What is your favorite big game animal that you have taken? Why is that animal special to you?
Let's hear your stories!!
I see no one else has responded, so I'll try to chime in. The question is one that I really can't answer correctly I guess. All the big game I've taken, well, they all have been special for one reason or another.
I've seen some folks answer questions like this with a reply like "the next one" or "the one that I've just taken most recently". I guess I'm a little like that. I'm hunting Musk Ox this fall and I'm all worked up looking forward to it. It's a hunt that I never thought I'd be able to do after my back was injured. But I found an outfitter that does the hunts in the fall with aircraft, boats and walking (no snow machines, no sleds, no ATVs). So I'm really looking forward to getting a crack at a big game animal that I had all but pulled off of my hunting "bucket list". Being given that opportunity is really special to me.
OK, I will follow RamDreamer's lead and not mention the last animal... even though that last sheep was really special... And good luck to you on the muskox hunt too!
My most memorable animal is likely the one that was responsible for starting this whole mountain hunting addiction. Back in the early nineties, I had just gotten married, and didn't have a pot to p*** in. Although I had hunted birds my whole life, I had just started big game hunting maybe 5 years earlier and found that I really enjoyed it.
Turns out the gal that I had married, had a sister in Whitehorse, YK who had a husband that also liked to hunt. We basically scraped every nickel we had and headed to the Yukon where my brother-in-law would hunter host me and my wife would visit with her sister.
After arriving in Whitehorse, we drove with a few friends for another 10 hours to arrive in Mac Pass right on the NWT border where we would set up our tents. After about 8 days, I had spotted a nice mountain caribou bull across a creek late in the afternoon, and too late to pursue. He was high on the mountain, up on the last grass before the slope turned to rocks.
We came back the next morning and 3 of us started in the direction where we had seen the bull the night before. About 2 hours into the hike, we found the bull again, and another 2 hours later we were within 150 yards of the bedded bull. The bull laid behind a ridge, where we could see the tops of his horns and nothing else. I got into shooting position and 45 minutes later that bull stood up, I shot, and then he laid back down. At that point, a good friend took what is one of my favorite photos ever, and we commenced to skinning and quartering.
The 3 of us took what we could carry and made the 4 hour trek down to the creek and up the other side. The next day 2 of us made one last trip back in to retrieve the last of the animal.
The bull itself is no trophy by any scoring method available. But that animal was special because the trip opened my eyes to what that north country can be like. It was also special because of that one picture that will make that memory last a lifetime.
That hunt changed my life.
I think my own favorite trophy may be an Alaskan Brown Bear I got a few years back on a self guided hunt with my hunting partner Dave McNeill (grand slammer 1271). We were Alaska Residents then and did not need a guide. We were on the Alaska Peninsula for a 12 day hunt. The bears were just coming out of hibernation. We spotted a good one about 3 miles from our spike camp and were able to make the stalk. If you know anything about Brown bears, you know that the hides are very heavy. In all my years of hunting, I have never packed such a heavy load...even moose hindquarters were easier to pack than this bear hide. Just getting off the ground with the pack on was a challenge and I could only carry the pack for 75-100 yards at a time before collapsing under the sheer weight of it! Took us a day and a half to get the hide back to our spike camp from the kill site. While we were hauling the hide back to camp another bear came into camp and slashed our tent. The whole time I packed that hide, I kept asking myself why I would do that? Looking back, it was a real adventure and the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done. Now I can look at the life size mount in my living room and just smile at the memories. But at the time it was a real killer.
My favorite trophy is not really mine, but Leslie’s, my wife. Before we where married Leslie had never hunted, actually never really fired a gun. A friend, who I had guided in the Ukraine, suggested that I hunt New Zealand, recommending an outfitter, Shane Quinn’s Alpine Hunting Adventures. Anyway I asked Leslie if she would like to accompany me to New Zealand. Of course the bags where packed!
