Big Country: Alberta Moose
Logistics: Once you secure a moose tag from your outfitter, you just need a passport to get into Canada, the proper paperwork to get a firearm across the border, and a Wildlife Identification Number (WIN) card to hunt Alberta.
Price: $5K–$7K —Will Brantley
Record-Book Bruins: Northern Saskatchewan Black Bear
Why You Should Go: Huge swaths of northern Saskatchewan are only accessible by boat or plane. Up there, most black bears die of old age. A few outfitters are pioneering into areas where bears have never been hunted. This region has the genetics for giant boars; it may be the best opportunity anywhere to shoot a true trophy-class black bear.
Logistics: The best hunting is in June. Licenses are only available through an outfitter. Hunters fly into Saskatoon, and then make the rest of the trip in vehicles, floatplanes, and boats via the outfitter.
Price: $4K–$5K (Guided) —Brad Fenson
Deer, Plus Danger: Kodiak Island Blacktails
Why You Should Go: If hunting blacktail deer on the home turf of the world’s largest brown bears doesn’t get your adrenaline pumping, then we can’t help you. These true wilderness hunts are usually based from a boat that provides a dry place to sleep (and protection from bears). Good bucks abound here, and depending on the weather, you may find them anywhere from the beach to the high peaks.
Logistics: The small planes and boats required to get to Kodiak make travel challenging. Transporters provide boats for D.I.Y. trips, but the hunting is up to you. Outfitted hunts are much more inclusive. Licenses are over the counter. For more information, go to adfg.alaska.gov.
Price: $3K–$4K (Transported and unguided or guided) —B.F.
Velvet Wonder Ground: Alberta Mule Deer
Why You Should Go: Three-hundred-plus-pound muleys, close-range spot-and-stalk, and velvet antlers are indeed the stuff of dreams for most bowhunters: It’s what makes Alberta such a hot destination during the September bow season—and your odds only go up during gun season. The region is marked by rolling prairie, steep coulees, and a smattering of cropfields, making it the perfect place to grow trophy bucks, and to sneak up on them.
Logistics: The only way to obtain a tag in Alberta is through an outfitter, but there are dozens in the region. The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society has a directory.
Price: $3K–$4K (Guided) —B.F.
Get Some Color: Idaho Spring Bears
Why You Should Go: Idaho has one of the largest black bear populations in the Rocky Mountains, and a high percentage of color-phase bruins. From mid April through June, you can spot bears on south-facing slopes, munching on the green grass they need to flush their systems after hibernation. You can hire a guide, or spot-and-stalk from the dirt roads and trails coursing through national forest land for a rare D.I.Y. trophy.
Logistics: There are plenty of tags available over the counter, and some units allow you to take two bears. There are dozens of reputable outfitters for both spot-and-stalk and baited hunts.
Price: $2K–$3K (Guided); $1K–$2K (Unguided) —Ben Romans
Trophy Stalk: Nebraska Sandhills Muleys
Why You Should Go: The Nebraska Sandhills are the up-and-coming place to kill a big mule deer buck. Miles of rolling hills are woven with creekbottoms and some agriculture. Like Alberta, it’s ideal habitat for growing big deer and for spot-and-stalk hunting—but more affordable, and with great D.I.Y. opportunities.
Logistics: Permits are available via application, and most tags are good for either a mule deer or a whitetail (outdoonebraska.ov/untinseasons). There are significant chunks of public land, along with some excellent outfitters for hunting private ground.
Price: $3K–$4K (Guided); $1K–$2K (Unguided) —B.F.
A Gila-va Hunt: New Mexico Elk
Why You Should Go: The Gila National Forest in southwest New Mexico is 3.3 million public acres of famously good elk hunting. Secure a tag and you have a solid chance at killing a 350-inch bull. The terrain is largely sandy, and full of pinyon and ponderosa pine. The climate is mild. Though some outfitters use horses to get deep into the backcountry, plenty of the Gila is accessible on foot.
Logistics: New Mexico doesn’t award preference points. Nonresidents hunting solo are allotted 6 percent of the licenses in a drawing pool; nonresidents who book with a guide, 10 percent. You can apply as a party to help your chances, and a good outfitter can assist you with the process and put you on elk once you’ve drawn. According to the outfitters we polled, most hunters get drawn at least once every four years, so put in now.
Price: $5K–$6K (Guided); $2K–$3K (Unguided) —W.B.
One of Everything: Montana Elk, Mule Deer, Bear, and Wolves
Why You Should Go: Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness is one of the only places in the world where you can rifle hunt rutting elk, mule deer, black bears, and wolves all at the same time. Hunter success with a good outfitter runs about 50 percent, meaning that a hardworking hunter should take two of the four species during a 10-day hunt, with pretty good trophy potential.
Logistics: Riding in via horseback takes a full day and can leave you too sore to hunt hard the next, so opting for a picturesque helicopter ride into “The Bob” is worth considering—and less costly than you may think. Contact an outfitter early to apply for tags, and you’ll almost surely draw.
Price: $4K–$6K (Guided) —Joseph von Benedikt
High-Speed Chase: Northwest Colorado Pronghorns
Why You Should Go: There are antelope all over the West. But if you’re after a true bruiser of a buck, few regions are better than northwest Colorado. Moffat County consistently produces more Booner speed goats than any other county in the state. The rolling landscape here has plenty of peaks and valleys for spot-and-stalk hunting, and numerous irrigated alfalfa fields and livestock operations for water-hole archery hunts.
Logistics: You can apply for points, hunt the ample BLM ground in the area, and probably kill a giant buck in a couple of days—especially with a rifle. The best trophy units here can take up to 15 points to draw, though with a little research, you can get a tag within five years in units that are almost as good. If you’re going guided, a number of outfitters have tags for sale every year.
Price: $3K–$4K (Guided); $1K–$2K (Unguided) —W.B.
Arctic Blast: Manitoba Central Barren-Ground Caribou
Why You Should Go: Northern Manitoba borders Hudson Bay, and the mixed habitat along the shoreline is the historical migration route of central barren-ground caribou. This hunt won’t cost you much more than a D.I.Y. fly-in adventure in other parts of the North, but it’s logistically easier, and success rates on trophy bulls are much higher.
Logistics: The region is only accessible by airplane, with licenses available through outfitters who take care of planning and details. Much of the hunting is done from boats, and from both permanent and spike camps.
Price: $5K–$6K (Guided) —B.F.