Bucket List: Defined as a list of things you want to do before you die, or rather before you “kick the bucket”. Every hunter has one, a list of places they want to explore or hunt before that day finally comes and they’re called to meet their maker. This is a list of places that I hope to one day go and find game. I hope you enjoy it!
The largest state in the U.S. is often a “bucket list” location for hunters, American or not. Just the name makes outdoorsmen (and women) drool at the possibility of setting foot in field, conjures up dreams of float trips to chase large grizzly bears or drop camps to pursue giant moose over the land area of 586,412 square miles or roughly one-fifth the size of lower 48 states.
Alaska is one of the last truly wild places in this nation and a land that will leave most people breathless. Flights to Anchorage are affordable and the state offers many opportunities to pursue their 10 big game species, as well as some of the best fishing experiences in the world.
Hunters can expect to pursue:
- Alaskan moose (Alces alces gigas), which is the largest moose species in the world and is the most hunted animal in the state. Full-grown males, bulls, stand over 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh between 1,200 to 1,600 pounds. Adult females, cows, are somewhat smaller in height and can weigh 800 to 1,300 lbs. Between 6,000 and 8,000 moose will be taken each year by hunters.
- Brown Bears (Ursus arctos), which is the largest member of the bear family. It is estimated 30,000 brown bears call Alaska home. They tend to be solitary creatures, except when gathering at food sources. A large male will typically weigh between 500 and 900 pounds, but have been seen weighing as much as 1,400 pounds. Females are about half the size of their male counterparts. Bear hunting is open in the spring and fall in some places, but only in the fall in others. In any season it is illegal to kill cubs or females with cubs.
- Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis), which is the largest member of the elk family…anyone else seeing a pattern here? The largest state boasts three of the largest game species. Similar to Texas, I guess everything is bigger in Alaska too. Bull elk can weigh around 1300 pounds, while cows come in around 800.
- Sitka Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis), a relative of the mule deer, and a native to Alaska, this black-tail is smaller than those found in the Pacific Northwestern United States. Bucks (males) will typically weigh around 120 pounds, though 200 pound bucks have been taken. A full grown doe will usually weigh close to 80 pounds.
- Plains Bison (Bison bison bison) are smaller of the bison species. Because of the limited number of these creatures, hunting tags are very hard to come by. It is estimated 15,000 people apply each year, and somewhere around 100 tags are issued. Statewide only around 92 bison are harvested each year. A bull will stand about 6 feet at the shoulder, can be up to 10 feet long and weigh close to a ton. A female is likely to weigh around 1,200 pounds.
- Caribou (Rangifer tarandus) roam through various parts of Alaska. It is estimated 950,000 of these animals are spread between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory. Mature bulls will weigh around 350 pounds, while females will be between 175-220 pounds. Unlike most members of the deer family, both sexes of caribou can and will grow antlers. Male’s antlers tend to be quite large, while females tend to be much smaller in size and weight.
- Dall sheep (Ovis dalli) are some of the most difficult animals to hunt in the state. They tend to stay in rugged alpine areas and the challenge of finding them is only for the heartiest of hunters. A male, or ram, will usually weigh around 300 pounds, while an ewe, female, will be around 140 pounds.
- Black bear (Ursus americanus) are found throughout the state. While not as large, pursued or feared as their larger cousin, the grizzly, black bears can still provide a challenge for hunters. Adult males will stand around 30 inches at the shoulder and are likely to weigh around 350 pounds.
- Musk oxen (Ovibos moschatus) are usually found in the Northern part of Alaska. They are hearty creatures, well adapted to cold conditions. Similar to the bison, tags are very hard to draw. A male will stand about 5 feet at the shoulder and weigh around 700 pounds. Both sexes have horns, but males horns tend to be heavier and larger.
- Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) are another species that enjoys making hunting them tough. They spend much of their time at or near tree line, in alpine meadows or surrounded by rocky cliffs. Billies (males) and nannies (females) both grow horns and look very similar. A male will typically be around 260 pounds, while a female will be around 180.
