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.
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.
Lee Kjos: Late Season Greenheads
I'm a duck hunter, so I was up in Saskatchewan late in the year hunting greenheads — I've probably made 50 trips up there through the years. What makes this photo incredibly unique is, first of all, the amount of greenheads on the water. It just doesn't happen that often. I call them "bastard flocks," where they're mostly adult drakes that either haven't bred or they don't have females. These ducks just kind of hang out. The other unique thing here is that you almost never see a combine harvesting barley this late in the year. I'll never see that again in my life and will probably never take another photo like it.
Kjos: Honker Madness
This particular shot was for Cabela's. The art director wanted me to portray the moment in the hunt when the geese are eating you up. They're on a string and regardless of how much shooting is going on, nothing's going to stop them. This photo illustrates just one wave after another. You can call honkers in so close sometimes that they'll literally land on you, and that's what I was trying to capture that day. I call it "honker madness."
Kjos: Wet, Cold & Nasty
It was just harsh on this shoot. When we took the photos I wasn't sure how they would turn out, but in the end I just loved the look. There's that emotion in it, and I just loved the mountain man vibe; the raw emotion and energy of a guy that was working that hard. This photo is all about the adrenaline of hunting.
Kjos: Phil Pickin' Ducks
This photo just captures Phil Robertson perfectly. That's all I can say. He's sitting in his shed picking ducks like he's done so many times. He loves ducks, and he loves cooking; it's a big part of his life. This little scene has probably played out thousands and thousands of times and, other than people on the inside circle, nobody's ever seen it.
Kjos: Royal Flushing
This is the best English setter I've ever photographed. Her name was Queen, and she was just literally that...a queen. She was stunning. Look at her eyes. She's chasing a cock and a hen bobwhite and her eyes are split, they're not even focused on one point. Besides Queen, there are so many things about this photo that are crazy rare. I'll never get another one like it, if not for the cool result of the shoot, for all the fun I had photographing this dog.
Kjos: Steamed Up
This is my buddy, Riley. We were working on a long photo shoot, and it was colder than blazes out. I think it was around minus 12 to minus 16. When you're working super hard like this dragging a big buck around, it doesn't matter how cold it is — you're getting hot. Well, Riley had a beanie cap on and when he pulled it off all of that steam came off his head. It just so happens he was backlit. It reminded me of one of those NFL football players you see on a sideline on a cold day when they take their helmets off and steam's pouring off their shaved heads. Just a moment, a rather brief moment.
Kjos: Cutting 'Em Loose
I shot this image for a sport dog company I've worked with for many years. It's an illustration, telling a story of a guy that's about to cut his prized Walkers loose in the middle of the night. Again, I'm trying to show cool coon dogs in real coon dog country while creating some kind of mood or atmosphere. That's about the energy of the dogs and their willingness to run their pads off to get something. There's nothing like the passion of a Walker. Nothing.
Kjos: Deadly Beauty
A lot of people look at this photo and they go, "Oh, it's too posed. It looks like a magazine cover. She's posed." Well, that's not quite true. I was in the woods kneeling down as I always am, and I had a 400 mm lens. She stopped in the beautiful early morning light and she took a break. I just thought she was stunning. This is my favorite photograph of a woman; she's just beautiful. Her hair's lit, that red coat, and her eyes. It's just like everything else: It just comes down to a moment for me.
Kjos: Cats in the Cold
Look at this badass. When you're that single-minded about anything in your life, it can be epic in an instant. First of all, the dude's a lion hunter, and he probably ain't much else. Then the interaction between those dogs and him, and his love for those animals. There's evidence of success there. I shot maybe 300 images, and then there's one there that I go, "God, is that cool." There's passion, emotion and you can really see his love for those animals and the sport.
Kjos: Monster Recovery
I shot this image for Bear Archery, and I don't think there's anything quite like giant whitetail bucks in Midwest corn country. It was late season in the snow and cold, the whole deal. You kill an animal like that, there's always some kind of a reverence that should be paid. I can only imagine the amount of emotion that is poured into a giant buck. Everything to me is focused around capturing a moment, telling a story and moving the people. If my images don't do that, they're no good. They're just pictures.
