Elk Hunting photo

Photograph via Billings Gazette/Dawna lenz

Late last month, an Idaho rancher discovered two incredibly huge bull elk dead after having entangled their antlers in a wire fence. Rather than keep the trophies for himself, though, the rancher decided to call wildlife officials and ensure the meat was well used by many.

The Missourian reports that rancher Joe Lenz, of Coeur d’Alene, first noticed gouged and upturned ground on his 410-acre spread. He then made the stunning discovery—two bull elk lying next to each other, with antlers entwined in fence wire. It’s believed that the two brawling animals accidentally got tangled in Lenz’s fences as they fought for dominance and became more intertwined as they tried to separate.

Lenz said when he discovered the bulls, one was already dead from a broken neck, and the other was barely clinging to life. Both had multiple gore wounds on their bodies. “I’ve lived here all my life and never seen anything remotely like that,” said Lenz. “All four strands (of wire) were damaged in that tenth-of-a-mile stretch, so they took out about a quarter mile of fence total. I’d say there was about 50 pounds of wire tangled in their antlers alone.”

Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) officials had to dispatch the second bull. Though it’s unfortunate that two magnificent animals suffered such grisly deaths, the story has a good ending: After removing the wire from the 6×6 and 6×8 racks, Lenz and a neighbor were able to hoist the bulls with tractors then skin and butcher the elk. “They were big animals, probably 1,200 pounds or more on the hoof apiece,” Lenz said. “They were bigger than most any hunter would take in a lifetime.”

All told, the men salvaged 1,017 pounds of meat, which they delivered to an area food bank. The massive antlers will be sold with other collected hides and trophies at a public auction the IDFG holds each year to help fund enforcement and conservation work.

“We’re so happy that so much meat is going to the needy,” Lenz’s wife, Dawna, said. “I tell people, ‘No, we didn’t get the meat, but Joe got to keep the mess!’”