Best Outdoor Life Stories of 2011

2011 was a great year on OutdoorLife.com. We did some big news pieces, like wolves being taken off the endangered species list. We covered some strange wildlife features, like a grizzly chasing down a scalded bison in Yellowstone. And, we posted a ton of crazy photos, like the worst taxidermy pictures of all time. With 2011 in the books, now is the perfect time to look back at the best stories and features of the year. 50 Best Hunting Rifles of the Past 10 Years
For years Outdoor Life has run the most rigorous gun test in the industry on new firearms each season. While it's hard to beat a brand new gun, there's also something to be said about a gun that has stood the test of time. With that in mind, we put together an extensive list of the best rifles we've tested in our Gun Test over the last 10 years. The first 10 guns in this gallery were hand-picked as Shooting Editor, John Snow's, personal favorites. The next set of rifles are the Editor's Choice winners in chronological order, then there's the Great Buy winners, and finally, the honorable mentions round out the list. See the gallery here.
What Gun Killed Osama bin Laden?
On May 2nd, Navy SEAL Team Six took off from Afghanistan, crossed the Pakistan border and dropped in on Osama bin Laden's massive compound hideout. The SEALs engaged in a violent firefight, killing bin Laden and three of his men. After extracting the body and sweeping the house for information, they were back in the air in just 40 minutes. None of the SEALs were injured or killed during the mission. Navy SEALs are trained in a variety of weapons however, writer Tom Beckstrand used his military experiences and the details of the mission to narrow it down to three guns that stand out as the most likely candidates for the job: Colt's Mk 18, the Knight's Armament SR-25 and the standard issue M4. Here's an in-depth look at the guns SEALs carry into close-quarters battle. In Beckstrand's opinion, one of these guns took out the world's most wanted man. Tom Beckstrand, a former Special Forces soldier who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. See the gallery here.
Greg Myerson Lands 81-Pound World Record Striped Bass
This summer Myerson caught a striped bass weighing 81.8 pounds passing the world record which has stood since 1982. "I couldn't budge him at first," Myerson told the Field & Stream fishing blog. "Then he took off on a real good run and I had to tighten the drag because he was burning line fast." The news set the fishing world on fire and every fishing blog in the country was abuzz. See the gallery here.
Is This the New World Record Mule Deer?
Since September rumors have been swirling that a Canadian outdoor television show host arrowed a mule deer in Saskatchewan that taped somewhere in the neighborhood of 295 inches. Cody Robbins' double-droptine buck is purported to have netted 287 inches (green score). If that holds up, it will easily top the current Pope and Young non-typical mule deer record, a deer killed in Colorado in 1987 by Kenneth Plank that measured 274 7/8 inches. Robbins, a former cameraman for Jim Shockey, is supposed to have killed the deer on September 4. On September 6, the photo you see here was posted to the message board at monstermuleys.com by user BCBOY, who wrote, "Not sure if this is it or not. This buck was posted on another site saying it was an opening day Alberta buck. It is a double dropper like Cody's is supposed to be and it is Big!" See the gallery here.
Badly Stuffed Animals: The Worst Taxidermy Mounts from Facebook
A Facebook page titled "Badly Stuffed Animals" has quietly been collecting photos of the worst animal mounts from around the world. More than 10,000 Facebook users like the page and there are literally hundreds of animal mount photos posted there. The animals include dogs, rodents, deer, bears, monkeys, horses and African game. We picked out the 30 most outrageous mounts for your viewing pleasure. See the gallery here.
Bear Vs Bison: A Yellowstone Rundown
Alex Wypyszinski loves photographing nature, and luckily he had his camera at the ready when nature, in the form of a grizzly bear and a bison, came charging down the road at him one morning in Yellowstone National Park. The bear was chasing down a bison, which was badly burned from an encounter with one of the area's many thermal feature. The bison escaped into the trees, but was eventually put down by the National Park Service because of its severe injuries. See the gallery here.
