After conquering a feat many hunters have yet to, 23-year-old Ethan Donaldson returned to his pickup truck the day after shooting his first bull elk and found the animal missing.

It was a Sunday and the last day of the big game season when Donaldson dropped the 5-point bull. Prompting a phone call from the field to his father, Donaldson gleamed with excitement, recanting the story of his first bull and looked forward to telling him in person.

As Donaldson, his brother and two friends dropped off the elk to be processed on the way home that day, the successful hunter had big plans for the majestic head of the animal.

While Donaldson was certain his elk was not soon going to break any records, like all hunters, the animal had a special place in his heart and was a trophy in its own right.

You’re Kidding, Right?

Planning to drop the head off at a friend’s place on Monday after showing it to his father, the bull’s head was stowed away in the back of Donaldson’s pickup. According to reports, Donaldson went into his apartment to change after the day’s hunt and returned to the truck afterward to re-position the head.

Shifting the bull’s head in a number of different positions, he was able to find one that afforded only a glimpse of antler tines above the lip of the bed of his pickup truck and retired for the evening.

As he approached the vehicle the following morning, he instantly recognized the absence of the antlers protruding from the truck’s bed.

“All I could say was ‘Are you kidding me?’ ” he told the Missoulian.

Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Steps Up

In addition to wearing an “S” on their chest and fighting for our public lands on the daily, the folks at the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) immediately entered the arena, offering a reward.

BHA pledged $1,000 for reports or information that leads to the recovery of the animal and the conviction of those responsible, the organization said in a blog post yesterday.

Labelling the incident as “not representative of the generous and thoughtful hunting community at large,” BHA is hopeful that with the help of the community, the bull’s head and a conviction will be returned to this young hunter.

If you or someone you know is aware of anything that can help, BHA suggests the following:

Please contact local law enforcement with the following information:

  1. Date, location and description of the incident – when, where, what and who you saw.
  2. Photos, supporting statements from other witnesses and any other documentation that you can gather.

If you’re interested in claiming this reward, please send us an email and include the information listed above, as well as the following:

  1. How your report helped lead to the conviction of the individual that took the animal unlawfully.
  2. Name and contact information for the officer that made the conviction.
  3. Status/result of prosecution.

For additional information, check out the post on BHA’s website.