While mothers everywhere often fret over letting their children march off into the wilderness with their husbands or worry they’ll shoot an eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun, let’s face it: It’s that flirtation with the wild and untamed, that hint of danger denied, that appeals to our most basic instincts and supports the foundation of our passion for hunting and the outdoors. Few literally court higher levels of danger in our pursuits. Many of us are perfectly content to sit out an afternoon in a sturdy ladder stand waiting on a whitetail or crouch in the shade of a live oak awaiting the chance to take a poke at some tasty, yet harmless, doves as they dart over an open field — but not all of us.
Following are 10 of the wildest, most extreme hunts on the planet. Do one and you deserve the admiration of more sedentary sportsmen. Do two or three and we should all be impressed. Do them all and you get the honor of being a certifiable badass — even if you bankrolled the effort with the trust fund left by daddy.
Alaskan Grizzly Bear Bowhunt
Few animals inspire pure bone-chilling fear like a grizzly bear. Like a land-borne great white shark, a griz is designed for one thing: destroying and consuming lesser creatures, which is pretty much everything it encounters. To stalk within bow distance and accurately launch an arrow, even with a guide by your side armed like the biker in Raising Arizona, takes stones. All this convinces me, if somehow I am ever able to pull together the scratch for such a hunt, I’ll be going in armed like I’m about to take down a safe house holding Ayman al-Zawahiri; screw a bow.
Alaskan Dall Sheep and Goat Hunt
Sheep in general inhabit some of North America’s most remote and rugged terrain. Dall sheep in particular, along with those suction-hooved white bearded goats, are capable of treading slopes that would leave a Cirque de Soleil performer frightened. Chase both in the insanely remote and rocky Brooks Range of Alaska, where hunts take place upwards of 7,000 feet or more. This is all with more than 30 pounds of pack and gun on your back. Better be in serious shape for this one, lest you want to cough up a lung and vapor lock where even a MedJet can’t reach you.
Wild Hog with a Knife
What do you get when you mix a 200-plus pound long-tusked boar, a pack of pit bulls, a cordless spotlight and a Special Forces model Kabar knife? If you’re in Florida, you get one hell of an adrenaline-fueled adventure. With wild hogs spreading their own style of squealing destruction across America, popularity in hog hunting continues to grow. But most sportsmen have yet to experience this brand of hog hunting. Run through palmetto-choked swamps and try to keep up with coarsing pit bulls until they catch one pissed and struggling hog. They’ll attempt to secure the beast until you can lunge in with the knife to dispatch the creature. This is a pursuit worthy of its own reality series on AMC or Discovery.
African Cape Buffalo Hunt
Standing more than five feet tall, up to 11 feet long and sporting a boss of horns that act as a bullet proof shield with hooks, the cape buffalo is 2,000 pounds of muscle, bone, sinew and bad attitude. Fail to drop the beast on your first shot and you have one of the most certifiably treacherous tracking jobs ahead of you. Buffs are known to head for the thickest cover available where they await their pursuers and charge, head down and feet stomping. It will take true guts to stand your ground with this nothing-to-lose train steaming toward you. Here’s your Francis Macomber moment -- don’t fail and don’t make the mistake of having an armed and angry woman standing behind you.
North American Alligator Bowhunt
Largely unchanged and unevolved since the days of the dinosaurs, gators are North America’s walking prehistoric relic. Big teeth and powerful jaws mean you don’t want to slip up when in close proximity. Arrow a large monster from a boat with a cord attached, then hang on as the gator drags your boat around the lake. Even after the mouth is secure and/or the animal expired, then you get to wrestle its bulk into the boat. Have fun.
Lake Michigan Ice Ledge Coyote Hunt
It isn’t necessarily what you hunt as much as it is where you hunt that can lead to the thrill and sometimes the risk. Veteran predator hunter and Hunter’s Specialties pro-staffer Pat Muffler lives in icy Michigan, where on the shores of the Great Lakes, he has hunted coyotes venture onto the unstable ice ledges along the water where determined hunters are apt to pursue them. Instability in the hard surface is always likely, and one misstep or overeager effort can result in a plunge into the frigid waters below and almost certain death to the hunter alone.
Southern Cameroon Rainforest Hunt
If you envision Africa as a thick, jungled, dark continent like that of the old Tarzan movies or Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness,” southern Cameroon won’t disappoint. The region is reputed to be so thick that some hunters suffering from claustrophobia can’t proceed, and temperatures regularly hovering in the high 80s and 90s, humidity at 100 percent and regular rainfall make days miserable. Hunters have to be in top physical shape to keep up with the Pygmy trackers pushing forward through the impenetrable jungle. Here you can hunt bongo, sitatunga, duiker and other game, including elephants, and expect it to be all up close, in-their-face stalking and shooting. Got nerves to face off with an elephant that’s just mere yards away? Then Cameroon might be for you.
Siberian Bear Hunt
Siberia is known as one of the most brutal environments in the world with snow, ice, bitter winter temperatures and extreme isolation. In the Lake Baikal region in the central Siberian forests, outfitters will take you across the deep, hard-to-navigate snow to locate denned bears and rouse them from their hibernation. Dogs are used to push the agitated bear out of the den, which charges from the den where the hunter waits in close proximity. One website calls this “one of our most dangerous hunts,” but assures hunters that two armed guides will be flanking them in case their legs turn to rubber or their shots prove inadequate for the charging bear.
Pakistani Blue Sheep Hunt
Blue sheep, Himalayan ibex, Astor markhor and Kashmir markhor are found in some of the most rugged terrain in the world -- the mountains of northern Pakistan. Of course, this is the same land used as a hideout by exiled Taliban and hunted down al-Qaeda. It’s also an errant rocket’s flight from the war-torn and still battle-ravaged gateway to hell known as Afghanistan. But for the hunters who have the cash and fitness to pursue game there, it’s all worth it, but note that cash alone isn’t going to do it. Pursuing sheep and ibex among rocky ledges at 15,000 feet can kill lesser men, and if that doesn’t do it, stumbling on to a terrorist hideout can.
U.S.-Mexico Border Hunt
To be fair, the media has overblown the dangers of the U.S.-Mexican border region, and most traveling hunters have little to worry about -- that is, unless they’re muling a few keys back across to the States, in which case they’ve already cast their lot for a short lifespan. But for real sportsmen looking for great whitetail, Coues deer, mule deer, waterfowl or turkey hunting south of the border, the fear of violence and kidnappings from out-of-control drug cartels have actually opened up some hunting areas to less pressure and great deals. Of course, for the rare hunter to get robbed or kidnapped, that’s little consolation. You also have the mere hassle of dealing with rude Mexican border officials and potentially ruder American ones upon your return. Bottom line is, if you see random people wandering through your hunting area, just let ‘em go. Odds are, they’re better armed than you. This definitely is no country for old men -- or most young ones either!