Hunter Survives Gruesome Bear Attack (graphic image warning)
Matthew Sutton survived a horrific bear attack while hunting on Kodiak Island. He was mauled by a 250-pound brown bear multiple times and had to wait for days before being rescued. At first, "I thought it was just a bluff charge," says Sutton. "It took it maybe a second, and it closed the distance about halfway. He jumped once more, came right through the air, and he was on me." This is a recount of his story and the surgery that saved his life. See the gallery here.
Lightning Strikes a Herd of Deer
On March 22 DNR Conservation Officer Juan Gomez responded to a unique call: seven deer had been killed by lightning. The scene was a hay field in Kenosha County, Wisconsin. On the morning of March 21 thunderstorms rolled through the area and a lightning bolt hit a field that a small herd of does was grazing in. When Gomez arrived the next day he found that all of the deer's eyeballs had popped out. It's possible that birds could have plucked out the eyes, but Gomez's theory is that they were popped out by the lightning strike. See the gallery here.
The Top 40 Typical and Nontypical Whitetails of All Time
Just incase you haven't been totally consumed by buck fever yet, here's one last nudge to tip you all the way over the edge. We put together a countdown of the highest-scoring whitetail buck ever killed according to Boone and Crockett records. The list includes typicals and nontypcials and facts about each buck. For example this is the story behind the third biggest typical buck ever taken (pictured): Ten yards. That's how far Larry Gibson was from this buck back in 1971 before he shot it with his .308. Taken in Randolph County of northcentral Missouri, the number three buck just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time as Gibson was just out to fill the freezer. He likely would have shot a fork buck given the chance. Instead, he took this bruiser and sold the antlers to the Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club for $200. A great set of antlers is a lot like a Corvette as both will appreciate over time. Gibson likely could have sold those antlers and bought a Corvette had he held onto them. See the gallery here.
Deadliest Snakes in the World
There are few living things that create fear and loathing like snakes, and these serpents are among the world's deadliest creatures. Pictured: Inland Taipan
The inland taipan is a fast moving Australian snake that hunts in the daytime. It can reach up to five feet in length and will bite multiple times when provoked. One bite has enough venom to kill 100 adults. See the gallery here.
Photos: Mother Bear Fights Off Tiger
This summer photographer Aditya Singh witnessed a mother Asiatic black bear fight off a tiger in the Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve in India. Singh caught the whole battle on camera in a photo series. The bear was carrying her two cubs on her back when she was stalked by the tiger. The bear charged and met the tiger square on. Even though she was outweighed, she managed to scare the tiger off and escape unharmed. See the gallery here.
Freak Show Bucks: A Hard Look at Breeding For Antlers
Written by Craig Dougherty I always try to avoid those sick tabloids at the supermarket checkout counter. You know the ones with the two-headed calves and the chickens with three legs and steroid-taking body builders who didn't know how to say no. I feel sorry for these freaks of nature and truth be told, they give me the creeps. That's why I cringe every time I open an e-mail proudly offering a 300-, or 400- or even 500-inch whitetail buck at stud. Last week I received 4 of them, including the deer pictured here which is reportedly a new world record at 561 6/8 inches with 88 scoreable points. I click the e-mails open, cringe and delete. Then I get mad. Mad, because unlike the two-headed calf who is a true freak of nature, these whitetails are freaks of a different kind. These Frankenstein bucks are man made and money is the motive. One look at this pen-reared buck tells you there is something wrong, something terribly wrong. His obscenely disfigured antlers look more like something you would find growing on a coral reef or in a post nuclear war sci-fi thriller. They twist and turn and droop and bulge and fork and then fork again. Some of these deer seem to have multiple bases and all of the racks are preposterously large for the necks and shoulders that support them. They look nothing like the bucks we see on magazine covers, nothing like the buck of our dreams. In the following slides I'll describe the methods behind growing these freak bucks and show you photos of just how outrageously large they can get. Pictured: Ballistic 561 6/8 inches See the gallery here.
