Your hunts over the last year involved a plethora of connections ranging from spouses and parents, siblings and children, and friends and neighbors. Regardless of the nature of the association, it’s the assemblage of like-minded outdoorsmen and women, the willingness to mentor those new to the sport we love, and the unstoppable drive to share and uphold our customs that will continue to preserve our way of life for years to come.
The anecdotes found below only scratch the surface of the best of the best tales stemming from last season. We thank every hunter who submitted his or her story, as each one of them allowed us to tag along and relive some incredible adventures. We hope every reader feels the same joy and feels the same pride in the following stories.
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Ed Laidlaw, Union City, Pa. Months of researching places to find big mule deer led NRA Patron Life member Ed and his friend Ashley Orris to southeastern Colorado, where they secured access to a ranch. Their homework paid off as they saw several nice bucks, but by the fourth day of their hunt Ed, who had passed on a couple 5x5's he judged would score in the 170s, wondered if he was being too selective. He didn’t have to second-guess himself much longer, though, as at first light on that November morning this brute showed up and gave Ed a 100-yard shot from his seat against a cottonwood. The buck, which fell to Ed’s Tikka T3 in .300 WSM, has a spread of nearly 30 inches. Ed's patience resulted in not only a great buck, but also our Members' Best cover spot.
Kent Price, Culver, Kan. In August, on the second-to-last day of a Dall sheep hunt in the Brooks Range of Alaska, Kent and his guide, Shane, saw two rams at 30 yards. The legal ram—a 9-year-old with a slight double broom—moved to 230 yards, and Kent pulled the trigger on his .30-06. The 168-grain Nosler sent the ram tumbling down a 100-foot cliff—and that’s when the real work began. By the time they returned to camp they realized 14 hours had passed. Two years of training and unbending perseverance is what it took for this 57-year-old hunter to find success!
Jarred Speakman, Grove City, Ohio As a full-time police officer with a family, Jarred knows all too well days to scout and hunt are few and far between. But last November,while hunting from a fellow officer’s treestand, Jarred saw this buck step out at 28 yards as he was about to leave. Jarred drew his bow rather than pack it up. He loosed his arrow then heard the proverbial smack as the buck took off with about 10 inches of shaft protruding from its side. Jarred decided to track him in the morning, resulting in a restless night of sleep. But it was worth the wait when he walked up to this bruiser the next day!
Elaine Delsman, Ashland, Ore. A mother of seven, grandmother of 14, and great-grandma to four more, Elaine started hunting deer with her husband once their kids were older. She first used a .243 and later turned to her father’s .257 Roberts, with which she took a bear two years ago. About seven years ago, Elaine borrowed a Hawken .50-caliber muzzleloader from her son-in-law and has taken nice bucks with it every year since. She continued her streak last season, taking this deer the day after Thanksgiving with the brand new in-line muzzleloader she received as a gift from one of her daughters and son-in law for Christmas.
Al Nelson, Euless, Texas Al was hunting deer in Irion County, Texas, when at around 4 p.m. a female bobcat wandered into his view at roughly 100 yards. Seeing this target of opportunity, Al raised his Remington 742 Woodsmaster in .30-06 and crumpled the cat with a 180-grain Remington Core-Lokt. An hour later, a larger 27-pound male came in, and Al dropped him as well. Al went home with great pelts, and he collected a little cash on this hunt, too: a $35 bounty for each cat.
Diana Hudson, Howe, Texas Hunting with Extreme Outfitters USA out of Rawlins, Wyo., in October last year, Diana, her husband, John, and their guide were glassing on the first morning when they spotted this top-heavy pronghorn. Stalking to within 400 yards, Diana took a shot with her Weatherby Vanguard Deluxe chambered in .257 Wby. Mag. It was a clean miss. Undeterred, they were back on the herd two hours later, and this time Diana rocked her quarry with a solid hit at 400 yards. The buck measured 865/8 inches, a trophy speed goat in anyone’s book. Diana's husband also killed a big antelope, but this moment and hunt belonged to her.
Dane Anderson, Elizabethon, Tenn. With 19 preference points and a newly replaced right hip, Dane, right, and his son, Pete, headed to southwest Colorado last November for the chance at a trophy elk. On the third day of the hunt, Dane heard something crashing through the timber and saw this bull 200 yards out, trotting on the opposite slope of a shallow valley. Quickly setting up on his tripod, Dane fired his pre-’64 Winchester Model 70 in .30-06 loaded with 180-grain Nosler Partitions, and netted what is his best-ever public land bull.
Jamie Cox, Liberty, W.Va. On the third day of spring turkey season in West Virginia, after boogering a big tom on their first setup, Jamie and his buddy Jeff crossed an old dirt road to get on two more gobbling birds. They set up on the edge of a hay meadow with the birds gobbling on both sides of them. One of the best callers Jamie knows, Jeff brought in both birds in a matter of minutes, giving Jamie the opportunity to take this nice 3-year-old tom with a 10½-inch beard and 1¼-inch spurs. Jamie’s go-to turkey gun is a Remington Model 870 he purchased in the mid-’70s. He’s taken more than 30 birds with it so far.
Doug Holum, Mitchell, S.D. In August, while hunting on Africa’s Kunene River that separates Angola and Namibia, Dougtook two crocs, each with a single 240-grain Nosler Partition from his Cooper Model 54 in .340 Wby. Mag. The temperature had soared to greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the river, so to say the hunt was heated is an understatement. When butchering the first croc, the group found a dog collar, bones and a skirt! Needless to say, Doug and his guides were shocked, but then again, crocs are known as one of Africa’s deadliest. The largest croc weighed more than 1,300 pounds and had a beautiful color that Doug hadn’t seen in other crocs.
Kevin Burns, Columbia, Mo. From his stand, Kevin watched as a doe bedded within range. A minute later, this 11-point moved in and Kevin’s 150-grain Hornady bullet connected. The buck stumbled, then went out of sight with the doe. Within a minute, the doe wandered back out, and Kevin shot her, too. In 15 minutes, he had filled both his tags with the Remington Model 7400 .30-06 he’s used regularly since it was given to him in 1988. Talk about efficiency! This is Kevin’s best buck in more than 30 years of hunting.
Martin Larraneta, Elko, Nev. Martin has been hunting chukar with the same 20-gauge Model 870 he bought used nearly 30 years ago. Sadly, last October, after 14 hunting seasons under her collar, Martin’s dog, Nellie, left, passed away. Covey, right, just finished his fifth season, and is quite the bird dog. Martin’s thrilled whenever he’s able to take chukar with his favorite hunting buddies, but his main focus has always been enjoying the great dogs he’s had the privilege to own and the beautiful public lands of Nevada.
Mike Peters, Norcross, Ga. Hunting in the mountains north of Raton, N.M., Mike wanted a particular 5X5 mule deer he'd seen over the summer. On the last day of his hunt, with no deer down, he spotted this 9-point at about 75 yards. Resting his Browning X-Bolt in .300 Win. Mag. on some rocks,Mike toppled the deer before it crested a ridge. Totaling 18 points in all, this monster muley far exceeded Mike’s original 5x5 expectations. Think he looks familiar? Mike's photo with a monster elk made our cover in 2016!
Bernell Rumpke, Camden, Ohio Second chances don’t come often, but the powers that be gave Bernell another opportunity at this 10-point after he saw it the day before. With the giant again in sight, Bernell watched as it followed a few does and began grazing on soybeans Bernell had planted the previous spring. That’s when his Henry rifle, chambered in .44 Rem. Mag., roared and Bernell planted this wide and heavy whitetail once and for all.
