Boone and Crockett Club: Bringing North American Big Game Full Circle

The exhibition is amazing. Its backstory is sobering. At the time of its composition, the Heads and Horns Collection was the most incredible, diverse, and representative display of big game specimens the world had ever seen.

Composed of antlers and horn, it boasted both the wonder of God’s creation and all that North America’s vast landscape made possible. The curling symmetry of wild sheep, the powerful necks and shoulders of mature bulls and bucks, and the varied adornment of antler and horn invited the viewer to understand and appreciate. Natural beauty defined the aesthetic.

Along with the taxidermy, there was displayed a simple plaque inscribed with a single phrase. It was first displayed 100 years ago at the Bronx Zoo. To the casual observer, the plaque and its inscription may have seemed an afterthought overshadowed by the beauty of God’s creation. They were not.

“In Memory of The Vanishing Big Game of the World”

The plaque and the exhibit were equal parts eulogy and cry for help. Once the North American birthright, big game species across the continent were going the way of the dinosaur. Eastern elk were gone. The buffalo herds that numbered in the tens of thousands were gone. Whitetail deer and turkey were in dramatic decline. The year was 1922.

For most of its history, humanity had acted under the assumption that natural resources were abundant and plentiful enough to be harvested without regard for the future. Exploitation of fish, wildlife, and wilderness were a free-for-all. It was the sign of progress, the advancement of civilization conquering a hostile world. The early 1900s marked, perhaps, the first time that many people in mainstream society began reckoning with the fact that the world’s natural bounty might not be inexhaustible after all.

Native Americans had understood this intuitively all along. Hunters were not far behind.

The Boone and Crockett Club was America’s first sportsman’s advocacy group. Named for two legends of the American frontier, its founders included none other than Theodore Roosevelt. Composed of hunters and lovers of wilderness, the Club was alarmed. Able to read the writing on the wall, they understood the connection between lack of action and a future without hunting and wilderness.

President Theodore Roosevelt, giant of American conservation, lifelong hunter and co-founder of the Boone & Crockett Club, with a moose.

100 Years Later

The year 1922 sat squarely between two seminal events in the modern history of conservation: the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909) and the passage of the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (1937). Looking back, this exhibition may be taken within the context of the growing groundswell that would come to be known as the North American Model of Conservation.

The world’s most successful system of laws and policies to safeguard and restore fish, wildlife, and habitat resources, this revolutionary approach to conservation — and the sportsmen and women whose passion fuels it — have brought North American big game full circle.

Where are we a century after concerned hunters posted a eulogy “In Memory of the Vanishing Big Game of the World?”

  • There are free-ranging elk herds in 28 states across America (state wildlife agencies and our partners at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation operate one of history’s most successful wildlife translocation programs)
  • We’re putting big horn sheep back in the mountains (working with hunters, state wildlife agencies, and our friends at the Wild Sheep Foundation) and reestablishing buffalo herds on tribal (working with the Intertribal Buffalo Council) and public lands across the country
  • Whitetail and mule deer tags can be purchased over the counter.

Johnny Morris, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are proud to stand united with hunters across the continent to drive conservation of wilderness, wildlife and our sporting heritage. Together we are making the world a better place and continuing the proud tradition of the American sportsman conservationist.

You can tour the Boone and Crockett Club’s Heads and Horns Collection at the Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium and the Grandaddy of all Outdoor Stores in Springfield, Missouri.