Fri Feb 26th, 2021
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
Harvested in the autumn of 1977, Southern Ute elder Howard Richards Sr. got his bull in the Picnic Flats area of the Southern Ute Reservation during rifle season.
“It was one mile north of the Thiery Cabin,” he recalls. “At the time that was the largest bull harvested by the Tribe.” A six-by-six bull elk, with a Boone & Crocket score of 350 and 4/8th. Picnic Flats is on the west side of the reservation, commonly known as the “Dry Side.” Elk populations were just making their way onto Southern Ute lands during those early years.
“It was the mid ‘70s when elk first started coming into that Picnic Flats area,” Richards said. “I saw that bull that morning, the sun was barely coming up. I could see the tip of his antlers; they were so silver looking. I decided I wanted it, so the next day I want after it and got it!
Richards donated his trophy mount to the Tribe. “It went along with them for presentations,” he said. “It’s got a lot of history to it, that mount. Probably the first that was harvest in the picnic flats area.”
It also traveled with the Southern Ute Wildlife Dept. on numerous Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation seminars, workshops and banquets; going to places like Albuquerque, Salt Lake, and Phoenix. “It made its way around the western part of the U.S as a showpiece for the Tribe. Not a lot of people knew about it, and a lot of the older tribal members that knew about it have passed on.”
After 42 years, it needed to be cleaned up, the cape was getting old and shabby.
Howard’s daughter, Krista Richards, who is an avid hunter herself, skinned one of her own elk with her father’s project in mind. The large elk hide was carefully treated and set aside for Howard’s elk mount. Together they made the journey to Pagosa Springs, Colo. where Mountaineer taxidermy used Krista’s new hide to refurbish Howard’s elk bust.
The piece was finished late last year and returned to its home in the Hall of Warriors in the Leonard C. Burch administration building, where Richards served for many years on Tribal Council.
“Had to get him a new coat, make him look good,” Richards remarked with a chuckle.