Donald M. Jones: Buffalo Battle
Two bull bison fighting during the bison rut/breeding season in Montana. This shot was taken during the first week of August when the annual bison rut is in full swing. I was real fortunate to capture this fight just as the first rays of morning light lit up the prairie. The fight was intense with dust and hair flying all about. When shooting bison, it's important to have flat light or that early morning/late evening light so you can get proper illumination of the eyes against that dark head. This is one of my favorite bison images because it rarely comes all together with this rather lethargic subjects. Having a mature-prime subject in great light and action is a recipe for success. Canon Mark IV and 300 mm lens.
Jones: Bighorns at Home
Two bighorn rams taken after an early fall snowstorm, western Alberta. I refer to sheep photography as my "mental health" photography because they always have that alert look, they allow me to move around them with short lens and the backdrops are generally incredible. I had hiked up approximately two miles through new snow from the previous night to find about 10 rams basking in the first rays of morning light. When one ram got up from his bed, the rest followed. Seeing the path they were taking, I quickly got ahead of them and laid down in the snow on my side and composed this vertical image of the ram just prior to having it walk right by me as I laid in the snow. Canon Mark IV and 70-200 mm lens.
Jones: Rapid Movement
Alaskan brown bear standing on guard in the Brooks River, Alaska. Every July, the brown bears return to Brooks Falls in hopes to feast on salmon returning to spawn. This year the run was late, but that didn't detour the bears. Patience does pay off and this large male did finally land a sockeye. Watching this bear standing on the rock with the water rushing by lent to a great opportunity of a "slow-motion blur" photo. To capture the sense of the fast moving water and a still subject, I set my camera to F/29 at 1/13 second. Not shooting with a tripod, I braced myself against a tree and took several blasts with only a couple of images turning out in the end. Canon Mark IV and 70-200 mm lens.
Jones: Predator, Prey
Coyote displaying a social posture. This coyote is one of about eight coyotes that had gathered around a cow elk kill made previously about two days earlier by a pack of wolves in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. This posturing of arching back and snarling teeth was repeated with every new coyote on arrival to the kill. My distance had to be kept as not to push the coyotes off the kill so I resorted to using my longest lens — 600 mm. Canon Mark III and 600 mm lens.
Jones: Dall Sheep in Paradise
Band of Dall sheep rams bedded along Polychrome Pass at Denali National Park, Alaska. This has got to be one of my favorite vistas in North America, and on this particular day I was blessed to have a group of 14 rams casually bedded and feeding on the ridge all day during the peak fall colors. I rarely take scenic photos but give me a beautiful scene with a wildlife subject — big or small — and I can't get enough of it. The colors, clouds and backdrops all came together in this image, and even though there are no big rams in the image, it is still one of my favorite Dall sheep images. Canon Mark IV and 24-105 mm shot at 24 mm.
Jones: Rocky Mountain Rumble
Two herd bulls in battle in Canada. In nearly 30 years of photographing elk, I have only photographed about seven fights well. This is one of my favorites, as I had two great bulls that fought in the open and for nearly 20 minutes. At first, when this fight started I thought, "No way, the light was terrible." It was near mid-day and not the time to be shooting, and just then a thin layer of clouds came and muted the scene enough to allow good lighting without harsh shadows. The bull on the left, though smaller, came out the victor in this one, sending his right sword tine deep into the other bull's rear left flank as he tried to exit the fight. Canon Mark IV and 300 mm + 1.4 converter.
Jones: Javelina Jumping
Single javelina running for his life in southern Arizona. I haven't had too many opportunities to photograph javelina, but when I spotted a band of hogs feeding on an open hillside I couldn't resist the stalk. I'd always heard these animals had terrible eyesight and were an easy stalk. I learned they're almost blind, but their hearing and sense of smell are second to none. I needed to go only about 10 more feet to get to some cover where I thought I'd have a good opportunity to get some shots when this pig heard my feet snapping the brittle brush and thus began the staring match. I soon learned that javelina have more patience than me, and when I could stand motionless no longer he took off running. Lucky for me, the camera and tripod were off my shoulder and I was able to get a running sequence that probably would have beat anything I would have gotten if he stood still — funny how it works out sometimes. Canon Mark IV and a 600 mm lens.
