After hearing tales of his brother-in-law’s Brooks Range hunting adventures for 15 years, Ryan finally snared a chance to hunt the area himself. From a camp out of Kotzebue, 165 miles north of the Arctic Circle in the Brooks Range last September, Ryan had already seen caribou, Dall sheep and moose, but a bear was his prime target. On the afternoon of the 10th and final day of his hunt, Ryan and his guide, Ron, saw a herd of 50 caribou across a valley; three bulls lingered behind the herd. Ron knew caribou feed with the wind at their backs, allowing them to scent danger coming from behind: Sure enough, danger was following the herd the hunters watched—this silver Arctic grizzly appeared from the creek bottom. Ryan shot the bear at 165 yards with his .338 RUM. and landed a spot on the cover of American Hunter!
Jason and his 14-year-old daughter, Libby, hunted a family friend’s ranch near Devils Tower in Wyoming on Black Friday. The duo spotted a buck at 200 yards, but could see only antlers. After a 20-minute wait, they moved to gain elevation, giving Libby a 125-yard shot. Firing a Montana Rifle Company “Colorado Buck Special Edition” in 7mm Rem. Mag., handloaded with a Nosler AccuBond, she dropped the buck with an 8-inch brow tine then and there. Later that day, just before sunset, Jason took his deer with an 80-yard shot from the same rifle. We’d say any day a father can watch his daughter bag a dandy deer, let alone one that tops his, is a great day.
Erik decided last turkey season was a good opportunity to show his girlfriend and new NRA member, Jessica, what our sport is all about, so he took her on a turkey hunt on his family farm on South Dakota’s James River. There, Jessica watched Erik call in this bird with a 10-inch beard then drop it at 15 yards with his Browning BPS 20-gauge. Erik tells us this spring was Jessica’s turn. Let’s hope she’s had some luck!
Hunting on national forest land in Nelson County, Va., one morning last October with his .50-caliber Ruger 77/50 muzzleloader, Tim spotted this high-brow buck as it chased two does. Hormonally distracted, the big buck continued walking straight toward Tim, and at a mere 21 yards the hunter put a 223-grain PowerBelt into its chest. The brute reared up and toppled over backward, sliding 15 yards down the hillside. The 10-pointer was a heavy guy, too, weighing more than 200 pounds. Ground shrinkage? Yeah, right!
After 26 years of applying for a tag, Don, left, took this incredible desert bighorn sheep with help from guides Brett Caldwell, center, and Randy Johnson after drawing the only tag available in the “Dirty Devil” area of Utah. It was a difficult hunt, but in the end, Don persevered. After 16 days of scouting and hunting, overcoming some of the most brutal terrain imaginable and some unusual complications (like when Randy was nearly impaled on his ATV by a tree branch that flipped up and punched through the engine of his ATV!), the trio “stared down the devil,” according to Donald, and this 12-year-old ram fell to the hunter’s .257 Wby. at 207 yards.
It was 11-year-old Jackie’s second season afield, and she was hunting out of a treestand built by her grandpa on the family farm just outside Pittsburgh with her father, Josh, guiding her under the mentored youth hunting program. The slowly rising sun revealed several deer, including this buck, all about 100 yards away from the duo. The buck started moving toward their stand, and at 75 yards it turned broadside, giving Jackie a perfect shot with her .243—and she nailed it! After loading the deer on a cargo carrier and taking some pictures with Dad and Grandpa, the trio drove home. On the way, friendly honks and waves from passersby inspired Jackie to roll down her window and shout, “Thanks! Mine!”
Garry’s quest for this big buck began when he discovered several trail-cam photos of the deer on his hunting property in Knox County, Ky. Garry’s quest ended Nov. 17, the day after he had a root canal, no less. Spotting this bruiser chasing some does, Garry shouldered his Remington 700 in .270 and made a heart shot when the buck stopped at 40 yards. Thinking it was a 12-point, he was shocked to see the buck actually had 17 points in all, resulting in a net score of 1571/2, missing the B&C book by a mere 21/2 inches.
