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Most Famous Big Game Hunters That Ever Were

Troy Thomas

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In the annals of big game hunting history, there are a lot of very famous names out there. But some hunters just left a bigger mark on history than others.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most famous big game hunters to ever live and exactly what made them into the legendary outdoor figures they are today.

This was not an easy list to narrow down, as there are many big names in hunting. In the end, we went by some of the most recognizable, both in name and action.

Buffalo Bill

Is there any name more synonymous with the American West than Buffalo Bill? Yeah, we don’t think so either.

Cody is best known for his exploits as a bison hunter. Legend has it he got his household nickname after shooting over 4,200 bison to feed workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad between 1867 and 1868.

He is also said to have once won a buffalo shooting contest by taking 68 bison in just eight hours while using an old trapdoor Springfield Model 1866. This feat was made all the more impressive considering his competitor was using a more modern Henry repeater.

Of course these days, those sorts of things wouldn’t happen, considering what we now know about conservation and wildlife management. But it certainly helped Cody make a name for himself in the American West!

If you visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming today, you’ll learn that Cody often wished he had more time for hunting, but his busy schedule with his Wild West Shows, which took him all over the United States, Canada and Europe, kept him away from the field. You’ll still be hard-pressed to find a more well-known American bison hunter than Cody.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway is a household name for his literature of course, having penned classics like “A Farewell to Arms,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and of course, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway loved fishing of course, but he was also an extremely avid hunter.

Most notably, Hemingway took a couple safari trips to Africa. And while he was there he harvested some of the most famous and dangerous game animals in the world including lions, Cape buffalo, and a leopard. He was also successful in taking several kinds of antelopes, gazelles, and zebras.

On both of these safaris, Hemingway was accompanied by the equally-famous professional hunter Philip Percival, who just missed making our list.

In his later years, Hemingway spent a great deal of time hunting in the American west, especially Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. While there he took many of the classic big game animals like deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and bears.

At least two of Ernest Hemingway’s homes, one in Florida and another in Idaho, still contain some of his trophies.

Davy Crockett

It would be impossible to have a list of famous hunters without one of the most famous American frontiersmen of all time. After all, his name is one half of the most prestigious record keeping organization out there for big game, Boone & Crockett.

Davy Crockett was obviously best known for his military exploits and his death in the battle at the Alamo. But as far as his hunting adventures are concerned, they’re the stuff of legend.

There is some controversy surrounding some of his big game hunting tales, with folks often claiming they are too good to be true. The rumors that he killed a bear at the age of three and 105 in a single season are no doubt exaggerated, but someone doesn’t get a reputation like that and the nickname “King of the Wild Frontier” without being one hell of a hunter.

The other half of the Boone & Crockett name (It is not known if they ever met each other), Boone was no doubt the most famous fur trapper that ever lived. He was not a family man by any means; he fathered 10 children in his life, but often left his wife and kids alone for months or even years at a time while he went out on extensive game hunting trips. Obviously he wasn’t a trophy hunter, as he sold the hides to earn a living.

While Boone shot untold numbers of deer and trapped countless numbers of beavers in his day, he is also best known for hunting bears. No one knows for sure, but there are rumors he killed hundreds of them on his hunting trips. In fact, it is said he had a habit of documenting the occasion by carving his name and the year onto a tree. This led to a tourist phenomenon of visiting “Boone Trees” scattered all over Kentucky and Tennessee. The trees have all since died, but the legend still remains.

Theodore Roosevelt

Plenty of American Presidents have hunted, but none has a reputation for hunting and conservation quite like what Roosevelt left behind. His African hunting exploits for dangerous game are the stuff of pure legend. He bagged 296 animals on one safari alone. This included nine lions and eight cape buffalos.

If you can name it, Roosevelt probably harvested it at some point during his hunting career. Elephants, rhinos, hippos, buffalo, giraffes, and more are just some of the animals he took during his many safaris.

He sent many of his animals to the Smithsonian Institution’s collections. The institution was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of animals sent back that now Roosevelt’s harvests can be found in museums all over the United States.

Roosevelt also wrote a number of books on hunting that are still popular to this day. In 1887, he founded Boone & Crockett. Roosevelt was also a champion of conservation and the preservation of wild areas. As President he established the U.S. Forest Service and helped protect untold acres of wilderness through the formation of 18 National Monuments and 150 National Forests.

When it comes to American hunters who have had the biggest impacts on the planet, perhaps none can challenge Roosevelt’s big game hunting accomplishments.