30 of the Most Legendary Hunters of All Time
These hunters were some of the best out there.
As a kid Lilly learned to track and hunt bears and cougars in the Louisiana wilds. During a time when the U.S. Government wanted to eradicate predators, Lilly answered the call. In the early 1900s he killed hundreds of black bears, cougars and grizzlies in the West and Southwest. He was considered to be one of the toughest and most effective mountain men of the time period.
He was quoted as saying: “Anyone can kill a deer, but it takes a man to kill a varmint.” In those days cougars and bears were considered varmints.
O’Connor became the most prominent writer to work for Outdoor Life magazine after he filed his first article in 1934. But O’Connor wasn’t just a great writer, he was also an incredible hunter.
He is best known for his skill as a sheep hunter. O’Connor had taken three or more of each of the four wild sheep species in North America by 1946 and became only the fourth man to do so.
Through his adventures and writings (he penned a total of 16 hardcover books) he inspired generations of hunters to take to the wild.
Corbett is perhaps the most famous dangerous game hunter of all time. He was a colonel in the British Indian army and throughout his career he was called upon to hunt man-eating tigers and leopards. Between 1907 and 1938 he killed 19 tigers and 14 leopards.
The first tiger he shot, named the Champawat Tiger, reportedly killed 436 people. Corbett grew so adept at killing man-eaters that local villagers began to consider him a sadhu or saint.
Later in life Corbett turned into a conservationist and vowed to only kill big cats that threatened human life. He also played a major role in establishing India’s first national park, Hailey National Park (which was later renamed Jim Corbett National Park).
Hemingway is one of the country’s greatest writers, but he was also an experienced big-game hunter. As a kid he spent time romping through the woods and waters of Michigan where he learned basic woodsmanship.
As an adult, he hunted the American West, and most famously Africa. In 1933 he went to Africa for three months to hunt and gather writing material. Hemingway was viewed as a man’s man and sometimes even a bit of a brute. But no one ever questioned his love for Africa or big-game hunting.
He went on to write several books about Africa including The Green Hills of Africa, The Snows of Kilamanjaro and True at First Light.
Roosevelt is celebrated as one of driving forces behind the establishment of the country’s national park system. He was a lover of wildlife and an avid hunter. In 1909 he set out with his son Kermit on an African safari to collect specimens for the Smithsonian Institution.
It turned into one of the largest African Safaris ever and gained world-wide recognition. With a crew of 250 porters and guides they trekked across British East Africa into the Belgian Congo and then back to the Nile ending in Kharoum. The group took 1,100 specimens including 500 big-game species.
Here’s Roosevelt’s recount of a charging rhino he encountered during the expedition: “Before he could get quite all the way round in his headlong rush to reach us, I struck him with my left-hand barrel, the bullet entering between the neck and shoulder and piercing his heart. At the same instant Captain Slatter fired, his bullet entering the neck vertebrae. Ploughing up the ground with horn and feet, the great bull rhino, still head toward us, dropped just thirteen paces from where we stood.”
Crockett grew up as a crafty Indian fighter and hunter. He developed into an expert marksman as a teenager and regularly won shooting contests. He was also an incredibly successful bear hunter. According to Crockett himself he once killed 105 bears in just one year.
Boone explored and helped settle what is now Kentucky. He created the Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap allowing settlers to reach Kentucky and gained a legendary status as a guide and tracker.
He was also a professional hunter and would go on long trips where he would spend months in the wilderness with a small group of companions. On these hunts Boone had to avoid native hunting parties that viewed him as a trespasser.
On one occasion he was even captured by Shawnee Indians.
Iqbal Mauladad (Bali) 1926-1970
Mauladad (aka Bali) was a unique African Professional Hunter. Unlike most PHs, he was not a white British man with a reputable upbringing and slim build. He stood six feet two inches tall, weighed 215 pounds and was of Asian descent.
But his close encounters with dangerous game earned him a legendary reputation. He was mauled by a leopard and also caught in a stampede of elephants. But his guts paid off and his clients regularly took record book animals, especially elephants.
Hill was an expert archer and one of the best bowhunters of all time. He was one of the first hunters to take lions and leopards with a bow on film in 1968. Amazingly, he also took down an elephant with his bow long before modern technology allowed for the super-fast compound bows we have today.
He has been voted into the Bowhunting Hall of Fame for his successes.
Philip Hope Percival 1886-1966
Percival was one of the most successful African PHs of all time. He guided Ernest Hemingway on his first safari and Hemingway later turned him into the character Pop in his books about Africa. The notoriety earned Percival an endless number of clients.
