Field & Stream's Best Stories of 2017

This list was not easy. If we do say so ourselves, there were a ton of great F&S stories and videos to choose from for 2017 This one, this one, and this one come to mind. Oh, and this one was totally fun. But the dozen stories that follow are the ones that immediately stood out and came to mind. Some of them are inspiring and inspired. Others are fun and adventurous. There are tales of victory and heartbreak in this collection, and one is just plain goofy—but in a good way. But the one thing all of these stories have in common is they made us want to get outside. Hopefully, we included your favorite. If we didn’t, share your pick in the comments. With that said: Thanks for reading, happy New Year, and here’s to more great tales in 2018.

Ultimate Guide to Hunting Rifles

By David E. Petzal

The Ruger 10/22 Target with a Leupold VX-2 Rimfire EFR scope is a squirrel sniper. The Voorhes

The Ruger 10/22 Target with a Leupold VX-2 Rimfire EFR scope is a squirrel sniper. The Voorhes

I vet all the reader questions for David E. Petzal’s “Ask Petzal” column, and more than half are some version of, “What’s the best rifle for elk?” Or deer or black bears or coyotes or you-name-it. We’ve received so many of those questions, that we decided to make them the basis for our August 2017 issue’s cover story, “The Ultimate Guide to Hunting Rifles.” In the story, our legendary rifles editor recommends 41 different rifles for the most popular game species in North America—and because these picks come from Petzal, they’re pretty much the last word on the subject. Enjoy. —Dave Hurteau, deputy editor

The Slam Man

Video by Michael R. Shea

New York hunter Mike Bard completed the waterfowl slam last year with a cinnamon teal

If you’re a waterfowl hunter, you can’t help but be motivated by Mike Bard’s North American Waterfowl slam. The video had me ticking off the number of duck and goose species that I’ve taken—and calculating how many more I have to go. It also helped me come up with my 2018 New Year’s resolution: bag a duck species I’ve never taken before. —Alex Robinson, online editor

Go Public

By Dave Hurteau and Tony Peterson

Tony Peterson in area field
Tony Peterson selects a stand site from a walk-in-area field Ackerman + Gruber

I think the perfect hunting story is one that’s fun to read, with relatable characters. It should also be useful. That made our September 2017 issue’s cover story a homerun and, in my opinion, one of the best deer-hunting features we’ve published in years. Plus, Hurteau shot another little buck—and I love giving him hell about that. —Will Brantley, hunting editor

Wild Fires

By T. Edward Nickens

survival fire
Some of the best stores Chris Crisman

The assignment to editor-at-large T. Edward Nickens was to write a how-to manual on building fires in the woods. Simple enough, right? Well, what Nickens turned was anything but simple. There’s wonderful storytelling, history, humor, adventure, inspiration, and, of course, expert advice in this feature—the cover story from our February-March 2017 issue. I especially liked the closing line to his instructions on how to build a bonfire: Everyone’s watching, so don’t screw it up. Soak a roll of toilet paper in kerosene and tuck it at the base of the tepee fire. You don’t have to light it with a flaming arrow shot across the dark sky. But, then again, you could. And the four short essays he wrote as a companion to “Wild Fires” are simply masterful. —Colin Kearns, editor-in-chief

The Wishing Tree

By Keith McCafferty

old trout fly lures
These old trout flies served the author well on Michigan’s Au Sable River. Christopher Testani

Ages ago, as a young editor at F&S, I remember reading my first manuscript by Keith McCafferty—and thinking, Holy smokes, this guy can write. Today McCafferty is a successful novelist and, though I wouldn’t have believed it possible those 20-some years ago, an even better writer. In “The Wishing Tree” (June-July 2017), the author returns to the river of his youth to chase his past, which races away on the current. The prose is achingly beautiful. McCafferty’s weaving of past and present is something most writers shouldn’t even attempt, and yet he manages it so seamlessly that the two time frames almost seem to merge—which goes to the story’s point. Give it a read, and you’ll see what I mean: Holy smokes, this guy can write. —D.H. 