Glenn Stilwell, Greene, Maine As one of the fortunate few to draw a Maine lottery moose tag, Glenn was hunting in the North Woods when he spotted this trophy bull. In Glenn’s hand: a brand-new Remington Model 700 in .308 Win. stoked with handloaded 168-grain Barnes TTSX bullets. And since he was taking his son Anton on his first hunting adventure, Glenn installed a SilencerCo Omega 30 suppressor on the rifle to help protect their hearing. On Oct. 11, Glenn hammered this 873-pound, 15-point brute with a 59-inch spread square in the shoulder at 150 yards.
Sean M. Williamson, Newbury, N.H. Sean’s sons had already filled their tags—Steven with a 10-point and Samuel with a 6-point—so on Dec. 1 it was his turn. After texting Samuel, left, to bring the knife he forgot to pack, Sean saw this buck cross in front of him. He raised his Winchester Model 1886 in .33 WCF (made in 1915!) placed the front iron behind the deer’s shoulder and fired. Down went another nice 10-point. This day was the 45th anniversary of Sean’s first buck.
Gary Bergen, Lewiston, Idaho Needing a “hunting-buddy get-away,” NRA Life member Gary Bergen gathered a group of friends and set up a rifle pronghorn hunt with good friend and outfitter Brad Kooimen in Bill, Wyo. Brad sent Gary a photo of this unique buck months prior to the season, and as a big fan of non-typical animals, Gary knew this was the one he wanted. One hour into the second day of the hunt, Brad put Gary on the speed goat, and a quick 160-yard shot from his Seekins Precision Havak rifle put Gary’s trophy pronghorn down for the count.
John Garvin IV and Priscilla Garvin, Conowingo, Md. After flipping a house, John and his wife, Priscilla, treated themselves to an archery spring bear hunt in Saskatchewan in 2017, but came home empty-handed. When they returned last May, Priscilla used a crossbow to take an old sow, which scored just under the P&Y minimum, and John sealed the deal a few weeks later on a nice boar at 20 yards with his Mathews No Cam bow and Rage broadhead.
Don Busse, Klawock, Alaska At 65, Don is still packing up and down the mountains near Klawock in pursuit of deer. On Aug. 10, the second day Don ascended the mountain with his “dream team” of hunting buddies, he dropped this full velvet 5X5 blacktail buck after squeezing off a single shot from his Ruger M77 in .270 Win. Don has already accumulated a garage full of racks, but this buck is one of the best he’s taken off the mountain.
Stephanie Grover, Missoula, Mont. After landing an internship at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation while working toward graduation from law school and hoping to work in natural-resource law, NRA Life member Stephanie took a weekend to pursue elk in Montana during her fall semester at the University of Montana in Missoula. Though she got her first buck at 12, Stephanie had never before shot an elk; she’d only recently taken up bowhunting, too. Yet all those factors coincided last fall when Stephanie was rewarded for her hard work with this stud, which she shot at 50 yards. The bull is not only her first-ever elk but the first game to fall to her Bear bow.
Bruce Barker, Asherton, Texas Texas native Bruce has hunted around the world, except deer in Mexico. So he booked a flight, and on the second evening of his hunt Bruce put the crosshairs behind this palmated buck’s shoulder. Bruce’s .270 Win. roared, and he crossed a Mexico muley off his bucket list. The deer has a B&C score of 221, no doubt thanks to the mass of the antlers.
Michael Moddrell, Lawrence, Kan. On a hunt with Bokamoso Safaris, Michael and professional hunter George Kyriacou found themselves chasing kudu in the Kalahari Desert near Ghanzi, Botsawana. Michael used a Remington Model 700 chambered in .375 H&H Mag. and topped with a Swarovski Z5 3.5X-18X, and shot this kudu bull at 100 yards with his handload featuring a 250-grain Sierra SPST traveling at 2750 fps.
Mike Poulos, Cottonwood, Calif. After applying for a pronghorn tag since the late 1980s, Mike finally drew one. His 30-year dream was over in 30 minutes—right after his .300 Win. Mag. bellowed and dropped this nearly 80-inch pronghorn with a handloaded Barnes 150-grain TTSX.