He was seen as the Dean of Professional Hunters by his peers and was elected the president of the East African Professional Hunters Association for 34 consecutive terms.
Read more: www.petersenshunting.com
Colonel John Henry Patterson
Patterson had a long military career for the British army, but he was also immortalized as a hunter after killing two legendary man-eating lions in present-day Kenya.
The two lions, named Ghost and the Darkness, picked off railway workers as they slept in work camps. After months of tracking the two lions Patterson was finally able to kill them despite almost being eaten himself.
He later went on to serve as a game warden in East Africa.
Pope grew up in military camps in Texas where he learned about hunting and the outdoors. He went to medical school at the University of California and then eventually met Ishi, the last member of the Yahi tribe.
Along with Art Young he learned archery from Ishi and soon grew obsessed with bowhunting. In 1920 he went on a special hunt with Young for grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park. The pair used handmade bows and steel tipped arrows to successfully kill several bears.
He wrote one of the first important books about archery hunting called Hunting with the Bow and Arrow.
Along with Pope, Young is considered one of the pioneers of modern bowhunting. Young was more of an adventurer and in 1922 he went on a hunting expedition in Alaska. Using only a bow he took sheep, moose, and even a brown bear on Kodiak Island.
According to recounts of the trip, at one point Young and his cameraman were surrounded by four bears. Young shot one of the bears while another bear charged at him. Luckily it was a fake charge and the pair escaped unscathed.
Young also traveled to Greenland where he took a polar bear and walrus with a bow and arrow.
Ishi, the last surviving member of the Yahi tribe, was taken in as a refugee by Pope and Young. Ishi taught Pope and Young how to make archery tackle, shoot accurately and hunt like a Yahi.
According to Pope, who became Ishi’s close friend, Ishi could move silently through the woods and call in a variety of game animals with his mouth. The pair spent days on end in Golden State Park practicing shooting and hunting small game animals.
Leopold was an American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He is one of the most influential conservationists of all time and was one of the first people to recognize the importance of biodiversity and wildlife management.
He was also a hunter and worked for the government killing bears, wolves and mountain lions in New Mexico. While he excelled at the work, his heart was not in predator extermination and he soon gave it up. One of his true loves was in fact grouse hunting.
William Cody “Buffalo Bill”
Cody is perhaps the most famous buffalo runner of all time. In a time period when people thought it was impossible to exhaust natural resources, Cody mowed down buffalo for their hides and to feed workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad.
He earned his nickname after killing 4,280 bison in eight months. A man named Bill Comstock had also earned the nickname Buffalo Bill and legend has it that the two men competed in a shooting match to see who would get to keep the name. Cody won and the legend was born.
Cody also served as a scout for the Fifth Cavalry and won a congressional Medal of Honor in 1872.
Selby was born in South Africa in 1925 and became a prominent PH. He started his hunting career as a young boy shooting small game on his family’s ranch in Kenya, and he later learned about tracking and big-game hunting from the natives.
As a teenager he went on his first elephant hunt with his cousin and they ended up shooting a massive bull that had 135 pounds of ivory on each tusk.
Selby later gained notoriety as a PH after he guided writer Robert Ruark and his wife on a safari in Tanzania. Ruark fell in love with Africa and was immensely impressed with Selby as a guide. He went on to write Horn of the Hunter, which is considered one of the greatest books about African hunting of all time.
Another testament to Selby’s skill was that neither he nor any of his clients were ever injured by an animal through his decades of guiding for dangerous game.
William John Compton “Chief Compton”
Compton may be the most important bowhunter you’ve never heard of. He grew up in Nebraska and was greatly influenced by the Sioux culture and their style of bow making and archery.
By the time he was 20 he had taken 20 deer, five pronghorn, a few elk and a bison all using bow and arrow. By 1913 he got in touch with Pope, Young and Ishi and soon the group began hunting together. While Compton was every bit as skilled of an archer as Pope and Young, he shied away from the spotlight. He was not a writer like Pope nor an adventurer like Young. But even so the three men worked together to advance bowhunting to what it is today.
Frederick Courtney Selous (1851-1917)
Selous left England for Africa with 400 pounds to his name when he was 19 years old. By the time he turned 25, he was recognized as one of the most successful elephant hunters in the world. Between 1874 and 1876 he reportedly killed 78 elephants.
He was also an amateur naturalist and catalogued almost every species of African mammal.
George Nidever 1802-1883
Nidever was a mountain man, trapper, hunter and explorer. At age 28 he joined a hunting and trapping party at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He was also among the first wave of settlers to reach Mexican California where he became a seal hunter.
