Before You Die

For many sportsmen, deep in their heart of hearts, there is an outdoor list of things we want to do … Continued

Catch An 8-Pound Largemouth This can be accomplished in many places, but Florida, Texas and California offer the best odds for success. Lake Fork Reservoir, not far from Dallas, is renown for giant largemouths, lots of them, including a number of state record fish pushing 20 pounds, and countless others over 15 pounds. A wealth of guides can be found, including good ones like Mike Moody (903-520-9313) and Craig Cain (972-977-5865)
Catch An 8-Pound Walleye Few places give up more giant walleyes pushing double digit weights than Lake Erie, especially the western basin. The Bass Islands area near Port Clinton and Sandusky are choice. One of the best guides in the region for oversize ‘eyes is Jerry Abele, of Head Hunter Fishing Adventures, in Marblehead, Ohio (419-732-2670).
Jump a 100-pound Tarpon The Florida Keys, and along the east coast of Florida, regularly have plenty of big tarpon. Costa Rica and some other foreign spots are great, too. But for huge schools of mega fish, Boca Grande Pass at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor is the best in the world during May and June. Contact Capt. Joel Brandenburg (813-267-4401, 1-877-766-6566; to hook one.
Triple on Quail Even in the best of places, a shotgunner better be fast, and good, to tumble three birds on a covey rise. You need a lot of opportunities at close birds with good dog work. Mexico is the place for lots of birds, and Trek Safaris (800-654-9915, 904-273-7800, can make arrangements on the Yucatan Peninsula for black-throated bobwhites.
Get Your Goat Over-the-counter antelope tags are about as rare as anything in bowhunting. But in Southeast Colorado, archers can purchase them for game unit 135, where “speed goat” hunting is good on massive 435,000-acre Comanche National Grasslands near the town of La Junta east of Pueblo. This is short-grass prairie and canyon country, rugged and arid, but full of game and steeped in Western history. The old Santa Fe trail traverses the public grassland, where once dinosaurs roamed and Comanche Indians hunted. Now it’s full of pronghorns.
Take a 5-Pound Stream Trout Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, even Utah and Alaska are well-touted big trout spots. But the tributaries along southern Lake Erie, in Ohio and New York offer world-class action for heavyweight rainbow and brown trout. Contact Middlefield, Ohio guide Patrick Robinson (419-348-7199, 440-632-3040;
Catch a Smallmouth Over 4 Pounds Plenty of great spots in eastern Canada and in the Columbia River drainage region of the far West offer big smallmouths. But eastern Lake Erie, within the shadows of Buffalo, is one of the best bets for buster bronzebacks. Fish pushing 6 pounds are regularly caught, especially in spring. Top guide Ernie Calandrelli (716-609-3064) is the man to call for heavyweight smallies.
Bop a Bone There are better places to catch lots of nice bonefish, like the Bahamas and Mexico, but for giant fish, the Florida Keys has no competition. The Middle Keys are choice, with Islamorada and Marathon bonefish central. Many top guides are available, with Capt. Lenny Moffo (305-872-4683, 305-395-1537; a good choice.
Set a Record While a P&Y buck can be taken by a bowhunter almost anywhere in America these days, the Midwest still rules for numbers of bucks scoring 125 inches or more. Iowa is as good as it gets, but even bowmen must put in by April for fall hunting permits. There is good public ground to hunt, but private land is best, with places like Timber Ghost Ranch ( working hard to get buster bucks for bowmen clients.
Bag a Bull Colorado is the only state where non-resident bowhunters can still get an “over the counter” either-sex elk tag, and the Routt National Forest near Steamboat Springs is one of the best in the state for wapiti. Four choice units (13, 14, 131 and 214) are touted by bowmen in the know, which puts archers smack in the middle of the Bear’s Ears (25,000 elk) and White River (33,000 animals) herds.
Take a Tom…A Big Tom! The Midwest grows the biggest turkeys, with perhaps Iowa, Illinois and Kansas some of the best states. But Missouri has huge birds, too, and over-the-counter licenses, which those other states don’t offer. Missouri has so much prime public hunting (thanks to a sales tax for conservation) that the state isn’t shopping for any more property. Lots of federal land, and state-owned property is open to turkey hunting. For a giant tom, the northern counties that border Iowa are prime. For more information, contact the Missouri Department of Conservation (
Make a Sails Call There’s no need for exotic travel to catch a high-leaping Atlantic sailfish. Southeast Florida is the hot spot, from December through March. Choice spots to fish from are Fort Pierce, Stuart, Palm Beach and Miami. One of the most successful sailfish charter boat captains along the Florida coast is Jimbo Thomas (305-374-4133).
Land a Laker Canada has some special remote spots for oversize lakers. But you can consistently catch big ones in the Niagara River between Niagara Falls and Lake Ontario. Late fall is prime, and multiple hook ups on big fish are common. One of the top laker guides in the region is Frank Campbell (716-284-8546;
Bag a B&C Buck They say the odds of taking a 170-inch B&C buck is a one-in-a-million chance. While that may be true, hunting where such bucks grow best increases the odds for gunners. Wisconsin has gotten rave reviews in recent years. Kansas may be near king for oversize bucks, but access is difficult. Kentucky may be the sleeper spot, with nearly 200 B&C bucks recorded in 20 years.
Yank a Yellowfin No fish on the planet is tougher than a tuna. Even little “footballs” will test your stamina, and fish over 100 pounds are like freight trains. Heavyweight tuna are caught in lots of places, but Venice, Louisiana is one of the top spots. Contact Capt. Devlin Roussel at Reel Peace Charters (504-481-1327,
Catch a Cat Big rivers yield big catfish, and the Mississippi River is among the top spots on the continent for a whisker heavyweight. The central part of the river is consider among the best, and James “Big Cat” Patterson (901-383-8674, has been guiding on the Tennessee portion of it for over a decade. He regularly leads anglers to huge cats weighing over 50 pounds.
Shoot 100 Doves in 90 Minutes Mexico, Honduras and Uruguay are excellent, but nothing compares to Argentina, where millions of doves are seen by hunters during a three-day trip. Hundreds can be shot in any morning or afternoon, and downing 100 in 90 minutes is very doable. Contact Alejandro (Cano) Saint Antonin, Four Seasons Adventures (54-11-4808-0111, 54-9-11-6444-2379,
Go Hog Wild Wild hogs are available in lots of places, and plenty big ones are downed every year. Southeast Georgia is one of the country’s hot spots for wild swine, and for big ones, guide Mark Noble (912-223-3474) in Brunswick has the ticket.
Reel In a Red Heavyweight redfish are caught along the coasts from North Carolina to Texas, but the late summer run in the lower St. Johns River in northeast Florida is hard to beat for giants. Captain Don Dingman (904-276-1164 is the man for huge reds, and annually catches hundreds for his clients. It’s deep, natural bait fishing, almost all catch-and-release.
Double Dip You gotta go where there are tons of pheasants, and few states equal South Dakota, where hunters collect nearly 2 million birds every fall. The eastern half of the state is prime, with the capital city of Pierre a top place to headquarter. Thunderstik Lodge (phone 800-888-1601, offers outstanding hunting, dog work and a lodge in the heart of prime pheasant country.

For many sportsmen, deep in their heart of hearts, there is an outdoor list of things we want to do before we die. For those who want to chase “The Dream,” here’s where to make it happen.