Like many, I hunt because that’s what I do. I hunt because I like to hunt. Sometimes I hunt for meat. I enjoy the overall experience from different cultures, learning about the local fauna and flora, exploring remote destinations, and cherish the opportunity and challenge to pursue game of all descriptions.
I look forward to hunting with my family and friends, enjoying the hunting experience and camaraderie. We all have our own personal reasons we hunt. We hunt because, well, we are hunters and conservationists. I have never hunted with the sole purpose of taking a record book animal. Having clarified that position, though, it is a special treat when you are fortunate enough to place an animal in the top ten, or even top twenty. I guess you could say it’s just icing on the cake.
When we returned from a great hunt in Uganda, I sent in our record book score sheets for nine animals. A few weeks later I received six nice certification cards listing how the animals placed in the alternative methods with a handgun; three were number one and three more were in the top ten. I put them in the file cabinet that is choked full of these certification cards and have no idea just how many. No, I am not a great hunter. I have friends who are great hunters. I know a few great hunters. But I am not in that category. However, receiving those certifications got me thinking–if I hunted with a rifle, there is a strong possibility I could hunt all my life and not place any animal in the top ten or even top twenty.
As a hunter, I like to honor both the animal and the outfitter while recording the hunting achievement. I classify the SCI Record Book as recorded history over time. It’s a document that shows our hunting heritage long after we depart this earthly home. It’s a verified certificate leaving evidence of our hunting career, the magnificent game we pursued and the outfitter/guide who helped us along the way. The SCI Record Book is indeed unique in our hunting world and participating is part of doing my duty to honor the animals with a well-deserved and fitting tribute, documenting the hunt and the hunting tradition.
If you are primarily a rifle hunter, you can expand your horizons by picking up a handgun. Plus, you will be helping both hunting and SCI by increasing your presence in the record book and supporting a program that exists nowhere else on this planet. As a rifle hunter, you realistically could hunt a very long time and possibly never enter a whitetail deer in the top twenty, much less top ten. That wouldn’t keep you from having fun and enjoying the hunt, but it would be a monumental challenge, placing a whitetail in the upper portion of the book. There are just so many entries of phenomenal deer taken in the past. On the other hand, as a handgun hunter there are many options where you could take a top tier animal while adding an exciting dimension to your hunting career. Simply put, there are not nearly as many entries for alternative methods compared to the rifle category. In North America, for example, taking a big bull
Alaskan-Yukon moose with a handgun will land you in the top ten; there are only six recorded. The same would apply to Shiras moose. Both of these big-bodied bruisers would be a hoot with a handgun. Columbia whitetail doesn’t list any entries in the handgun category. I have a hunt booked with Pat Fisher and hope to alleviate that void, not because I’m looking for another number one but to experience a hunt and animal I’ve never hunted before. Coues deer has only two handgun entries. The Tule elk has very few entries and the Roosevelt doesn’t list any. My good friend Wade Derby has organized a Roosevelt elk hunt for this fall and I hope to fill my tag regardless what the bull may score. Desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are two other options for the handgun hunter to list game in the top ten, with only four and five entries respectfully. Taking either one of those coveted rams with alternative methods will surely be a rewarding experience.
Moving over the big pond to Africa, there are more options, especially when you tackle remote locales for certain species. The giant forest hog and red river hog are two prime examples, with only two entries for each. The dwarf forest buffalo, one on my bucket list, has only one entry. Forest and east African sitatunga have only one entry each. Actually, many of the East African species would make top ten if taken with a handgun. Southern roan has few listed and makes for a challenging hunt with any alternative method. There has been only one yellow-backed duiker recorded with a handgun. My dad always told me that hunting deer is a matter of being at the right place at the right time. Well, I was at the right place, at the most ideal time when that yellow-backed duiker appeared and it didn’t take long to drop the hammer. Sheer luck!
If adventure is in your blood, Asia has many possibilities. Persian desert ibex and red sheep have only one entry each. Iran is not your most traveled hunting endpoint, but they have a plethora of mountain game that is inviting for any sheep hunter. The Himalayan tahr and blue sheep in Nepal are great examples of the species that do not see many entries in alternative method categories. Honestly, I consider this adventure to be the ultimate high altitude hunting experience. The mid-Asian ibex offers a great mountain hunt and doesn’t cost a small fortune to enjoy. There is only one entry with a handgun. Taking one with any form of alternative method would be most gratifying. If you like gigantic antlers, the Tien Shan wapiti will cause your heart rate to accelerate
and create a major league adrenaline rush. Dropping one of those giants with any alternative method will be etched in your memory forever. These are just a few examples that will allow anyone the opportunity to place an animal in the upper echelon of the record book, an added bonus on top of a most memorable hunting experience.
If you are goal-oriented, there are two new categories in World Hunting Awards. The Multiple Methods requires a certain number of species with the number of different methods–muzzleloader, handgun, bow or crossbow, and rifle or shotgun. The Alternative Methods 24 Grand Slam requires eight species with muzzleloader, handgun and bow or crossbow. Either of these World Hunting Awards will challenge us to get out of our comfort zone. The mere pursuit of either award adds a whole new dimension to our hunting career. I’d be willing to bet that if we hunted with a handgun, archery and muzzleloader, this endeavor would, overall, make us better hunters.
By taking up alternative methods, you will not only challenge yourself, but also increase your odds significantly of placing an animal in the top of the record book. Yes, that and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee. But it’s still pretty neat! When participating in the Record Book, you will help fund anti-poaching and conservation projects at home and abroad. The net proceeds from this program help fund these meaningful ventures. This should be viewed as a win/win for hunting and conservation.
If I hunt for the rest of my life and do not take a top ten animal, it will be perfectly fine. I have never measured the success of any hunt with a tape; and never will. As always, I will appreciate the chase, enjoy the experience, and be thrilled if I punch my tag. But hunting with a handgun will stack the odds in my favor of placing another animal in the top of the book. Well, that’s just icing on the cake!– Mark Hampton