Jones: Monster Bull
Bull moose feeding in August in central Alaska. After photographing these Alaskan giants it's really hard to appreciate the Shiras Moose back home in Montana. I could have laid down and slept in this big guy's rack — not that I would recommend it. I spent the better part of a whole day with this bull, but most of the time he either laid down or fed in the tallest willows where there was no shot. When he made it into these smaller willows — six feet high — I maneuvered myself to a position where he raised his head high and into view. This guy was huge from all angles, but when he tilted his head back you could see the depth of his rack; you couldn't help but lay on the camera's motor drive. Mark IV camera and a 600 mm lens.
Jones: Pintail Drakes in Flight
Northern pintail courtship flight in central Montana. I live in the most waterfowl deprived area of Montana, so I'm forced to travel to all my duck locations. I took this photo last spring in a newly discovered spot where I had thousands of ducks below me in a pond situated in the bottom of a coulee. I had to be in full camo from head to toe and had to belly crawl with gear to the edge of the coulee, but I was treated with one courtship flight after another. It's great to be able to shoot a volume of images on a subject, but it's even better when you're smiling the whole time. Definitely one of my favorite waterfowl moments. Canon Mark IV with a 600 mm lens.
Jones: Pheasants Forever
This is a glorious shot of a rooster crowing in the morning in a tilled field in western Montana. I had been trying to photograph pheasants all morning from my vehicle with minimal luck when I spotted this guy hanging with two hens in a freshly tilled field. My first thought was that the light was in my face and there was no shot, but then I moved a bit closer and saw that even though it was getting to be late in the morning, I could still try for some backlit shots. At first the shots were rather boring, but when I saw him climb up on that clod of dirt I thought he would call, and soon enough he did, the sun penetrating his wings and tail and even the backlit breath expelling from his beak made this a winning shot. Canon 1DX and 600 mm lens.
John Hafner: Frozen Food
I shot this pic in Saskatchewan last fall while on assignment for Cabela's. The day before the hunter shot this buck, I photographed and videoed the old bruiser for over an hour as he dogged does, worked a scrape line and tirelessly ran off several lesser bucks. I believe in taking my time when shooting hero shots — to honor the animal and preserve the memory of the hunt. Despite heavy snow, howling winds and bitter cold temps, we broke out the strobes and did justice to this gnarly old buck.
Hafner: Fetch 'em Up
I was on assignment for Dick's Sporting Goods, and after a long day of chasing pheasant hunters and their canine companions, I was worn out and ready to call it quits. But Ace, a spring-loaded yellow Lab that had been posing for me all day, had other plans. He refused to quit — inspiring his owner to blast a few more birds and motivating me to keep shooting. This was one of the last — and best — frames I shot that day. We set a strobe in the snow beside the downed rooster and luckily I timed my shot perfectly. I love the intensity in Ace's eyes.
Hafner: Hard-Earned Trophy
This pic was nine days in the making. I was shooting a Dall sheep hunt in the Yukon for my friend Donnie Vincent, and after nine days of hard hunting and many tough miles traversed on foot, Donnie found sweet success. We climbed for nearly five hours to get to the ram; Donnie made a perfect shot, and we scrambled to shoot pics before a storm rolled in. I wanted to get a shot that honored the ram and captured the magnitude of Donnie's achievement — a goal he had for quite some time.
Hafner: The Long Walk to Camp
Easton sent me to Colorado to shoot pics with Fred Eichler — popular TV host, renowned outfitter, traditional bowhunting guru and all-around great guy. Fred arrowed this 200-plus-inch mega buck on camera right before I showed up. The timing was perfect. The buck, one of Fred's all-time best, made for a killer prop. Aside from shooting some great hero shots, we snapped a few thousand pics of Fred packing out his buck, his bow and all his gear.
Hafner: Happy Pup
I photographed this handsome pup in South Dakota on a Cabela's pheasant hunt. He didn't have the best day, as his excitement caused him to make a series of rookie mistakes, but we quickly forgave him. What he lacked in discipline and technique, he more than made up for in energy, enthusiasm and effort. You can't teach that. He'll grow into one heck of a bird dog, but in the meantime, he's in training€¦and posing like a champ.
Hafner: Spring Fever
My No. 1 goal when I'm photographing is to tell a story. That means anticipating what's about to happen, getting there before the action unfolds and finding just the right angle to get a compelling shot. As my friend Aaron Volkmar of Tails of the Hunt Outfitters walked up to his plus-size Missouri longbeard, I envisioned a clean, simple, iconic shot that would resonate with turkey hunters everywhere. There are fewer things prettier in nature than a backlit turkey fan, and I think this pic proves it.