Robert Stevenson, Valdese, N.C. For his 70th birthday, Robert drew a tag in Unit 7 of New Mexico. At 170 yards, he rocked this 6X6, 340-class herd bull with a 290-grain Barnes TEZ bullet propelled by Blackhorn 209 from his Knight Disc Extreme muzzleloader. Even after field-dressing, the bull still weighed 760 pounds!
Keely Stiegel, Venetia, Pa. After two years of hunting, Keely killed her first two turkeys in 2018. The first bird was taken with her 20-gauge Remington Model 870 Express Compact Jr. on Memorial Day, and the second, killed last fall, was a jake taken with her Ruger American Compact in .22 LR. Keely’s dad, Garry, introduced her to hunting through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program. Now she’s hooked! Keely and her dad are hoping to add her first whitetail buck to their growing list of hunting memories this year.
Carl Abrams, Albuquerque, N.M. Distress calls aren’t just for coyotes and other small carnivores. Just ask Carl, who lured this 6½-foot bear with nothing more than a mouth-blown predator call. One shot with his bow, and it was lights out for the big bruin. Carl has had a bear tag with him as long as he’s lived and hunted in New Mexico, which amounts to decades, but he’d never taken a bear in the Land of Enchantment. He credits his success to his perseverance, which stems from one of his favorite Bible verses: Galatians 6:9. This bear’s not only a great blessing for Carl’s patience, but it has also blessed his family with bear enchiladas, bear meatballs and bear potpie.
Wayne E. Hott, Wichita, Kan. For Wayne Hott and his guides, evaluating maturity and trophy quality within large antelope herds was the main challenge to finding this Ugandan kob in April 2018. Lucky for Wayne, his PHs, Bruce and Sean, were experienced in judging not only kob, but also Nile buffalo, Nile bushbuck and Defassa waterbuck. Wayne took this prized kob with a handloaded 140-grain Nosler Accubond from his Nosler M48 rifle in .280 Ackley Improved.
Troy Daniels, Onondaga, Mich. Troy traveled to South Africa last May for his first safari. Ruan van Greuning and Ockert Olivier guided Troy and his hunting partner to seven animals, including this 42-inch Cape buffalo. The buffalo charged, and at about 8 yards turned and gave Troy, who was armed with a Sabatti double rifle in .500 NE, a perfect—and extremely close—broadside shot. One 570-grain Swift A-Frame passed through its heart, and Troy’s hunt came to a heart-stopping end.
Mitchell Roberts, Burkburnett, Texas Pintails are a trophy duck species if there ever was one, so when Mitchell, 11, and his dad, Lt. Col. Adam Roberts, took these three pintails on a public-land duck hunt in Oklahoma last January, they were ecstatic. As an Air Force family, the Roberts clan has moved three out of the last four years. It’s been tough on Mitchell and his little brothers, says their dad, but they’ve been able to hunt new country each year. Mitchell started hunting at age 7, and has taken game in five different states. His success rate increased when he upgraded from a single-shot .410 to a 20-gauge Remington Model 870 last year.
Cramer, Rusty and Gerald Laurenz, Wheeler, Mich. Astute readers of our annual “Members’ Best” installments may recall the Laurenz sisters and their three bucks gracing the pages of the 2013 edition. This year, it’s the guys’ turn in the spotlight. Three generations of Laurenz men all took bucks on the morning of Nov. 15, 2018. Fifteen-year-old Cramer, left, and his grandfather, Gerald, right, took 8-pointers while Dad Rusty landed himself a dandy 10-pointer. All three tagged out from their respective elevated stands on Gerald’s farm in Midland County, Mich.
Steve Lanford, Fairbanks, Alaska Steve is a hunter-education instructor for the state of Alaska and has twice been recognized as state hunter education instructor of the year. He took this velvet bull, his 18th moose since moving to Fairbanks in 1993, on the first day of the season. The rifle: a Ruger American in .30-06 he was awarded in 2018 as a Champion of Hunter Education.