Black Bear Hunting photo

Chasing big game is more than a hunt—it is pure adventure. Here we’ve collected the skills, tools, and attitude you’ll need to haul meat off the mountain—whether you’re after elk, moose, bears, muleys, or pronghorns—and have the thrill of your life.

The Adventurer’s Code

The most memorable trips are the ones on which you suffer the most. • The people you want to pal around with and the people you want to go into the wilderness with are rarely the same people. • Ted Trueblood said: “It will be too hot. It will be too cold. It will rain.” • You know exactly what days every state announces draw results, but you rarely ever remember your significant other’s birthday. • Once you’ve checked it, and made sure you packed it, don’t mess with it anymore. • Headlamps are to flashlights as fighter jets are to paper planes. • Have a plan and stick to it, but embrace chance encounters, which often lead to trophies not measured in antler inches. • You secretly hate your buddy the day he draws a sheep tag but gladly spend the rest of the year doing whatever you can to help him punch it. • On a guided trip, you share your whiskey with the camp cook before anyone else. This not only ensures large portions; it’s also the only proven way to obtain food between meals. • When you see your bush pilot burst into tears, it’s time to start reviewing your life. • If you doubt that rattlesnakes make any hunt an adventure, step on one as you walk to your truck. When your feet hit the ground, you’ll swear you’re on another planet. • Toilet paper is optional. Tucks wipes are mandatory. • You regard people who own pack-out llamas in the same terms as your father viewed hippies. • Actively riding a horse for any length of time uses muscles that you don’t actually have. You will not become aware of this until the day after you ride. Bring ibuprofen. • If you’re scared to death and you’re the only one who knows it, you’re brave. • You’ve been gone just long enough when the photos of your kids in your wallet make you tear up. • You accept with grace that there is an element of luck beyond anyone’s control. This is what an elk guide had in mind the first night in camp when he announced: “Boys, there are a hell of a lot of elk in this country. But there’s one hell of a lot of country.” • Take notes. In five years you will not remember. • Never assume you’ll get back this way again. Appreciate the journey.

Call a Bear Into Your Lap


Just seeing a black bear in the wilderness is exciting, but when a beady-eyed bruin busts from the brush looking at you like you’re covered in honey, well, that does something to your soul. Here’s how to bring an apex predator into range by pretending you are prey.

Float Through Hell for Moose


My dream hunt goes like this: A bush pilot drops a friend and me on a river in Alaska. Two weeks later he comes back—his plane empty enough to tote a load of moose meat and antlers out—then returns to ferry a pair of exhausted, but satisfied, hunters back to the real world.

Hunt the Cheaper Sheep


★ The Texas sun was still only a promise of warmth as it crept over the Davis Mountains. I was sitting on the valley floor, nestled as comfortably as I could be into the scrub brush and cholla cactus, my binoculars glued to my eye sockets. High above, perched on the basalt columns, were several Barbary sheep, their shaggy manes blowing in the morning breeze.

Stalk an Elk Herd


Shadowing a herd and saddled with little more than a sleeping bag and tarp, a backcountry hunter increases his chance of killing a world-class bull. The real thrill of a bivvy hunt isn’t about the score of the antlers. Instead, it’s the experience of living with a herd for days until the perfect shot presents itself.

Size Up Your Prize


Get Charged by a Pronghorn


To the uninitiated, pronghorns may seem like cowards—critters that will turn tail for the horizon at the first hint of danger. That all changes during the rut. A dominant buck will run over any interloper looking to steal one of his does. Here’s how to exploit that aggressiveness and bring a pronghorn into bow range.

Await the Second Bed


★ The muley bucks are standing at the head of a coulee when we see them through a spotting scope. When they disappear over the rim, Miles Fedinec grabs his bow and pack. “A mule deer is predictable in the midmorning,” says Fedinec, a Colorado outfitter who’s guided hunters on a thousand-plus mule deer stalks. “They’ll bed once, get up, reposition, and bed again.

The Ultimate Big-Game Library

hunting books,

I like real books. They have no batteries to burn out, and in a pinch you can use them to start a fire.

Written with help from Scott Bestul, Will Brantley, Bill Heavey, and David E. Petzal. Illustrations by Tim McDonagh. Photography: books by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller; girl with horse from the Evertt Collection; cheaper sheep by Don Despain/Alamy; pronghorn by Donald M. Jones; rifle strap by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller; mounts by Donald M. Jones; mule deer by Donald M. Jones; arrow by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller.