By Mark Heinz, outdoors reporter
Wyoming hunting guide Chance Marshall had been scouting a monster bull elk in the Red Desert since August.
So he was crestfallen earlier this month when, on the evening before he was going to take a client on a hunt for the bull, he discovered that nearly an entire side of the bull’s antlers was missing. The main beam had snapped off not far from the base.
He’s not sure how it happened. Bull elk can sometimes snap their antlers while fighting with other bulls over cow elk during the rut (mating season). Or they might break them while slashing at trees and brush in displays of aggressing during the rut.
“I told him (the hunter), ‘Dude, yeah, he’s still there, but his antlers are broken,’” Marshall told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.
But the hunter, Cody Fuller of Ogden, Utah, was undeterred.
“I’d passed up a huge broken-antler bull before,” and the regret had haunted him, so he didn’t want to make that mistake again, Fuller told Cowboy State Daily.
‘No, I Want That Bull’
Marshall, of Lander, has guided numerous hunters with Extreme Outfitters, but said he’s never met one with Fuller’s determined optimism.
After discovering that the bull’s antler was broken, Marshall said he offered to take Fuller out after some other big elk he knew were in the same area.
“Cody just looked at me and said, ‘No, I want that bull. That’s the bull we’ve talked about, and that’s the bull we’re going to hunt. If he has a missing antler, then so be it.’”
The Tag Of A Lifetime
Utah, along with the other southern Rockies states, is better known for its trophy-sized bull elk than most of Wyoming. But the Red Desert, which includes the coveted elk hunt area 124, is one place in Wyoming that can give those southern states a run for their money when it comes to producing eye-popping antlers.
That’s why Fuller was thrilled to have finally drawn a bull tag there after saving up his “preference points” for years. Applying those points toward hard-to-get hunting tags can increase a hunter’s odds of successfully drawing one.
“I’ll probably never draw that tag again,” he said.
Unfathomable Vastness, Unbelievable Luck
The morning of the hunt went well. Marshall and his father, Kevin Marshall, along with Fuller located the bull. They started closing the distance, hoping to get within rifle range without spooking their quarry.
“We started to make our move, and literally right in our path we saw what we thought at first was an old shed antler,” Marshall said.
He said his father was immediately convinced that amid the Red Desert’s unfathomable vastness, they had – in an unbelievable stroke of luck – come upon the bull’s missing antler.
“My dad said, ‘This was meant to be,’” the younger Marshall said.
But he was unconvinced. After all the Red Desert is massive. At 9,320 square miles, it’s larger than eight U.S. states including Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
“What was confusing me was a kicker off the royal that I didn’t remember seeing before when I was watching and videoing that bull,” he said in reference to a feature on the antler they’d just found.
Once they were within range, Fuller quickly dropped the bull.
Then came the moment of truth.
The antler fit.
“It slid into place perfectly,” Chance Marshall said. “We just erupted with high-fives.”
The antler held in place by itself, he said, but they decided to use cord, then tape, to secure it to prevent further damage as they processed the bull’s carcass and packed it out.
“His (Fuller’s) taxidermist said it will be no problem to permanently re-attach that antler for the mount,” he said.
A True Trophy
The bull ended up netting 373 inches according to the Boone & Crockett big game scoring standards, Chance Marshall said.
To qualify for the B&C record books “awards” category, a bull elk must score 360. For the coveted “all-time” category, the minimum is 375.
A few “missing chunks” at the antler’s breaking point cost some of its mass score, otherwise the bull might have scored “around 380,” Chance Marshall said.
During his Wyoming trip, Fuller also killed a pronghorn buck that scored “83-plus,” Chance Marshall said, putting into the B&C all-time category.
Fuller said he was grateful for his incredible Wyoming hunting experience.
“Even if we hadn’t found the other antler, he (the elk) was still the bull I wanted,” he said.