Top 40 Biggest Typical and Nontypical Bulls of All Time
The only thing better than the rack on a trophy bull is the story behind how it was taken. To celebrate the biggest bulls and best stories from our elk hunting history, OL put together a countdown of the highest-scoring bulls ever killed according to Boone and Crockett records. Here's the story behind the number six typical bull: For the past few decades, some Native American Reservations in the Southwest have been producing an inordinate amount of record-book elk--the White Mountain Apache in Arizona for one, another is the San Carlos Apache Reservation in eastern Arizona. Now that word has gotten out of their potential, a trophy elk hunt on one of these reservations will set you back a mortgage payment (or 10). It was on the San Carlos back in 1985 that James Littleton went looking for a trophy. He'd shot big elk in the past, and wouldn't settle for just any 400-class bull. On the last day of his hunt, he and his guide spotted a 7x7 around 300 yards away. With one shot from his Weatherby, James killed the bull, which he thought looked big--he just didn't know how big. He doesn't carry a camera, so he didn't bother with photos. The bull he'd shot the previous year was a nice 6x6. He had it shoulder-mounted, but it didn't fit in his house. This bull surely wasn't going to fit as a shoulder mount. Recalling his hunt, James wrote that the then #3 largest typical elk in the world became a place for his wife to hang clothes on after ironing. See the gallery here.
Wolves to Be Delisted as Endangered Species
In April Congress agreed to remove wolves from the Endangered species list in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Utah. "This wolf fix isn't about one party's agenda. It's about what's right for Montana and the West," Tester told the New York Times. "It's high time for a predictable, practical law that finally delists Montana's wolves and returns their management to our state." Later in the year wolves were also delisted in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. See the gallery here.
20 Things You Need to Know to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse
In recent years zombies have invaded our culture, and the shooting world is no exception. Need proof? Earlier this year DPMS hosted its 4th annual Outbreak Omega zombie shootout in Minnesota and more than 1,000 people turned out. The shoot actually started as a joke "It was always an inside joke, people would ask us 'why do you need an AR?' and we'd say 'to kill zombies with,'" said Adam Ballard, project manager of DPMS. But now it's turned in a bona fide event that draws sponsors and shooters from all over the country. To celebrate this new subculture of shooting, we put together a tounge-in-cheek gallery explaining the 20 shooting tips you need to know to survive the zombie apocalypse. See the gallery here.
Best Fish Faces 2011
Each month OL runs Fish Faces photos from Salt Water Sportsmen. These are the 40 best shots from 2011. See the gallery here.
Wolf Hunt Caught on a Trail Camera
Bryce Oldemeyer, a field tech for Idaho Fish and Game, pulled one of his trail cameras last month to find this incredible sequence of photos that captures a trio of wolves chasing down a cow elk. The camera was positioned on the top of a ridge along a well used game trail that Oldemeyer had scouted earlier. He knew there were wolves in the area from scat and tracks that he had seen, and he was hoping to catch one on camera. But he never expected to capture them in the middle of a hunt. See the gallery here.
Python Problem: Invasive Snakes Wreak Havoc in the Everglades (graphic image warning) In November Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officials killed one of the largest Burmese pythons ever taken from the Everglades. The monster serpent measured almost 16 feet in length and weighed an incredible 215 pounds. Officials discovered a large portion of that weight inside the snake when they cut it open to discover a fully intact 76-pound deer in its stomach. The photos illustrate an ever-growing invasive snake problem in Florida. Pythons and anacondas are top-line predators and many experts worry that they will (or already have) thrown the fragile Everglades ecosystem out of whack. We take a closer look at how these big snakes operate and the problems they pose for Florida. See the gallery here.
The 20 Best Elk Hunting Rifles Ever Made
What qualities make up a perfect elk hunting rifle? First it has to be durable and light enough to carry into the backcountry. But at the same time, it has to be able to handle large calibers (without pummeling you with recoil) and shoot accurately at long distances. Also it should be well balanced and handle quickly enough to snap off-hand shots incase you bust a bull in the timber. Oh, and It wouldn't hurt if the gun also looked good and came at an affordable price. So in other words, we need a cheap gun that is nearly indestructible, ultra-light weight, is a tack driver out to say, 400 yards, packs enough punch to tip over an 800-pound animal and it has to look good while doing it. Does such a gun exist? Maybe not, but these 20 rifles get pretty damn close. Check out our list of the 20 best elk rifles and let the debate begin. Pictured: BROWNING BAR MK. II SAFARI GRADE .338 See the gallery here.