Hafner: Eye of the Hog
Every few years, I head to Texas to hunt turkeys with fellow photographers Mitch Kezar and Russell Graves. Russell owns the market on wild hog photography, and he graciously invited Mitch and me to shoot hog pics with him after we tagged out on turkeys. This nasty old boar, one that frequented Russell's hog photo honey hole, decided to come in for an especially close look. Too close, really, but I stood my ground and was rewarded with this shot.
Though it's been years since I've pulled the trigger on a rooster, I honestly get more enjoyment photographing other people throwing lead. No matter the result, it's always fun trying to document the action. I snapped this pic on another Cabela's hunt in South Dakota. I worked all day trying to get close enough to capture a really intense "blasted bird" shot. Finally, after more than a few botched attempts, this scene unfolded right in front of me.
Hafner: To the Limit
We had a bunch of birds and a really cool old truck — all the makings of a great picture — except for super harsh, midday light. But when I'm on assignment, I'm expected to get the shot no matter the conditions. There's a reason why I routinely pack an arsenal of lighting gear...to create shots like this. It took two reflectors, a strobe and a big scrim to diffuse the light and soften the harsh shadows€¦but we were rewarded with this shot. When people say to me, "Wow, you must have a really nice camera!," I just smile and nod. If they only knew.
Hafner: Buffalo Down
My first trip to Africa was an adventure I'll never forget. As we trekked across Zimbabwe in search of trophy Cape buffalo, I knew right away that, Lord willing, I'd be making several return trips to the Dark Continent. After a great stalk and a perfect initial shot, Mark Nelsen from Cabela's prepared to put another round into his bull. After the first shot, I sprinted closer to Mark and the PH, held my shutter button down and started shooting€¦just in time to get this pic. It's not a postcard-perfect prize-winner, but it's one of my favorites. I have no doubt this photo will usher in a flood of fond memories long after I'm too old and gray to shoot.
Kenton Rowe: Walk this Way
Mike Payne and Mike Schoby approach a freshly downed eland on Savé Conservancy in Zimbabwe.
Rowe: Making the Shot
Mike Schoby, professional hunter Mike Payne and their tracker get set up for a shot. Their African safari was filled with moments like this, the perfect time to set up a shot.
Rowe: Reloading Insurance
Professional hunter Mike Payne, cautiously approaches a downed cape buffalo reloading after it took an extra shot to make sure he wasn't going to charge.
Rowe: Cat Nipped
Lion hunters cautiously approach a den and are greeted by a large female lion in west central Montana. Hunters cannot take females and this cat had cubs.
Rowe: The Faithful Retrieve
Jack retrieves a fall mallard on the Missouri River near Craig, Mont.
Meinzer: The Simple Life
I vividly recall a time, over half a century in the past, when my brother and I would venture off of the ranch and travel into town with our parents for the purchase of groceries and other necessities needed to maintain a comfortable rural lifestyle. Typical of stores during that era, most anything could be purchased within the confines of one business, be it food stuff, a Coke Float, a pair of spurs and even an array of ammunition for the calibers and gauges most popular at the time. Because of the vast land mass at our disposal, Rick and I were avid hunters and with each infrequent trip to town, we were allowed to purchase one box of ammo each. Before buying, we studied each box on the shelf, whether we had the caliber or not. It was a magical few minutes, seeing that array of colorful containers and calibers, with words that meant little to young boys. Labeling such as Kleanbore, Core-Lokt and Bronze tip was indelibly imprinted in my mind and today, when I see a collection of those old traditional cartridge boxes, I remember a time of long ago when life was a function of simplicity. How I pine for those days once more...
Meinzer: Saddling Up
Perhaps it is genetically encoded in our DNA, that primal urge to saddle a horse and ride into the first breath of cold wind that defines the change of season, whether on the plains or beneath the summit of snow capped mountains. Many ingredients help to enhance that primal desire to simply, 'go ' and become an element of the wilder places. Be it the haunting call of sandhill cranes, urged southward by a primitive stimulus that we, as common men and women, cannot understand, or the echo of a coyotes howl from the darkened holds of some far away canyon, or in this case, the age old summons that defines the mountains of the American West, the bugle of a Rocky Mountain bull elk. Here, in the Valle Vidal of New Mexico, three horsemen engage in a scouting trip before the onset of hunting season in this stunning piece of mountain country.