After a 4 a.m. breakfast, riding on horseback into their hunting area and watching a beautiful sunrise not many get to experience, John, right, and his guide, Cole Hill of Swift Creek Outfitters, were already having a better day than most on Wyoming’s rifle elk opener. But after noon it got better, when the pair heard a bull elk respond almost immediately to their calls from a timber hole. John could soon see the big bull picking its way through the dense timber—it was coming! At 100 yards, he took the shot with his trusty old Ruger 77 in .338 Win. Mag. At the crack of the rifle, the giant bull dropped to the dirt. Guide Cole commented that in all his years of hunting, he’d never seen a bull hit the ground so hard and make a cloud of dust so big.
Erica, 14, was on a mission for hogs with her dad, Omar, on the Fort Rucker Army post in southeast Alabama carrying the AR-15 they built together in 6.8 SPC. After arriving before sunup, the two had walked just over a mile when a doe crossed their path. Erica’s dad suggested they direct their attention to the spot from where the deer had come. About 80 yards away, a boar stepped out and presented Erica with a broadside shot. She placed the bullet perfectly behind the shoulder, and the hog ran 50 yards down into the creek bed and collapsed. What a great pig!
Jonathan and a friend were after big mule deer north of Aladdin, Wyo., with 7J Outfitters. His friend took first dibs as it was his first Western hunt, and shot a 4x4 mule deer buck. Jonathan was up next. Although he planned to shoot a mule deer, he couldn’t pass up this whitetail buck—it just looked too good. So Jonathan put one round from his Remington 700 in 7mm Rem. Mag. in the deer’s boiler room, and dropped the buck on the spot. Ironically, 18 other people hunted only whitetails with 7J that week. But Jonathan’s whitetail (which could have been a mule deer), scored 139½ B&C: the largest whitetail taken all week.
As an active-duty Army colonel, Chris wasn’t able to hunt in 2014 and ’15, seeing as he was out of the country on “business.” After returning to the States, on the first day of the Kansas rifle season last year, he made up for time lost. A 50-yard double-lung shot from his stand with a 62-year-old Remington Model 760 in .257 Roberts did the deed nicely. After processing the buck, Chris exclaimed that it “eats like pumpkin pie.” Thank you, Col. Chronis, for your service, and congratulations!
With night closing in, Greg didn’t have the light he neeeded to make an ethical shot on this chocolate bear from across a clearing, so he and his guide from Western Oregon Outfitters, Mike Fairchild, decided they’d visit the same spot the following morning. Parking their side-by-side in the same place, the two hiked back to the same clear-cut. After spotting the bear again, they stalked to within 125 yards, and Greg connected with his Remington 700 chambered in .270 Win.
It’s one thing to go on a safari. It’s another thing entirely to go on a safari with a crossbow. But that’s exactly what Butch did. On Aug. 17, in the Mwenzi area of the Masvingo province of Zimbabwe, Butch took this world-class hippo with his Barnett Ghost 410 crossbow shooting custom 918-grain arrows. With a 52-yard shot that was 13 years in the making, Butch now has the rare distinction of having taken all of the “Dangerous 7”—leopard, lion, Cape buffalo, rhino, elephant, crocodile and hippo—with a crossbow.
At 74, after applying for nearly two decades, NRA Life member Louis finally drew his permit for mule deer in the Arizona Strip, in Unit 13B. With a week of hunting in mid-October to fill his tag, Louis fulfilled high hopes. He downed this magnificent high-tined buck that scored just short of 200 B&C with a broadside shot right behind the deer’s shoulder. Louis, let’s hope your next tag doesn’t take so long to draw!
At 64, Anthony was getting himself into shape to pursue Alaska Dall sheep when a heart attack nearly ended his dream hunt before it began. He’d prepared for the trip for two years and knew his time to hunt sheep was growing short. Determined to succeed, and with the help of good medical care and cardiac rehab, Anthony recovered and got back into shape in time to make his hunt a reality. With a positive mentality propelling him, Anthony took this awesome ram at 300 yards with his Browning X-Bolt in .300 WSM. The biggest lesson Anthony took away from this experience, something we all should be cognizant of, is to never take for granted the opportunities provided by hunting. Here’s to you and many more seasons, Anthony.
On a mid-October morning during the middle of the rut at Rochelle Plantation north of McClellanville, S.C., Ed saw this deer 85 yards away only 10 minutes into his hunt. With the deer exiting as fast as it came in, Ed quickly confirmed it was a buck with a brief look through his binocular. As the buck made its way toward the field edge, Ed took a shot with his Cooper Arms Model 52 Jackson Game rifle in .30-06, sending a 150-grain Federal Power-Shok through the deer’s shoulder and both lungs. Ed says it all happened so fast he forgot to put on his hearing protection!