I took her to the range with me to sight in my rifle, never can get it quite right, at least that is my excuse to shoot:} I taught her all the right things to do, not the bad that each and everyone of us has, as we get too comfortable in our ability. She turns out to be a very good shot. Does all the things right, breathing, taking her time, etc.
Well we have all heard the stories of the bachelor who has hunted his whole life (I had just gotten back from Tajikistan for Marco Polo when we hooked back up after almost 20 years) and finds the perfect gal to marry. That was me.
So why is her trophy the best? Leslie is a RN, who specializes in labor & delivery. She brings life into the world; I try to take it out. What if she can’t stand me killing something? What if she says you can’t have your trophy’s in the house. As a matter of fact you can’t hunt anymore. So I am afraid that I will need to make a choice. Do I marry this lady who I can’t live without but won’t let me hunt anymore, or do I hunt and not marry? What a predicament.
Well we finally get to New Zealand and off we go. Leslie asks if maybe she could shoot a Stag. Of course you can. We are on the back of a couple of ATV’s. Leslie is on with her guide Smiley and says to him that she has NEVER killed anything before. Smiley stopped the ATV with that deer in the headlights look and tells Leslie to shoot that hare about 50 yards away. Leslie asked “That bunny?” Smiley hands her the rifle and bang. Dead hare. Smiley told her to get on the ATV “Your fine. Lets hunt.” Three days later she shoots a Gold Medal Stag that is now above the fireplace.
Of course my worst fear has now happened. I didn’t have to choose between Leslie and hunting. But now I have to pay for both of us to hunt!
My first Mt Lion. 12/5/09
This story will probably turn out long but I need you all to know the back story of this hunt to understand this wasn't a walk up and whack one.
Two years prior to my successful hunt my buddy and taxidermist, Bryan, told me he was going mt lion hunting. I said,” man that would be great and one day I'll go”. He said “come with me”, he would call the outfitter and ask if he wanted another hunter.
The outfitter, Trapper (cool name) said” sure, usually if there is one cat in the area there is more”. (That didn't sound right to me and still didn't till the day after I killed one) All this foreplay and planning was Sept of 2007.
For months we wait, all through the fall for snow. You see, this hunt is different, you don't plan a date and go, you can, but it is preferred you wait for snow to start to fall and Trapper will have the guides lined out. He will then call and say head this way, we hunt in the morning. By doing this and being flexible, he will let you keep coming back till you shoot one. So, I had to be packed and stuff sitting there waiting for the call, which sat it did for MONTHS. Everything is planned, I just have two dates I can't go, everything else is open. Foreshadowing? Of course!
In March Trapper calls, great but the only problem is they were the two days I maybe couldn't go. I had to try to pull off a work miracle. I had work meetings in Houston and it isn't a problem to miss them once in as blue moon with advance notice but remember this isn’t advance notice. Although the meeting after this would be considered advanced notice which was May and I had a bear hunt planned and was already missing those.
My boss is a good guy and is willing to do stuff like that, provided we work hard, are productive and keep the heat off of him from HQ. The issue this time is we had upper management coming down to sit in on the meeting.
Back to the call from Trapper, it was a late Sunday night and the meetings were Tues morning at 8 am. I tried to call the boss starting at 10pm and up until 1am but he said he saw the caller ID and knew what I wanted but wasn't answering knowing I was missing the next meeting and we had company from HQ. So I took a gamble and left but packed my business stuff, just in case. My boss called me at 8am Monday morning and said you can't miss the meetings, it would have been fine except the visitors coming down so we’ll see you in Houston. At that point we were 20 miles east of Roswell NM and only 1 ½ hours from hunting. Never the less, a quick detour had Bryan dropping me off at the Roswell Airport and I got a 1 way ticket to Houston ending my first year try at getting my cat. (Bryan late went on to shoot a a cat that weighed 140ish empty)
Moving on to the fall of 2008. Trapper said we really needed 2 hunters because after I left Bryan the year before they left another big cat on the top of the mountain and that should have been mine. I started checking with buddies asking if anyone wanted to go. I had a couple interested but Byron contacts me. After talking to him, he calls Trapper gets the particulars and decides to go as well.