Meinzer: Eyes of the Hunter
I began using an artificial handheld call to lure predators within rifle or camera range over 47 years ago. It might seem that in such an extended time period one might become jaded to the excitement of being afield, watching the antics of various predator species succumbing to the music emitted by an experienced caller. But to the contrary, I still experience a tinge of excitement when these master hunters respond to my beckoned call, especially when visited by the stealthy form of a stalking bobcat. In this photo, only the eyes are visible through the vegetation, staring at my position and perhaps studying a potential route of travel that will cut the distance between the hunter and the hunted.
Meinzer: Benefits of Texas Life
With deer experts expounding on the virtues of various brush species and the benefits of each one to the production of trophy grade whitetails, the journals of early day buffalo hunters frequently offer observations that negate the collective wisdom of contemporary biologists. The 'Big Empty ' is a region in the rolling plains of Texas that defines a sparsely populated piece of the state covered largely by expansive ranches, many that were settled in the mid 19th century. Unfazed by the pressure of commercial hunting conducted all around them, these ranches do not adhere to the commercialization of its wildlife, thus offering respite to the natural fauna and the potential for maximum growth. In this photo, a huge whitetail strains to identify my form as I lay in the shade of a juniper, grabbing as many images as possible before he breaks for a nearby arroyo. The 55,000 acre ranch practices intense brush control measures, does not allow commercial hunting at any level and does no supplemental feeding, allowing the natural fauna to survive by wit and natural forage alone. On a personal level, photographing and hunting on land that offers an experience from original times is a source of great pride.
Wyman Meinzer: The Ultimate Sunrise
Whether hunting in my home state of Texas or standing atop a mountain in Wyoming, sunrise is a time to celebrate life in its finest hour. Outdoorsmen and women are blessed in that sunrise is often the magic hour of the day, offering to hunters afield the opportunity to be witness to this moment of beginning, the birth of a new day. In this photo, my brother, Rick, and I applaud the fiery hues of a rising sun as we scan the rangeland in our home state of Texas for foraging coyotes.
Meinzer: A Family Tradition
My early recollections of hunting dates back to the 1950s through the early '60s, reading about the exploits of Jack O'Conner in articles he created for editions of major hunting publications of that era.
Perhaps influenced by this background I have always enjoyed the art of traditional hunting, including campsites that define those memories of earlier times in my life. A good tent, wood stove, a number of old caliber rifles lying on a cot within the tent walls compliment the ambiance of the camp. After the curtains of night has fallen, a pair of friends around a crackling campfire on a still winter night, each one sharing experiences from the day afield, insure stories and memories that will be handed down for generations to come.
Meinzer: Under the Cover of Fog
The natural shroud that we call fog is quite significant to outdoorsmen and women, whether the intent afield is photography or hunting. In the application of the photographic medium, fog offers an aura of mystery to the outdoor scene. If used effectively, common elements become the embodiment of surrealism, offering strength to the created imagery. Fog also creates a natural but ephemeral cover for wildlife, offering a time of respite in which all creatures feel secure in their movements through this transparent veil. For those who understand the effective use of fog as cover, hunting under these conditions often result in successful endeavors afield. In this photo, taken in northwest Texas, two hunters listen and watch for the telltale sounds and movements of a foraging wild boar in the mesquite flats beyond.
Meinzer: How it Once Was
At a very early age I developed an interest in the life way of the Texas coyote. Hopelessly engrossed in the sport of coyote hunting while living my youthful years on a large ranch in the rolling plains of the Lone Star State, every day away from work was spent in pursuit of this elusive and wily quarry.
After graduation from Texas Tech University in May of 1974, I decided that I wanted to devote at least a year of my life to predator hunting, spending seven days a week, every week of the winter, on the trapline and calling. Thus in the autumn of that year I moved into a ranch line camp that offered a small one room half dugout, void of any conveniences such as running water or electricity. With over 300,00 acres at my disposal and no one within miles of my location, I spent five winters pursuing the life of a professional hunter. This photo defines a piece of the high tide in those years afield, offering to the viewer a one month harvest in December 1975. Without doubt the winters spent alone in a big ranch country, spending every waking hour hunting and trapping in a time long before commercial hunting had ravaged the land, was the most formative times of that youthful phase of life.