When Kenneth, 65, applied for his Wyoming ram permit, he didn’t have a single preference point. But fate intervened, and he drew a tag others have longed to draw for the better part of three decades. Hunting in the Laramie Mountain Range, Kenneth took this dandy ram with his Cooper rifle in .30-06 and a handloaded 180-grain Barnes bullet at 326 yards. Over the course of the 14-day hunt, sometimes sleeping in the back of his truck, Kenneth shed 10 pounds. But he came back with much more weight in meat, and one heckuva a wallhanger, to boot.
2016 was a big year for Adam. He had been tracking for five years what he called the “Sticker” buck, the largest buck he’d seen on the Missouri farm since his grandpa bought the property more than 30 years ago. But with a new baby on the way and other family obligations, Adam was prepared to lose a lot of hunting time. But as luck would have it, on Sunday Nov. 20, Adam, freed briefly from fathering and work, was in the woods when “Sticker” made his final appearance. Adam downed the 20-point buck that measures 1903/8 inches with a great shot. Grandpa Foley, this one’s for you!
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Harle Snyder, Zeeland, Mich. and Haeley Snyder, Casper, Wyo.
Last August, first-time hunters and sisters Harle Snyder, 17, and Haeley Snyder, 18, both took antelope with an Excalibur Phoenix crossbow in Casper, Wyo., on a trip with their grandpa. Harle shot hers on opening day at 20 yards, and Haeley bagged hers a few days later with a 30-yard shot. The sisters plan to hunt again this year. Great first bucks, girls, and good luck this year.
After drawing sandhill crane permits, Allen and his son set out on the Tennessee River to fill their tags. Forced to deal with a flat tire on their boat trailer, the pair got a later start than they wanted. Even so, when this crane came within 30 yards, Allen unloaded his Mossberg 930, sending the large bird to the ground. Not only was this Allen’s first crane, but it was banded and carried a radio-tracking transmitter, too. As if that wasn’t enough, after registering the bird, Allen learned it was the first-ever banded crane taken in Tennessee.
It’s always nice to have some company in hunting camp, but spouses make camp a little extra special. On a private ranch near Price, Utah, in early September, while his wife handled duties back at camp, Ron saw this bull bedded with its neck exposed. At 40 yards, one shot with his Ruger Model 77 in .270 Win. firing a 130-grain bullet was all it took to make sure this behemoth didn’t get up again. Did we mention it was Ron’s wife’s birthday that week? Obviously, there were multiple celebrations in camp.
On the border of South Africa and Zimbabwe, Randy, who has been an NRA Life member for more than half a century, took this kudu and a wildebeest using his Remington Model 700 chambered in .338 Win. Mag. topped with a Nikon scope. According to the outfitter, both animals will make the Rowland Ward record book after the required drying time for measurements.
Sixteen-year-old Maddy drew a lifetime tag for bighorn sheep in the John Day River Canyon region in north-central Oregon. In early November, unguided, Maddy and her dad, Brett, maneuvered into the public area via a 50-mile-float in rubber boats on the John Day. On the second day, after a mile-long stalk, Maddy’s success came down to her excellent, single shot on this ram at about 200 yards with her Remington 700 in .30-06. That’s a public-land success story if we’ve ever heard one!
On a rainy, foggy day after Thanksgiving, Danny and his friend Scott Perdue set out to hunt a local coal mine area they knew held some good deer and black bears. Using an old tram road for access, the two walked into the area, glassing as they went. It was then that Danny spotted the magnificent dark head of a bear resting on a light-colored boulder. The hunters crept onward, eyes on the bear, and as luck would have it, the bear raised to gain a better look as they passed. That’s when Danny, with an offhand shot, fired a single round from his Remington 742 in .30-06 into the bear’s chest.
The second week of October is bird hunting week for Tim. Along with his son, grandson, a friend and a Vizsla named Grace, the group enjoys a week of relaxation, finding enough birds along the way to keep things interesting. This mixed bag of ruffed grouse and woodcock made for an exciting day, which the group finished with some cold drinks around the campfire.