Illinois Bowhunter Tags 30-Point Freak Buck
Each summer hunters across the country set out trail cameras to help locate big bucks for the upcoming fall hunting season. Trail cam users know that once you pull the memory card from a camera, you're just itching to get it into a computer and see what's on the card. Travis Cockburn was scrolling through trail cam pictures with his son when his jaw abruptly hit the floor--this was a buck like none he had ever seen before. His son aptly named the buck "Ginormica." He was lucky enough to kill Ginormica, which green scored 258 5/8-inches with a massive rack holding 30 scorable points. The base measurements were 7-4/8 and 8-4/8 inches. Incredibly, Ginormica had an astonishing 49 inches of mass measurements! Cockburn's buck could break into record books after the 60-day drying period in the number four or five spot as the all-time archery deer in the state of Illinois. See the gallery here.
Video: Monster Moose Shot at Point-Blank Range
This video comes from a French Canadian hunter in Quebec named Real Langlois, better known as the Rackman. The video was posted on YouTube on April 5, 2011 and was titled "World Record Moose," and that claim is confirmed by the Pope and Young Club. The bull scores 249 1/8 inches. You have to give credit to the Rackman for having nerves of steel on this shot. See the gallery here.
Two Texas Brothers Busted in Biggest Trophy Deer Poaching Case in Kansas History
Two Texas brothers were sentenced to a total of 5.75 years in prison and fined $70,000 after pleading guilty in what U.S. Wildlife officials say is the largest trophy deer poaching case in Kansas history (and possibly U.S. history). Marlin Butler and James Butler were sentenced in June after prosecutors argued that the two brothers guided up to 60 clients to illegally kill about 160 deer. The brothers participated in jacklighting deer, shooting deer in the wrong management unit, trespassing and guiding hunters without hunting licenses. While the $70,000 in fines sounds steep, it's by no means the largest fine to be given to a poacher. To see the biggest poaching fines in U.S. history go to: The 50 Biggest Poaching Fines in History. See the gallery here.
Craziest Whitetail Deer Photos
Whitetails are among the most elegant and graceful animals on earth. But if you spend enough time in the woods, you'll see deer do some strange, funny and awkward things. We put together the 25 craziest deer photos from our users and friends on Facebook and brought in Big Buck Zone Blogger Craig Dougherty to write about deer personalities. His captions don't explain each photo (some things just can't be explained), but they do give you some insight on how all deer are different and why some deer behave the way they do. See the gallery here.
The Dumbest Gun Regulations in the U.S. Today
There are about 20,000 federal, state, and local gun laws in the United States, making firearms the most regulated gear item an outdoorsman can buy. Federal gun laws fall into two broad categories: the 1968 Gun Control Act and the 1934 National Firearms Act. The GCA regulates with guns that anyone who hasn't commited a felony can buy at a local gun shop. The NFA deals with guns like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns. In the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' 468-page compilation of state and local laws, five states combined -- California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York -- take up about a third of the book. California's laws alone fill 68 pages of fine print. With the pages and pages of regulations, it can be difficult to keep track of the most outrageous laws, so we went to our veteran Second Amendment writer and Gun Shots blogger John Haugey to put together his list of the dumbest gun restrictions in the books. See the gallery here.
Eelpout Festival 2011
Equal parts icefishing tournament and party, Minnesota's annual Leech Lake Eelpout Festival is a sight to behold. True to its name, the eelpout is an ugly, eel-like fish. The idea behind the tournament is to catch the largest eelpout, but most contestants are more concerned with catching bottle bass. Think Mardi Gras on ice, with a Minnesota accent. Photographer Steve Maturen was on scene taking photos … here's what he found. Pictured: A member of the Bikini Ice Fishing Team.

See the gallery here.

There were some incredible stories in the outdoors last year. We take a look at the 25 best and biggest including everything from the world record striper to mother bear fighting off a tiger.