‘I hit him good’: Trophy elk nets Alberta bowhunter a world record

An Alberta farmer who waited three years for a clean shot at an elusive elk now holds a world record for bowhunting.

Last month, the U.S-based Pope and Young Club confirmed Shawn O’Shea’s trophy is the largest bow-harvested non-typical American elk ever in North America.

It scored 449 4/8 inches, beating the previous record by 7 4/8 inches.

O’Shea, a 55-year-old former oilfield worker, killed the animal last fall, not far from his farm near Vegreville, 100 kilometres east of Edmonton.

“In 2017 I got some trail cam pictures of it just passing through the area that I hunt,” he said. “No idea that it would ever be a record of any kind; just knew that it was huge and something we wanted to pursue.”

The bull made a few more trail-cam cameos but continued to elude O’Shea and his sons Tyson, Keefe, Ryan and Timothy.

Shawn O’Shea first learned of the big bull when his trail camera snapped a photo of the animal rubbing a tree that draws elk. (Submitted by Shawn O’Shea)

Last September, Tyson and Keefe spotted the elk. They got close, but not close enough. O’Shea caught up with it a week later.

“When I first saw him, my heart was just beating like crazy out of my chest, and I’m like ‘Holy, I’ve got to calm down,'” he said.

“He just stood there for probably the better part of three or four minutes and I was able to regain my composure and think about the shot I had to make.”

He was hidden in a blind, with the elk at 35 yards and closing.

It was dusk; the light was fading.

“He couldn’t see me and I had his wind perfect so I didn’t have to worry about him smelling me. He had to walk just to get past me before I could draw with the bow, otherwise he’d sense movement.”

O’Shea had his elk call at the ready.

“I just let out a little chirp and he stopped, and as soon as he stopped I was drawn and ready to shoot.”

‘Amazing is the only word I can think of’

“He was at 18 yards which is pretty much even a chip shot for me,” O’Shea said. “Everything can go wrong. You’ve still got to get him perfect with the bow but I hit him good.”

Tyson and Keefe, hunting nearby, joined their father at the site.

“Lots of guys hoot, holler and whatever but we walked up to it as a group, the three of us, and everybody just kind of looked at it and we just looked at each other,” O’Shea said. “Amazing is the only word I can think of.”

They field-dressed the elk and got it to Tyson’s home after midnight. A closer look at the antlers told them they had something special.

A neighbour asked O’Shea if he was interested in getting it officially scored.

That’s how he learned he had beaten the previous world record.

Official measurers with the Pope and Young Club pose with O’Shea’s trophy antlers. (Pope and Young Club)

In an email, Pope and Young record chair Roy Grace explained how trophy elk are measured.

“All qualified points that are grown on an elk’s antler structure are measured to the nearest ⅛-inch,” Grace wrote.

“First the typical frame (normal points) is measured and deductions occur for side-to-side symmetry. Once that is completed, the abnormal, or ‘non-typical’ points are added to the net typical score for the final net non-typical score.”

The math doesn’t matter too much to O’Shea. He was happy to have meat to feed his family through the winter and a good story to tell. He plans to have a taxidermist create a full-body mount.

The trick will be finding room for it in his home.

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