During a father/son trip to Kodiak, Alaska, NRA Life member Zac Parks, right, bagged this giant brown bear during a nine-day hunt. The hunters were responding to a problem animal for the local village, as it was stealing deer from residents. Zac finally caught up with the meat thief and took a lethal shot with a .338 Win. Mag. at 135 yards, followed by two more to ensure it stayed put. On the last day of the hunt, they also got an 11-point blacktail. All told, father and son took one bear, three deer and more than 40 ducks including harlequins, goldeneyes and mergansers. That’s definitely a successful trip, and one the two of them won’t soon forget.
Brooklyn, 13, and her dad, Matthew, had been still-hunting for about five hours on a cold and snowy day through the Black Hills of eastern Wyoming for Brooklyn’s first buck when they spotted this nice 5x5 in its bed. Brooklyn kept calm, found a good rest on a nearby ponderosa pine, and with one careful shot just above the heart, the buck was hers. It was a great season with many fond memories made between daddy and daughter. There were no doubt also many lessons learned about hunting and remaining diligent under tough conditions.
At 60, the opportunity to hunt Africa was a knock on the door Matthew couldn’t ignore. In the Limpopo province of South Africa in September, Matthew took a bull black wildebeest at a little more than 200 yards. Shortly thereafter, Matthew and his PH, Samson, moved into a hilly area, at which point Matthew spotted and killed this sable at 130 yards with his Browning A-Bolt Medallion in .300 Win. Mag. During the trip, Matthew also took a blesbok, two warthogs and an impala. But he says the hunt for his sable, with horns measuring 41.5 inches, is the experience he remembers most fondly.
Hunting with Niobrara Wilderness Outfitters in mid-November near Valentine, Neb., Raymond surprised this bedded mule deer buck as it lounged under a tree with a doe. When both deer got up the big buck took off, and Raymond circled to cut him off. Unfortunately, hunter and guide jumped the buck a second time after it had bedded under another tree roughly 200 yards away; they could only watch as it disappeared into the pines. Then, as the massive 8x13 brute exited the pine grove once more, Raymond, with his New Ultra Light Arms .270, shot through a window in the trees and dropped this big boy in his tracks.
When Troy, left, drew a Maine moose tag after 16 years of trying, he was elated. But the timing of his hunt couldn’t have been worse, as his son’s graduation from Army basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., was the same weekend, and his 26th wedding anniversary was the same week. Still, Troy packed in every activity. After the graduation, he flew to Buffalo then drove all day to arrive in Maine by 4 a.m. opening day. On the fourth day of his hunt (his anniversary), his guide, Scott Brown, put him on this bull. Troy says he is grateful for his wife and her understanding nature.
Delmar had watched this deer for two years via trail-cam images—and even had an opportunity at a shot, spoiled by an in-the-way pine tree—before luck finally swung his way last fall. Delmar saw quite a few other bucks, including two nice 8-pointers, but insistently held out for “the buck.” His patience paid off when the 11-pointer walked by at 30 yards. That was when Delmar, using his TenPoint Carbon Elite XLT crossbow, claimed his biggest buck to date.
Marc will attest that the third time’s a charm as he got his cat, a “bucket-list item,” he says, on try No. 3. Beaver Trap Outfitters’ Ross Adney in Dayton, Wyo., used Plott hounds combined with fresh snow to track down Marc’s lion. After days without luck, Marc was still as determined as the hounds to get a cat, even in a foot of snow and temperatures that hovered around minus 20. When a fresh track and a 10-mile chase finally ended in a treed cat, Marc made a nearly vertical shot with his Mathews Z7 bow through a half-foot window of branches. It was one of the older toms taken in the area last year and weighed more than 150 pounds.
The results are in, and big game ranging from bears and boars to bucks, bulls and rams is what American Hunter readers pursued most in the past year. But while big game is the big theme, know that some unique birds landed within our pages, too. Regardless of the species, though, this says a lot about you, the American hunter, and your dedication to our favorite pastime.
This year, entries came in from coast to coast. More than half the states in the nation are represented in print this year—it’s clear everyone sought to ensure their neck of the woods was included. And sprinkled among these pages is game from across the globe, too. Clearly, all of you are excited to show off your success. Rest assured, we’re just as eager to see it.
These photos are a testament to the American hunter, to whatever he or she may pursue, wherever that may occur. We all are more than just observers of nature. We participate. We live it. American Hunter is proud to present the culmination of the passion, patience and pride we all share in the glorious pursuit of our favorite game.