As you can see, Alaska offers a lot of species, making it well deserving of a spot on the bucket list hunter’s guide. But the state also has a lot of area to cover, so hunting is sure to be hard. The state website points this out by saying “Big game densities are generally much lower than you are probably used to in more southern states. Many big game species here make long movements between seasonal ranges. The key to successful big game hunting in Alaska is in doing your homework to determine both the best areas and times to hunt the species you are seeking.”(http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.species)
Don’t worry though, if you aren’t inclined to hunt big game but are more likely to be pursuing species of the waterfowl variety, Alaska has you covered as well! According to the state website, “Alaska’s marine and freshwater wetlands produce a fall flight of about 12 million ducks and over one million geese to all four North American flyways and neighboring countries… waterfowl hunters in Alaska can expect to harvest close to 70,000 ducks and 7,000 geese per hunting season.”
Who out there hasn’t dreamed of taming the wild world of Africa? Tanzania is considered one of the premier safari destinations in the world, with numerous wildlife regions and game reserves open for hunting, including Selous, which is the largest Game Reserve in the world. Dangerous game abounds throughout Tanzania and that alone is sure to get the adrenaline pumping and be a draw to many hunters.
Hunters can expect to pursue:
- African Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) – These massive African bovines are highly dangerous, very tough and are known to attack hunters when injured. Cape buffalo are known as “widowmakers” and can account for over 200 deaths a year. Males typically weigh 500-900kg (roughly 1000 to 2000 pounds) sport giant horns and they are known to be very strong. They are classified as a member of the “Big Five Game family” meaning they are known as one of the five most dangerous animals to hunt.
- Lion (Panthera leo) , the tallest of all felines and the second heaviest behind the tiger. Large males can weigh around 550 pounds. Lions aren’t known to hunt or eat humans except in rare cases, but make no mistake, they are well deserving of their dangerous game animal label. Recent Tanzania hunting regulations bar the taking of a lion younger than six years old.
- Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) – Males usually grow between 11 and 16 feet, but a mature crocodile may be 18 feet. Typical weight for a male is between 500 and 1600 pounds. Crocodiles are dangerous game and great hunters that blend easily with their environment and attack before you can retaliate. Hunting them means you have to stay alert and on your feet at all times because one mistake could be your last. Due to over hunting and poaching, population numbers were depleted, so Recent legislation has made it tougher to hunt crocodiles, but they can hunted in certain areas.
So if a sense of adventure is calling you, and the desire to test wills with some serious dangerous game is a must, Tanzania could be the place for you. Breathtaking beauty and game species that can eat you are certainly something everyone should try to experience at some time! If dangerous game isn’t your thing, the country also offers hunting for Kudu, Cape Eland, Waterbuck, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Zebra, Oryx, Duiker, Impala, and Baboon among others.
South Africa holds a special place in the hearts of many hunters who dream of luxurious hunts while roaming the wild lands of Kruger National Park, as well as the some 150 other parks and reserves available for hunting. Over 6,000 international hunters visit the 250,000 acres of open land to hunt some of the worlds best trophy animals.
Hunters can expect to pursue:
- Leopards (Panthera pardus pardus) are found throughout Africa. They are largely hunted for their hides and are a threatened species in some areas because of poaching and irresponsible hunting of females. A male will typically weigh around 130 pounds, with a maximum weight of 200 pounds. To help raise population numbers, many African nations are only allowing males to be taken.
- Elephants (Loxodonta africana africana) are found throughout 37 African countries. Hunting them in Kruger became legal again in 2008, as the park elephant population has become overcrowded. Males will typically be around 10 feet tall and can weigh as much as 26,000 pounds and both males and females can grow tusks.
Another beautiful African location that will test your courage, inspire adventure and allow you to hunt some of the worlds most dangerous game. Again, if dangerous game isn’t your thing, South Africa offers 30 different varieties of antelope and a total of 140 legal game species.
I might never make it to any of these places, but I certainly hope to one day. Don’t be discouraged if you’ll never find your way to the wilds of Africa or the wide open range of Alaska, many wildlife adventures can be had, and many trophy quality animals can be found in your own backyard. Get out in the woods and remember to have fun and enjoy the hunt! Thanks for reading and if you have a hunting bucket list of your own, be sure to share!