.

“I don’t know why people do something like this. It’s pretty low,” David DeAustin of Lander told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. 

Sometime late Saturday or early Sunday, somebody stole a trophy-sized elk skull and antlers from his backyard. 

DeAustin had been processing the antlers and skull to make a European mount trophy for his friend, bowhunter Aron Snyder of Riverton. Snyder is the owner and president of Kifaru International outdoor equipment company in Riverton. 

A European mount involves only the animal’s skull and antlers or horns mounted on a plaque or hook that can be hung on a wall. 

The thieves’ actions mirror an earlier incident in which hunter Jimmy Lynn of Utah said “dirtbags” stole his trophy mule deer head after a hard hunt in a remote area of Wyoming’s Hoback Mountain Range.

DeAustin said he also knows Lynn and was appalled by what happened to him. 

A Great Bull

Snyder bagged the bull elk in mid-September while bow hunting with a friend in the Colorado backcountry, DeAustin said. 

“It took him a handful of days to get that elk, in bad weather, with tons of rain,” DeAustin said. 

The bull was “probably 10 or 11 years old,” he said. “He had mass to where you couldn’t even get both hands around the bases of the antlers. I’d say he was at least in the 350 (inch) range, maybe more.”

DeAustin was refereeing to the highly-regarded Boone and Crockett scoring system for big game animal antlers and horns. Bull elk scoring 360 inches or more qualify for the B&C record books. 

Gone Sunday Morning

DeAustin said both he and his fiancée saw the antlers and skull still in their backyard late Saturday. 

“When I got up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday to let the dog out, it was gone,” he said. “I don’t know how anybody could even see them in my back yard, there’s so much brush along the edges back there.”

DeAustin said his neighbors include several law enforcement officers and Wyoming Game and Fish Department wardens, so he’s gotten the word out about the theft. Lander police also have been canvassing the neighborhood. 

He said he’s also been in contact with antler collectors, pawn shop owners and others whom the thieves might try fencing the stolen hunting trophy to. 

‘You’d Be Surprised’

Antlers might be stolen for a variety of reasons, he said. 

People might take them to use for dog chews. Or, they can fetch up to $20 per pound on some black markets, DeAustin said. In some foreign countries, ground-up antler powder is thought to have medicinal qualities.

Still others might buy them to falsely boast of their own hunting exploits, he said. 

“You’d be surprised how many people do that,” he said. “A lot of people will hang up animals they didn’t shoot and then brag and tell stories about it.”

Reward Offered

After reading the story about the theft, Colorado outdoor equipment manufacturer Davis Tent has offered a reward.

Anyone who provides law enforcement with information leading to an arrest will get a free Davis Tent.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter