On September 21, bowhunter Ridge Crum arrowed an enormous bull elk that he's been patterning on his family's New Mexico ranch for the better part of two years. Crum took the bull at the tail end of a three-day hunt with a 40-yard shot from his bow, and he tells F&S that its 8x8 rack had unofficial green-score of 436 1/8 inches—well above both the current Pope & Young non-typical state record and Safari Club International's New Mexico state record for non-typical archery elk.
Crum's History with the Bull Elk
Crum says he's had run-ins with the giant bull before and managed to get it in bow range back in 2021. "Two years ago I had him at 40 yards but couldn't get a shot off on him because there was a cow standing a few steps from me," he says. "I had him again towards the end of that hunt at 250 yards and just watched him from behind a cedar tree for 40 minutes. He's kind of haunted me ever since."
Crum's ranch is in Socorro County, New Mexico, about 2 hours south of Albuquerque. Known as the Cat Mountain Ranch, it sits inside New Mexico'w highly-sought Game Management Unit 17. The area has a reputation for big bulls and draws hunters from all over the country every year.
Crum says the big bull wasn't spotted on his property last year, probably because there was an abnormal amount of water on the landscape and the elk weren't visiting their typical watering and wallowing holes. But this year, his ranch manager had multiple sightings in the run-up to the season.
"I had a feeling he was going to show up in this little meadow less than half a mile from the base of a big mountain on our property," he says. "There’s some thick cover back in there. He likes to come down and gather up his cows. When he gets done with his breeding, he goes straight back up the mountain."
Crum was in a ground blind on the edge of the meadow when he heard the elk bugling from more than 100 yards off on the evening of September 21. "I couldn’t tell where it was coming from," he recalls. "I looked out the front window of this blind and there was a cow. Then I looked through my binoculars, and I just dropped them on my chest when I realized that the bull was behind her. I was in shock."
He struggled to remain calm as he watched the giant bull move into the meadow. He knew that one wrong move was likely to send the bull back up the mountain for good. "He came into bow range in what felt like the blink of an eye," Crum says. "I drew back the bow in the blind and set the cam on my knee. I stayed at full draw for a little over two minutes before he finally nudged the cows out of the way and got to where he was quartering broadside to me."
At 41-and-a-half yards, Crum let the arrow fly. He could tell the shot was solid, but the bull took off running and ended up bedding down about 80 yards from his blind. Luckily, the big group of cows in the meadow didn't spook, and the bull remained bedded on the other side of the meadow until it eventually expired. Crum stayed in the blind, waiting for his dad to arrive, before the two of them walked up and put hands on the monarch's massive rack.
"That was the longest longest hour and a half of my life," says Crum, who runs a start-up outerwear company out of Memphis, Tennessee. "I was shaking uncontrollably. I tried to Facetime my girlfriend as I was waiting for my Dad to show up, but I couldn't hold the phone still, and I wasn't making any sense."
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It's important to note the 436 1/8-inch score that Crum reports is an approximated, unofficial green score that will not be taken into consideration by Pope & Young. Before the bull's rack can go before that venerable record-keeping organization's scrupulous panels, it'll first be subjected to a mandatory 60-day drying period.
If the score holds up, though, it has a good chance of making the state record, even with some substantial shrinkage. According to Pope & Young Record Chairman Tim Rozewski, the current number one Pope & Young bull elk in New Mexico scored 420 7/8 inches.