I didn't know much about Byron at the time but have since been on a couple hunts with him and he quickly went from an acquaintance to a good friend that I enjoy hunting with and look forward to more hunts with. November 2008, Byron and I buy tags and wait.
Finally “The Call”, we never thought it would come but it did and he and I head that way. Byron flies from San Antonio, rents a car in El Paso (I think) and drives the rest of the way. He beats me there by hours as it's a 9 hour drive for me. I get there late and everyone is in bed so I try to sneak in and catch some sleep but they bounce out of bed and we start swapping expectations.
Morning comes early. Trapper comes in the door and says lets get going, Byron and I load up and start down the road. A few things you should know, Bryan(my buddy) has been family friends with Trapper for years and has helped him guide many years for pronghorn. Bryan's pictures of his mt lion from 2007 had Trapper, Tom(the guide) and Bryan there with the cat at the tree it was shot. So I think Trapper is walking up and down the mountains with the hunters. Trapper came in with an oxygen tank and the tubes in his nose. I thought, Bryan never told me he was sick so this must be either a new development or we need tanks to get up and down the mountains. The way Byron and I saw it either way we’re screwed.
Little did I know Trapper stayed in the truck and the guides took us up the mountain. Trapper has battled health problems and wasn't having his best year this year.(but the year I shoot my cat, wow what a difference)
We cut some good cat tracks early and Byron and I were beyond keyed up, to say the least. Heck, I even think we were picking out what mounts we wanted getting the cart way before the horse. Boy does that jinx us! We dump the dogs out and they are off.
Meanwhile, right down the trail maybe 300 yds an off duty Game Warden that has a hunter with him, cut us off (knowing full well we were there) and dumped his dogs on the same track in front of us basically cutting us off from the track we were already on. Before you ask, yes, there is a code of ethics and dumping dogs out when other hunters are already on the track crossed the line. So we pulled our dogs off.
Later that day we cut the track again. The GW started with 5 dogs and was down to 1 still with the cat. One dog, they say, will never pin down a cat by themselves. So the GW said to turn ours out, that then makes it our cat. Our dogs bay up the cat in about 45 mins so Tom and I start up the hill. Trapper and Byron sit down in the truck and watch the whole thing unfold from down low. I'm probably 200yds away and the gw's hunter catches up and shoots the cat off of our dogs. He felt like it was ok since his one dog was there with no consideration his dog couldn’t have bayed it alone. Either way, the whole scenario was bad and shouldn't have happened.
The next day it heats up and the snow melts so Byron and I head home empty handed.
Now I’m going into my third year and this theoretically and logistically easy hunt is becoming a nightmare to try to get pulled off. I have now bought 3 sets of tags, paid for a one way airline trip and a half ride to Carrizozo the first year followed by the full cost of travel the second year and knowing I had to do it at least one more time.
The third year, Byron and I start our planning. I'm ready to go but not packed because, what's the hurry. The past 2 years it has been early spring before the call. Although I do have mental notes of what I need and where I have in stored in the house. I have come to realize what I do need is much less than I had brought the year before.
Earlier this year, the last week of Nov Trapper called and said, come on. Well, I can't because of work. I said I can't go before Dec 4th. He called again on Dec 4th and said it's time. I load up and head 9 hours west. I leave my house at 12:58pm on Friday, drive straight through and get there at 9pm their time.(consider the time change if you're doing that math in your head) As I'm driving in the snow isn't quite what I expected but it's flipping cold.
I get there and unpack. The cabin is freezing and I don't have a sleeping bag just blankets. Between the two deer leases and bear hunting camp in Quebec, I don't have a single sleeping bag at the house but rather spread out over North America. I go to bed and quickly start freezing, thankfully Trapper put a spare sleeping bag in the cabin, that saved me. I get up at 3:45am and fix coffee and breakfast. Trapper comes and gets me and we start down the road.
