Perhaps waiting as patiently as he had done to get an opportunity to hunt elk, Nebraska hunter John Rickard is awaiting the official score of his Nebraska elk taken earlier this month.
As dictated by official scoring agencies, Rickard’s 6×6 elk antlers are currently waiting out the 60-day drying process in the basement of his home. The animal, taken near Chadron, is believed to be of record-breaking caliber and the story behind how he acquired it is every bit as breathtaking as the elk itself.
Rickard, who manages the finance department at a local automotive dealership in Kearney, Neb., was reminded in the eleventh hour to apply for his elk tag by his good buddy Rob Muirhead. With luck on his side, the Kearney bowhunter was astonished when he later learned he had actually drawn a bull tag in an area near Chadron, Neb.
After an exciting first day in the woods, Rickard and Muirhead were treated to the sounds of bugles seemingly surrounding them but were not treated to an opportunity to draw back the bowstrings on any animals.
Quietly retreating from the area the first evening, the pair were determined to return the following morning and hopefully get a glimpse at one of the animals they had previously heard calling that first day.
It was 4:30 a.m. when the pair returned to their blind on day two, this time with a cow elk call in hand. Looking to change their luck from the previous day’s efforts, the pair belted out calls when a cow finally appeared on the landscape. As they observed the cow, Muirhead alerted his partner of the 6×6 elk closing in on the female.
As the bull asserted his presence, it was that moment that Rickard pulled back on his Mathews compound bow and delivered the arrow that would eventually take this majestic creature to the ground. Having trouble identifying the area in which the elk retreated, the pair decided not to rush the animal, instead opting to catch the Cornhuskers ball game before returning to the scene.
After the game, Muirhead and Rickard were back in the woods tracking the animal they had earlier arrowed and eventually recovered the animal in a heavily wooded ravine. As the treacherous work of retrieving the animal began, they enlisted the help of four other friends to position the animal to field dress it. After the animal was cleaned, the six men, a Polaris Ranger, three tow straps, a chain, some rope and a winch were used to haul the animal out of the ravine.
While the animal is in contention to unseat the current record in Nebraska held by archer Doug Correll and his 362 7/8 inch bull, it was the experience that Rickard will not soon forget. In addition to a freezer full of meat, a cape at the taxidermists and the awe-inspiring antlers, Rickard noted that the opportunity to chase such an animal in his home state is what he will regard the most.