Meinzer: Coming to Call
The coyote has been a source of interest for mankind since the beginning of oral and written history. In many secluded rocky grottos, ancient rock art inscribed by Native Americans reveal that even in those early times, the coyote held a level of mystical power for those people of yesteryear.
My own interest in Canis latrans began over 47 years ago along the Brazos River in the Texas Rolling Plains. Raised on a ranch defined by excellent coyote habitat in the badlands of that region, I expanded my hunting resume from pursuing just whitetail and upland game birds to calling predators with my own wooden hand made devices. After decades of publishing numerous magazine articles and one natural history book on the life way of this interesting predator, I continue to enjoy a fine winter day afield with rifle in hand, calling coyotes where ever they can be found. Few outdoor experiences can equal the excitement of seeing a mature coyote loping across the open grassland or canyon, approaching directly to your spot of concealment. It is hunting in the pure sense of the word and an experience to be savored and shared in story.
HUNTING Archives: At Attention
This was taken in the USA around 1910. Hunting predators — in this case coyotes — with a pack of fast hounds was common practice at the turn of the last century. So was bringing a .22 rifle or a small-caliber handgun to finish the job if it was not all over when you caught up with the pack. However, a day's bag of four critters was evidently remarkable enough for this very young hunter to bring everything to the photographer in town and have the event properly documented. Unfortunately, nobody thought of noting any details on the back of the photo, so the identity of this mean little coyote-killing machine and the exact date and place of the hunt remains unknown. This could easily be the grandfather or great-grandfather of some of our readers — how cool would that be? The contrast to the kids of our time is astonishing. No helmet, no kneepads or elbow protectors, and surely no constant adult supervision. I will even bet you that his mother did not drive him to the hunt€¦
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.
Archives: A Day at the Beach
This was taken in Slovenia in May of 1914. These healthy and gay-spirited young men from Vienna, Austria, are enjoying a lighthearted day on the beach by the Adriatic Sea in Slovenia. Back then, nobody could think of a better way to have fun than to jump in your fanciest swimming attire, pull out the rifle, and head for the beach to show off your precious equipment (and the gun). You might even get lucky and shoot a critically endangered bird like this Eurasian Black Vulture, a feat that would actually impress the ladies! In those days, society encouraged extinction of the vultures of the region as they regarded these birds to be a menace to agriculture. 'Critically endangered ' was mostly considered good news a century ago.
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.
Archives: A Prince's Prize
This was taken in Rwanda, Central Africa in 1920. Prince Wilhelm of Sweden — little brother of the Crown Prince — set out on a zoological expedition to the jungles in the center of the Dark Continent to collect specimens of wildlife for scientific purposes. Rwanda was a part of Belgian Congo and the entire colony was the personal property of King Leopold of Belgium, making him one of the biggest landowners of all time. Despite the blue blood in his veins, it took a while for the Prince to get through all of the red tape and special permission from the Belgian colonial authorities to kill 14 gorillas. 'One on each volcano, ' as the license stated.
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.
Archives: Flyin' High
This was taken in Coastal Alaska around 1935. Just a few decades into the 20th century, hunting tourism had evolved into an industry catering to thousands of wealthy clients every year. The rapid development of basic infrastructure and highly sophisticated means of transportation, like cars and floatplanes, opened the last frontiers and gave wealthy hunters relatively easy access to very remote areas.
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.
Archives: Back to Basics
This was taken in India in 1928. Killing a tiger was the highlight of many big-game hunters' lives. Killing a few tigers on a self-guided hunt from a primitive treestand must have been even more satisfying — especially if it was done wearing nothing but Speedos! One cannot help but wonder if this eccentric English gentleman found inspiration for his hunting adventure in Tarzan of the Apes, published 16 years earlier. He definitely seems to have gone back to basics — and successfully so! Two tigers, a leopard, a nice sambar trophy, and a recently killed sambar cow for the pot or bait is not a bad bag on a single hunting trip.
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.
Archives: A Marksman's Memory
This was taken in the USA in 1908. Having your picture taken was not an everyday occurrence a century ago. In fact, many people were only photographed once or twice during their entire lifetime. Therefore, preparing yourself was of paramount importance if you wanted it to stand out among the family heirlooms.
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?