5 of the Hardest Big Game Hunts

5 of the Hardest Big Game Hunts

A heavyweight grizzly charges head-on. A monster ram scales a shelf full of shale. A bugling bull weaves through thick cover on a steep slope. North America is full of adventure. Some are easier, and others are far more difficult, though. Follow along as we delve into five that fit into the latter category, courtesy of SPYPOINT team members.

In no particular order....

1. Colorado Mulies with Open Sights
Michael Lee with Backwoods Life hunted Colorado mule deer several years ago. It was a muzzleloader hunt, and you had to use granular powder and no scope. Only open sights were allowed.

“We found a group of three bucks with one really old mature buck that was a clean 4x4 with no forks,” Lee said. “He looked like a giant 8-point whitetail rack. We spotted the bucks every morning and tried to find where we could get within 100 yards of them and try to make a good shot. Each day, they would give us the slip or find a spot where they could see for miles, and we couldn’t move in close.”

Finally, after about five days of watching the group from daylight to dark, Lee found a window of opportunity. On the last morning, the bucks worked into a valley. This allowed Lee to stalk to an old fence row. “We set up and waited as they worked into range,” he said. “I was able to make a shot and dropped my largest muley to date.”

2. Marco Polo Sheep and Ibex in Kyrgyzstan
The Archer’s Choice’s Ralph Cianciarulo is no stranger to difficult hunts, and his most difficult pursuit took place in Asia. “As I sat on the ledge looking down into China, I realized this had to be the toughest, most enduring adventure we have been on,” Cianciarulo said. “We were hunting Kyrgyzstan for Marco Polo sheep and ibex.”

Unfortunately, the weather brought severe winds and snow. This created dangerous conditions for the group of hunters. “We were perched up on a peak, and all hovered together trying to not slide down the opposite side of the ridge as we used the steep peak to defend us from the high winds and snow blowing sideways.

“I recall peaking over and seeing the horses just standing side-by-side facing out of the wind,” Cianciarulo continued. “The storms, the climbs, the drastic high temps to severe cold all played a part in an adventure that was sure to be one we never forget.”

From riding horses along the tops of 15,000-foot (and very narrow) ridge trails to seeing hundreds of dead sheep carcasses left by severe snow and wolves, it was a surreal scene. “Nothing but miles of this same terrain,” he concluded. “The land is harsh, unforgiving, but at the same time breathtaking.”

3. Backcountry Elk in Washington
Elk Shape is all about chasing wapiti with stick and string. “All my archery elk hunts take me to wild places with unique landscapes,” said Dan Staton, the man behind Elk Shape. “The grind never stops, and there are more lows than highs. As a seasoned elk hunter, I try my best to mitigate Murphy's Law, especially when it comes to travel, vehicles, bow equipment, and hunting pressure.

“One particular hunt that stands out is when my father and I set out to do a backcountry elk hunt in my home state of Washington,” he said. “We had horses, wall tents, and breathtaking country. I even managed to put together three long weekends of scouting prior to the opener. I was confident and ready to go execute.”

Things didn’t go quite as planned. On day No. 3, a wildfire started next to their base camp. Helicopters and other personnel were fighting the fire, and they had to evacuate. “We ended up having to hunt the complete opposite side of the unit which we were completely unfamiliar with,” he said. “After relocating the camp and finding elk, our horses all got sick with colic. Our dear friend managed to get the horses out to the local vet while we hunted elk 12 miles from any road without horses. I was able to arrow a nice bull toward the end of my hunt, and my dad and I marathon packed out the bull. It took two full days and three trips just to get the meat out, then we had to head back in and make two trips for all our gear. It was the most physically and mentally challenging hunt I've ever experienced, and I wouldn't change any of it.”

4. High-Country Wyoming
Mulies Curtis Geier, president of show production with Working Class Bowhunter LLC, is a diehard hunter. He says the toughest hunts he goes on involves those that produce steep terrain.

“Anytime I go hunting out West in steep terrain, it’s a challenge no matter what I’m hunting,” Geier said. “My high-country archery mule deer hunt in Wyoming was one of the hardest hunts I’ve ever had, both mentally and physically.

“The bucks stay in the high steep elevation, and most times in the spots that seem impossible to get for a shot with a bow,” he continued. “As much as the hunt can test you, it’s one of the most satisfying feelings if you can leave the mountain successful. I’m looking forward to the next time I can get out west and chase mule deer.”

5. Kodiak Brown Bear
Famous hunter Melissa Bachman is the type who tackles difficult hunts head-on. She says the most difficult hunt of her life involved chasing Kodiak brown bears, which occurred in Kodiak, Alaska.

“This was a super remote tent camp hunt where we walked for a day to get to our first location,” she said. “My pack weighed close to 75 pounds and walking this distance on the boggy terrain would be difficult regardless, but with a pack this heavy, it made it downright brutal. Once we finally arrived, we set up our tents, and the wet and cold weather was the next battle. Every night, the temps would drop into the teens and even in my -40-degree sleeping bag, I would get cold.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many ways to dry out clothes and gear. This produced a muggy, difficult hunting situation, as being constantly cold and damp isn’t easy, and can even be dangerous. “Our boots would be soaking wet when we went to bed and by morning, they were frozen so solid that many times we had to wait to leave until we could get them on and laced up,” she said. “The hunt is very long days with a lot of glassing and then a mad rush the moment a mature boar is spotted.”

Fortunately, both her and her husband tagged monster bears. Bachman filmed her husband shoot his with a bow and arrow at 4 yards, and she got a great one later in the trip. “This was an extremely rewarding hunt, but by far the most challenging hunt both physically and mentally,” Bachman said. “The level of patience, grit, and overall mental and physical toughness needed is hard to put into words. Luckily, this is a hunt that can only be done once every four years. In that time, I’m guessing they hope you forget how hard it was and decide to get the itch to do it all over again.”

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