After 10mins of driving Tom comes over the radio and says he located a decent track. Right afterward Trapper and I find one. Trapper said it's a pretty good track and calls Tom to bring the dogs. We turn the dogs loose and they are off. We listen to them for about a half hour and they have him treed. Boy, the heart is pumping now. I'm excited to say the least. They are on the next ridge over so we drop down and then start up to where they where. When we get there it's a small cat, but hey, it's a cat and treed. That's progress from the last 2 years. Tom goes off walking and found the big track we started on. It seems the dogs started on that one then crossed this one and it was hotter so they pulled off the other one. Tom and I drug, drug being the key word, the dogs down the next ridge and started them back on the big cat tracks they started. We stand there and rest for a bit and before long we can't hear the dogs, Dang! So we start that way and after about 200 yds we start to hear them and Tom turns and looks at me and said I think they are treed. He pulls out his GPS that he uses to track the dogs and it shows they ARE treed. We head that way, not too bad just another ridgeline over, again. The whole "next ridge over" is getting old as we are starting to rack up the distance now. It wouldn't be so bad just to walk but the ankle to mid calf deep snow is cumbersome and draining.
We get to the next cat and can just see the dogs at first. Then he comes into view I get thinking, this is it. We get up by him and take a good look. Tom said he's a good cat, not huge but good and it was up to me. After everything to date, there wasn't a choice for me. You know what they say, One cat in the pack is better than two on the next ridge over. We tie up a few of the dogs, take a few pics and get ready. Tom runs the video camera and we get the shot on camera but not much after because the cat started down and his exit was going to be towards us. I guess Tom went for is pistol because the camera started waving all over. Now to update you, the cat was in the tree about 20-30ft up, my shot was from 4yds. The shot was perfect and apiece of his lung came out of the hole in the bottom of his chest. He dropped down two branches and was now about 8 ft above us when he fell out of the tree and was dead when he hit the ground. The dogs drug him down the hill a bit but we got down there quick. The cat is everything I wanted and after 3 years of bad luck I finally had him. We had 5 different cats on top and I got the biggest out of them, I guess they do group up after all. I think it may be that it the better hunting area for them so they tend to concentrate there.
We got finished up and back at camp at 12 pm. The gw stopped by and tagged him then I loaded up and headed back thinking all the excitement was over.
Somewhere around Aspermont, I hit a hog going 70. Now I had the cruise set at 70 and hit the brakes when I saw it so I'm sure I decelerated some. I hit him solidly enough it punted him down the road and out of the view of my high beams. It actually wouldn't have been a bad golf shot, he went straight down the center and at the end of the lights started to draw just a little. Maybe with the extra roll from the draw he may have been pin high but I didn't stop to look. Minor damage so I finished the drive. I pulled back into my house at 1:32a, 37 hours after I left, exhausted but happy.
My next trip out there will be to run the camera for Byron if we can get it coordinated, I hope so, I'm ready.
For me it would have to be my alaskan brown bear hunt, This hunt started out with so much excitement i could hardly stand it, My brother brian would be joining me to film the whole hunt.
Alaskan Brown Bear.
Well fellows it’s been two years waiting for this hunt and the time finally come for me and my brother to get on the turbine otter and head into brown bear camp, we would leave out of Kenai Alaska for unit 9a, the highest density of brown bears in the world. What a world wind of emotional trip it had in store for us. Brian would be filming what i was hoping would be the last of the four bears in north america for me, the brown, the polar, the grizzly and the black.
Once landed on the tide flats we knew we would be staying in a remote tent camp with the bare essentials of a sheep camp, mountain house food, and cup of soup but we were ready for the adventure to say the least
Once we had camp set up and things organized it was time to glass for bears, the tide flats would act as a crossing ground for us and that would give us time to get in front of a bear and cut em off for hopefully a shot.
Just as the excitement was at its peak the glassing began from a rock I nicknamed Hagen hill, (the outfitter and my brother chewed Copenhagen and believe me that hill got a work out of Hagen). The excitement would quickly diminish.
