It’s hard for most non-hunters to appreciate our sport. They haven’t experienced the greatest things about hunting.
Maybe it’s an excited young pup bounding back to his owner after his first pheasant retrieve, a son’s first morning in the turkey woods with Dad or the exhausted sheep hunter who hiked miles on the roughest terrain imaginable to finally get his hands on his first ram.
The list goes on.
Every day we go afield we get a chance to make one of these memories and enjoy all the things hunting has to offer. There’s nothing that ties those experiences and memories together like a good photo. It might be a sappy premise, but it’s surely what keeps the outdoor addiction flowing.
Petersen’s Hunting is dedicated to the best photography in the game, both in our magazine and on this website. We’ve found that there’s no better way to tell our story and yours, and maybe even allow indoor city folk to appreciate what we do. To be the best we had to search far and wide for the most gritty, creative, real photographers that not only snap photos, but hunt as hard as anyone. We’re not talking about National Geographic sissies with no street cred. These are the guys that can capture the best images and through that demonstrate the soul of hunting.
To illustrate just how good it gets, we’ve compiled the 50 most amazing hunting photos we could find from five of our favorite photographers. Each photo tells a story and each photographer has been nice enough to share the details behind how these amazing shots came to be. Enjoy.
The photo originates from an old estate in Nebraska, and it is very likely that it was taken in that part of the U.S. Around this same time, professional wolf hunter Peter A. Watson had killed thousands of wolves in Nebraska with his pack of deerhounds. In fact, he was noted for killing more than 4,000 wolves in this manner in the last decade of the 19th century.
There is some sad irony in this happy picture. The young Austrian riflemen in swimsuits were happily unaware that a Serbian nationalist would murder the Austro-Hungarian crown prince, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife in Sarajevo about a month later. The event triggered the First World War, a conflict that ended nine million soldiers’ lives on the muddy battlefields of Europe. If this picture had been taken four years later, chances are there would be fewer, less able-bodied, and not-so-merry hunters in the frame.
A huge entourage of field biologists, hunting friends, local bearers, and even a movie photographer followed the Prince on this hunting adventure (aka scientific expedition), and they managed to collect hundreds of samples of the wildlife that crossed their path. Wilhelm did most of the collecting with the magnificent Rigby Mauser leaning against the silverback in the photo. The rifle was chambered in .350 Rigby caliber—very similar in terminal performance to .35 Whelen—and it perfectly fulfilled Wilhelm’s expectations on the trip. “I doubt if at the present there is a better weapon than their .350 Magnum,” he later wrote about Rigby’s rifles.
Besides the vast number of specimens collected, the outcome of the expedition was a popular book, authored by the Prince himself and published in English and several other languages. A motion picture also resulted, playing around the world. Even in those days, the killing of the great apes spawned a lively debate, but the Prince did not mind. His sport was scientifically justified.
This Alaskan bush pilot is pictured in front of brown bear pelts killed by his clients in the mid 1930s. Surely, he would not want his picture to be taken with the bears bagged by his clients unless something was out of the ordinary. As I see it, there are two distinct possibilities: Either these hunters were shrewd enough to bring a midget dressed as a bush pilot to make their mediocre bear trophies seem colossal, or this is a very large bear! Unfortunately, there is no record of either the identity or the actual height of this bush pilot, but if he is six feet tall, then the bear on the left is close to an honest 10 feet squared. That is a big bear by any standard! As alluring as the midget theory might be, I personally lean towards the big bear story. But that should not keep anyone from developing the midget theory further.
According to the notes on the back of the small picture, he shot the animals by stalking and from primitive treestands. A safer and more traditional (but costly) approach would have been to hunt the big cats from the back of an elephant. Maybe that was too ordinary for the rather extraordinary hunter whose hair gel budget probably could have covered the cost of a normal safari.
In case you are wondering (who are we kidding—of course you are wondering!), you cannot do this anymore! Partly because tigers are no longer legal to hunt anywhere in the world, partly because India banned all big-game hunting in 1972, but mainly because black Speedos with belts are not as hot as you think they are. Trust us on this one—we checked it out.
This guy does seem to have been well prepared for the photographer, showing off his harvest of coyote pelts, his horse, and his guns. The resulting picture was printed on photographic paper in the shape of a postcard—ready to spread the word of this particular hunter’s merits. It must have been a nice carte de visite to circulate among the local belles. How tough it would be to shoot a horseful of ’yotes with an open-sighted rifle—let alone stand atop the horse and frozen saddle for the duration of the photo’s exposure. Is it all right to envy a guy who’s probably been in the ground for six decades?
Wyman Meinzer is the only official State Photographer of Texas, named so in 1997 by the Texas State Legislature and then Gov. George W. Bush, an honor he still holds today. He has traveled across the state from the Panhandle to the Borderland in South Texas, from El Paso to Nacogdoches and all points in between to capture the first and last rays of sunlight as they kiss the Texas landscapes. In 2009 he received the Distinguished Alumnus award from Texas Tech University in recognition of outstanding achievement and dedicated service. See his work at wymanmeinzer.com.
Lee Kjos is a lifelong duck hunter whose photography has appeared in numerous outdoor magazines and advertisements for companies like Franchi, Benelli, RealTree, Cabela’s and many more. As a child in Webster, Minn., Kjos was drawn to hunting photography and was soon snapping photos of his hunts to capture the memories. Kjos’ goals with every stunning image are summed up in three sentences: “Capture the moment. Tell a story. Move the people.” See his work at kjosoutdoors.com.
John Hafner is a well-traveled shooter who tells the stories of the outdoor industry’s biggest brands with uncompromising drive, unique vision and absolute authenticity. A Montana-based freelance photographer, Hafner’s commercial and editorial assignments have taken him across the globe, from the Yukon to Zimbabwe. It’s rare to find him anywhere but behind his camera, but in between assignments, he can be usually be found in the whitetail or turkey woods. See his work at johnhafnerphoto.com.
Donald M. Jones has been a full-time Wildlife Photographer for over 20 years and resides in the small Northwestern Montana town of Troy. Don’s clients are wide and varied, from magazines, books and calendars to advertising. Don has his 10th book coming out this fall and has nearly 700 magazine covers to his credit. To view more of Don’s work visit his web site at donaldmjones.com, or if you are interested in purchasing Don’s work as fine art limited edition prints visit wildreflectionsgallery.com.
Kenton Rowe started “moonlighting” as a photographer in 2004, never intending on becoming a full time professional photographer. In the end all paths led him in that direction. Since 2007 he has explored the back roads and trails of Montana, shooting for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and an impressive selection of Montana’s most storied ranches. His first image was featured in Petersen’s Hunting in the summer of 2012, and he later joined editor Mike Schoby for a hunt in Zimbabwe featured in the August issue. See his work at kentonrowephotography.com.