Famous American Hunters
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5 of the Greatest Hunters in American History

The rich history of hunting in the United States has led to some iconic figures making their mark on the pursuit of wild game. From trappers who traveled through unchartered territories during the fur trade in the mid 1800s, to Presidents who helped establish our National Forests that we all love. These people made a lasting impact on the lifestyle of hunting, and even created new and innovative ways of hunting that we still use today.

More than just being skillful in their pursuit of the outdoors or racking up impressive harvest numbers, these five hunters have permanently changed the way we view our wild game pursuits, as well as our own conservation efforts. I have looked up to these five outdoorsmen since I was a young boy, and I have no doubt their success and achievements will be respected and admired by the hunting community forever.

1. Teddy Roosevelt

Famous American Hunters

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No list about legendary American hunters would be complete without mentioning our very own 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. Naturally, I had to give him the number one spot. His true passion for the outdoors earned him the rightful name, "Father of Conservation". From playing a major role in developing our National Park system, to helping establish the Boone and Crockett Club, it's clear that Roosevelt was one of the greatest.

Born in New York City to two wealthy parents, Roosevelt was thrown into the outdoors by his father in hopes of combating his asthma with fresh air. This quickly developed into a love for a rugged and self-reliant lifestyle, which ultimately led to a strong desire to hunt big game.

Most of Roosevelt's first hunts were in the big timber of Maine, pursuing deer, bear and even moose. It wasn't until years later that Roosevelt would establish his legacy as one of the greatest hunters in the American west. He harvested everything from a bighorn sheep to a 1,200-pound grizzly bear, Roosevelt's trophies are impressive by any standard. However, one of his most famous hunts was his African safari with his son. The two hunters harvested over 500 animals combined on just that one trip!

2. Fred Bear

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The "Father of Modern Bowhunting" deserves a spot on every list when discussing legendary hunters. Fred Bear is the founder of Bear Archery, which has become one of the largest bow manufacturers in the United States today. Bear helped pioneer the mass production of fiberglass archery equipment before there was a major demand for it. He also served on the first board of the Pope & Young club.

Oddly enough, not many hunters today know that Bear was originally a gun hunter. He didn't even start hunting until he was 29 years old. That was when he first watched the film "Alaskan Adventure" made by Art Young. After that, he was hooked. Along with many impressive big game animal harvests in the United States, Bear also harvested a Bengal tiger, and an 8,000-pound elephant in Africa. In 1973, Fred Bear was named an inaugural member of the archery hall of fame, and I think we can all agree, it was well deserved.

3. Jim Bridger

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Jim Bridger is perhaps one of the most famous mountain men in American History. Leaving his home in Virginia at age 18, Bridger joined the Upper Missouri Expedition where he developed his fur trapping skills. It has not been confirmed, but there is a well-known rumor that Bridger was involved in the infamous 1823 grizzly attack on fellow trapper Hugh Glass. According to legend, Bridger stayed behind with Glass after the rest of his party moved on until Bridger was chased from the area by Native Americans.

Bridger's reputation grew throughout the country, with travelers often seeking his advice on trapping and hunting as they made their way out west. Amongst many other accomplishments, Bridger is credited as the first European-American to see Yellowstone, as well as establishing Fort Bridger, a supply station along the California Trail. Countless places in Oregon, Wyoming, Montana, and Utah are still named for him to this day.

4. Daniel Boone

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Daniel Boone has a long list of accomplishments, and one of them is that he was an excellent hunter. According to legend, he got his first rifle at 13 years old. He then became the main hunter in his family, providing food for everyone. In fact, the story has it that he blew his first ever paycheck on a hunting trip when he was in his early teens. Something a lot of us hunters can probably relate with.

Along with being a skilled hunter, he was a geographical genius, and was hired to join a crew of workers to open a path in eastern Kentucky. This led to him discovering the famous Cumberland Gap. Boone and his brother ended up staying in Kentucky for a while to chase big game and fur trap while trying to avoid conflicts with the Shawnee. During this time is when Boone developed a love for elk hunting, which soon became his favorite. There is no way to confirm how many animals he killed during his life. However, rumor has it that during his two-year expedition in Kentucky, he killed over 500 elk and deer. Another famous unconfirmed legend is that he carved his name and the date into trees whenever he killed a bear. Most of these trees have since fallen and died, but several cross sections have been preserved in museums.

5. Ernest Hemingway

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Highly regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and possibly of all time, Hemingway's real passion was the outdoors. He spent many years hunting and fishing the American west, and as he grew older his love spilled over to African big game hunting. The author of "A Farewell to Arms," and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," wasn't shy about his love for hunting, as it often had a great deal of influence over his writing. One can easily argue he was the most American hunter and fisherman of all time. Legend has it he once used a Thompson submachine gun to fend off sharks while saltwater fishing!

During the 1930s, Hemingway spent most of his time hunting near Yellowstone National Park, pursuing animals such as bighorn sheep and elk. He also loved to bird hunt and fish in his home state of Michigan with his father and brother. He lived out his later years in Ketchum, Idaho where he had a cabin. He was buried there and there is also a memorial to him in the area. As far as legendary hunting figures go, Hemingway can easily be considered the Babe Ruth of hunting.

Honorable Mention: Aldo Leopold

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It occurred to me that it would be blasphemous to leave Aldo Leopold, a revolutionary hunter and passionate conservationist, off this list of legendary American hunters. The author of "A Sand County Almanac," had a passion for the relationship between man and land, as well as how that correlated with wildlife specifically.

Leopold grew up hunting and fishing with his father in Burlington Iowa, along the Mississippi. He has become a role model for hunters as we strive to promote conservation and leave land better than we found it. One of his most famous quotes sums up conservation perfectly: "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."