Hours and hours and hours of glassing for three days brought us only a sow and three cubs. The first three days were in the books and it was time for bed.
The 4th morning finally brought us a single bear that was on the run and there was no way of catching him and that was all that day brought other than allot of stories.
Day 5 morning was here and I was pumped as I thought for sure I had put in enough time that I was going to spot me a bear. Well hours went by and nothing other than two sows and cubs.
I was now half way through the hunt and not an opportunity yet, but staying positive we ventured into the downhill slide of the hunt.
What I was in store for was told to me by numerous people could happen, torrential down pour of rain and heavy winds kept us from even being able to glass for the next 4 days, 60 mph winds and rain had the binos and spotting scopes so fogged up you couldn’t see not that anything was even moving anyway. Very upsetting.
Day 10 morning the last day of my hunt arrived and I was up an hour before sunrise in anticipation of a clear day with no winds, nope. socked in so low you could see across the flats, probable the lowest point for me in the hunt, my last day and I can’t even see to hunt, as the day went on the fog lifted barely and evening come before I knew it, my Alaskan brown bear hunt was over, without even having a opportunity at a legal respectable bear,
As I layed on my cot that night I reflected back on the hunt and tried to put all the positives of the hunt together so I could at least fall asleep, it didn’t work I was possibly at the lowest point in my hunting adventures on this trip.
Well morning come with a fresh single of coffee and there wasn’t much said around camp as we started packing the garbage and propane bottles out to the air strip in preparation for the new hunters.
When out of the blue the other guide yells out THERES A BEAR AND HES A BUTY.
I’ve never ran so fast for my rifle in my life, boots on and I was Hagen hill on the flats ready to go, my brother Brian right behind me. The outfitter yells you can’t go without a guide and the new hunters are on the plane, I said laine please call and stop the plane and if that guide is coming he better hurry.
We were gone, we had about a mile to go to get in front of the bear but at a walking pace we knew we could get him, the guide was right behind us he was as excited as I was.
The last thing out of the outfitters mouth was you guys stay along the bush line the tides to high you won’t get across the sloughs, so what do me and Brian do, yea right out in the darn middle, we get into as close as we can and can’t cross the slough have to backtrack 400 yards to get around, if we would have listened we would of been alright.
So the bear is coming across and now has the inside track on us and turns right for us, at 500 yards here he comes. Oh no he stopped I said, Brian says darn guys he smelt our boot prints from where we were, and boom , he turns and runs as fast as he can away from us at 400 yards, my dreams are crushed again. I am totally devastated at what just happened; if we would have just listened we would have had him.
Oh hey guys another bear my brother whispered over, if you can believe it another big boar is coming across the river 1 km off, I’m up again and things are back to a high, up ,down, up ,down, like a yo yo.
This bear is coming right for us we got the wind in our favor, the cameras are rolling and we are in position, range finder says 300 yards, 260 yards, 200 yards, Brian says to me , has in range take him when you ready, 140 yards, 80 yards. And with one BOOM of my 30-06 I shoot high, I missed him at 80 yards, jacked another round in and connected with the second third and fourth shot and I had my brown bear on the ground. The guide backed me up with one shot and took the scope right in the face.
With a prayer to the good lord and with a huge thank you to my brother and the guide and I was finally able to put my hands on the grand slam of bears and my Alaskan brown bear.
Later to find out the new hunters were on the otter plane and seat belted in when the secretary went out and stopped the plane. I was 10 minutes from not getting my bear, my hunt was over but with a lot of luck I scored on the morning of the 11th day of a 10 day hunt.
I can’t say enough about the outfitter and his operation and for the phone call he made stopping the new plane, the new hunters were just as happy for me as I was.
And most importantly thank you Brian for being there for 17 days in Alaska with me through the highs and lows of a hunt I will never forget.
The bear scored 24 inches and is 8 feet long. I will never forget that hunt and its kept the fire burning for sure
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