His claim to fame was that he rescued Juana Maria, the last member of the Nicoleno tribe that had been left behind on San Nicolas Island for 18 years.
W.D.M. Bell 1880-1951
Bell, aka Karamojo, is one of the greatest elephant hunters of all time. He earned his nickname by trekking through remote wilderness in North eastern Uganda. By studying elephant skulls he perfected the brain shot on elephants and was an advocate of shot placement over big-bore rifles.
He pioneered the feat of shooting elephants while standing diagonally behind the them, which is now called the Bell Shot.
Bell reportedly took more than 1,000 elephants during his time in Africa with a .275 Rigby.
Fred Bear 1902-1988
Bear is widely regarded as the father of modern bowhunting. He picked up the torch from Pope and Young and propelled the sport to unbelievable popularity. He did so by becoming a successful hunter, a good salesman and an innovative bow maker.
He started bowhunting in 1929 after seeing Pope and Young’s film “Alaskan Adventure,” but it took him six years to kill his first deer. Soon enough Bear got the hang of hunting with stick and string and he took trips to Michigan’s Upper Penninsula to make bowhunting films. He used magazine articles and his productions to get people interested in hunting and to grow the sport.
He also worked on creating the first bow that could be mass produced.
“The history of the bow and arrow is the history of mankind,” Bear said.
Jedediah Strong Smith (1799 – May 27, 1831)
Smith was far from your average mountain man. He was a devout Methodist and never swore or drank. Also he was said to have a stern personality and virtually no sense of humor.
But despite his unique character, or perhaps because of it, he was one of the most important hunters and explorers of the era. He was the first American to cross the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin and he was also the first to travel up the California coast to reach what is now Oregon. He survived the long expeditions by hunting for food and providing for his party.
He also survived a gruesome grizzly bear attack that left him with a distinct scar on his face.
Adams may very well be the most accomplished bowhunter on the planet right now. He was the first archer to take all 27 species of North American big game animals and he has also killed more than 100 Pope and Young trophies and 181 SCI records, which is more than any one in history.
At 50 years old he was one of the youngest archers to ever be inducted into the National Bowhunters Hall of Fame and the SCI Bowhunters Hall of Fame.
John Pondoro Taylor (1904-1969)
Taylor was born in Ireland and moved to Africa as a young man. He became a PH and experimented with different types of high-caliber rifles. He claimed to have taken thousands of game animals in Africa including 1,000 elephants over 30 years of hunting.
While those numbers may be inflated, it’s hard to argue with his success as a hunter. He also wrote several books including African Rifles and Cartridges.
Christopher Kit Carson 1809-1868
Carson was a mountain man, trapper, army scout and buffalo hunter. As a teenager he was hired as a market hunter and from 1842 to 1846 he guided expeditions through California.
He also trapped beaver along the Yellowstone, Powder and Bighorn Rivers. He traveled and lived with natives and learned their ways. His skill and courage as a mountain man earned him legendary status and elevated him as a national hero. He also fought for the Union during the Civil war.
Later Carson’s adventures were turned into books, comics and movies.
Peter Capstick (1940-1996)
At age 30 Captstick left behind a Wall Street career to become a professional hunter in South America and then Africa. He became a famous hunter, writer and gun enthusiast. He wrote at least 13 different books about hunting in Africa. He clearly followed in the footsteps of writers before him like Hemingway, Ruark, and Roosevelt.
The .470 Capstick round was made in his name by Arthur b. Alphin.
Bridger is one of the most famous mountain men of all time. He survived extreme expeditions through the Rocky Mountains and was among the first explorers to trek the Yellowstone area.
He is also reportedly the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake and found a route through the Rocky Mountains called Bridger’s Pass that is now Interstate 80.
His ability to shoot, hunt and track kept him and his party alive through his risky expeditions.
England’s most famous Prime Minister had two great loves: hunting and polo. While many people know about Teddy Roosevelt’s great African safari, Churchill actually hunted the Dark Continent first. Guided by his friend Jack Riddell, Churchill hunted through East Africa and then down the Nile taking big-game animals as they went.
Cunninghame was one of the very first “white hunters” in Africa. He also became one of the best. He guided Teddy Roosevelt’s famous hunting expedition in 1909 that created a high demand for African hunts.
According to the book White Hunter, Roosevelt said this about Cunninghame: “I doubt if Mr. Cunninghame’s equal in handling such expeditions as ours exists. He combines the qualities of a first-class explorer, guided, field naturalist and safari manager.”