The Blind Retrieve

Video by Alex Robinson

Otis makes an impressive retrieve on a drake gadwall

This one is a personal highlight. We had a weird duck migration in the Upper Midwest this fall. First it was unseasonably warm, then we had a bitter cold snap, then it warmed up again—and it made waterfowl tough to pattern. So, I felt like I had hit the jackpot when hundreds of gadwall circled our spread one morning on the Mississippi River in late October. To top off our morning limit, my 2-year-old lab, Otis, made a long blind retrieve on a beautiful drake gaddy. It was our best duck hunt of the year, and one I’ll be looking back on all winter long. —A.R.

Crossbow Gobbler Quest

By Donna Ng

Donna Ng nebraska longbeared
Donna Ng fans out her hard-earned Nebraska longbeard. Will Brantley

Last spring, F&S copy chief, Donna Ng, set out to kill her first turkey—with a crossbow. My wife, Michelle, and I joined her in Nebraska during the early archery season, and we were covered up in gobblers. The week was full of all the highs and lows that make for a good story. Donna even convinced me to cook and eat a wild turkey liver—and it was pretty-danged tasty. —W.B.

Fly Birds

Video by Michael R. Shea

These chickens produce the world’s most sought-after feathers for fly-tying.

I bet I’ve watched this video over a dozen times now—and I’m still not tired of it. The chickens are unlike any critter I’ve ever seen, and Tom Whiting is such a fascinating person. The spring trout season seems eons away, but this video makes me want to tie flies all winter. —C.K.

The Prehistoric Sportsman

By David E. Petzal

A broadside shot at a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Jurassic Park Wiki

I’ve read every single one of Rifles Editor David E. Petzal’s blog posts since 2013 when I started working at Field & Stream. But this post is one of my all-time favorites because he answers a question any serious outdoorsman has asked himself many times: What’s the best way to hunt and kill a T-rex? —A.R.

So You Want to Kill a World-Record Whitetail?

By Will Brantley

Tucker Buck world-record whitetail replica
A replica mount of the Tucker Buck stands on a pedestal. The Voorhes

For our December-January issue, hunting editor Will Brantley scored an exclusive interview with Tennessee hunter Stephen Tucker, who in the fall of 2016 took the largest hunter-killed whitetail buck ever. Tucker brought a replica of the 312-inch, 47-point nontypical to our photoshoot to give F&S readers a close-up look at the incredible rack, but what I enjoyed most about Brantley’s interview was getting a close-up look at the hunter himself. In the sometimes cutthroat, ego-driven world of big whitetail bucks, Tucker is a modest and unassuming breath of fresh air. Ultimately, and a little unexpectedly, this is a feel-good story, because in the end you can’t help but say: It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. —D.H.

A Dog in the Hunt

By Bill Heavey

raccoon hunt, how to hunt raccoons
Every year, Parsons, Tenn., hosts the “world’s largest” raccoon hunt. Max Temescu

For our May 2017 issue, we sent editor-at-large Bill Heavey to Decatur County, Tennessee, to follow hunters and hounds in the annual St. Jude World’s Largest Coon Hunt. Lost from the start, Heavey bumbles by moonlight, waist-deep through swamp and thicket, chasing “a cacophony of barks and bawls, ricocheting through the night woods.” By the time the contest judges declare a winner, the author knows little more (maybe less) about competitive raccoon hunting than when he started. But along the way, he discovers a community of passionate hunters, bonded by the chase and by charity, and determined to preserve an ancient ritual. —D.H.

Ghosts of Africa

By David E. Petzal

Ghosts of Africa illustration by Kako
A good Cape buffalo hunt will haunt you. Kako

I remember when, back in 2016, Petzal mentioned to me that he was about to embark to Africa for a Cape buffalo hunt—and likely his last-ever safari. My immediate reaction: “I want that story.” And what a story it is. —C.K.