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8 Most Famous Big Game Hunters of All-time

In the annals of big game hunting history, many famous names exist. But some hunters just left a more significant mark on history than others. With that in mind, we've compiled a list of 10 of the most famous big game hunters ever to live and exactly what made them into the legendary outdoor figures they are today. This list was not easy to narrow down, as there are many big names in hunting. Ultimately, we went by some of the most recognizable, both in character and action.

8. Fred Bear

We couldn't leave the father of modern bowhunting off a list of the most famous big game hunters. Bear's contributions to archery and hunting are almost unquestioned.

An avid archer all his life, he gave up on making it into Detroit's burgeoning auto industry in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He started his own archery company, Bear Archery. In the late 1940s, Bear and his wife lived in a tent in northern Michigan to facilitate the company's growth. Even then, it took years for the sport to become as popular as it is today. Talk about someone who was committed to what he loved and believed in!

Bear won Michigan's archery state championships in 1934, 1937, and 1939. He further showed his skills were no fluke as his business took off. Bear started traveling the world on hunting trips to pursue some of the biggest and most dangerous game animals using only archery gear. Elk, deer, bear, moose, lions, and even an elephant, he pretty much hunted it all and inspired a whole generation of hunters to take up the stick and string.

7. Jim Corbett

Another British soldier, Corbett, is probably the most famous professional hunter ever. Corbett earned fame for killing 31 tigers and two leopards, all man-eaters. In that group are some of history's most infamous man-eating big cats.

Corbett successfully hunted down and ended the reigns of terror of the Panar Leopard (400 victims), the Leopard of Rudraprayag (125 victims), and the famous Champawat Tiger (436 victims). Corbett often hunted these dangerous animals alone and later detailed the hunts for these big cats in many of his books. Often he found the man eaters had damaged teeth that didn't allow them to pursue natural prey.

Corbett continued to be a champion for conservation and the preservation of natural areas long after his retirement in Kenya. He even had a hand in establishing the first Indian National Park, which was later renamed in his honor and now holds a thriving population of tigers. Not many famous big game hunters have a National Park named after them!

Corbett did not consider himself a trophy hunter of dangerous game animals. It is rumored he only hunted tigers or leopards if they had killed someone. The 33 man-eaters he shot were responsible for 1,200 or more human deaths.

6. Colonel John Henry Patterson

Most of the big game hunters on this list built their legacies through decades of commitment and contributions to hunting. British colonel John Henry Patterson earned infamy from a single African hunt. When he left England in 1898, he was sent to what is now Kenya to oversee the construction of a railroad bridge by the Uganda Railway Commission over the Tsavo River.

But the project hit a major snag when two male lions without manes started killing and devouring the Indian workers at night. Patterson and the workers tried everything to protect the workers; fire, thorn fences, curfews, but nothing stopped the lions from coming into the camps and killing men.

Fortunately, Patterson had gained some big cat hunting experience in India during his time in the British Army. So he took matters into his own hands, stalking and shooting the two lions just 20 days apart. During the previous nine months, the dangerous game animals terrorized the workers. They took an estimated 135 victims with them.

In his excellent book, Patterson details the whole hunt: "The Lions of Tsavo." He was later portrayed in film form by Val Kilmer in the movie "The Ghost and the Darkness." Patterson continued his hunting exploits as a game warden in east Africa. But he will forever be known as the man who stopped the Tsavo Man-Eaters. Plenty of famous big-game hunters made names in Africa, but Patterson's is among the most well-known.

5. Theodore Roosevelt

Plenty of American Presidents have hunted, but none has a reputation for hunting and conservation like Roosevelt left behind. His African hunting exploits for the dangerous game are the stuff of pure legend. He bagged 296 animals on one safari alone. This included nine lions and eight cape buffalos.

If you can name it, Roosevelt probably harvested it at some point during his hunting career. Elephants, rhinos, hippos, buffalo, giraffes, and more are just some of the animals he took during his many safaris.

He sent many of his animals to the Smithsonian Institution's collections. The institution was so overwhelmed by the sheer number of animals sent back that now you can find Roosevelt's harvests in museums all over the United States.

Roosevelt also wrote several books on hunting that are still popular today. In 1887, he founded Boone & Crockett. Roosevelt was also a champion of conservation and the preservation of wild areas. As President, he established the U.S. Forest Service. He helped protect untold acres of wilderness by forming 18 National Monuments and 150 National Forests.

When it comes to American hunters who have had the most significant impacts on the planet, perhaps none can challenge Roosevelt's big game hunting accomplishments.

4. Daniel Boone

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Boone was undoubtedly the most famous fur trapper, the other half of the Boone & Crockett name (Nobody knows if they ever met each other). Boone was not a family man by any means. He fathered ten children in his life but often left his wife and kids alone for months or even years while he went out on extensive game hunting trips. He wasn't a trophy hunter, as he sold the hides to earn a living.

While Boone shot untold numbers of deer and trapped countless beavers in his day, he is also best known for hunting bears. No one knows for sure, but there are rumors he killed hundreds of them on his hunting trips. Some say he had a habit of documenting the occasion by carving his name and the year onto a tree. This act led to a tourist phenomenon of visiting "Boone Trees" scattered throughout Kentucky and Tennessee. The trees have all since died, but the legend remains.

3. David (Davy) Crockett

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It would be impossible to have a list of famous hunters without one of the most famous American frontiersmen. After all, his name is one half of the most prestigious record-keeping organization out there for big game, Boone & Crockett.

Davy Crockett was best known for his military exploits and death in the Alamo battle. But as far as his hunting adventures are concerned, they're the stuff of legend.

There is controversy surrounding some of his big game hunting tales, with folks often claiming they are too good to be true. The rumors that he killed a bear at three and 105 in a single season are undoubtedly exaggerated. Still, someone doesn't get a reputation like that and the nickname "King of the Wild Frontier" without being one hell of a hunter.

2. Ernest Hemingway

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Hemingway is a household name for his literature, of course, having penned classics like "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and, of course, "The Old Man and the Sea." Hemingway loved fishing, of course, but he was also an avid hunter.

Most notably, Hemingway took a couple of safari trips to Africa. And while there, he harvested some of the world's most famous and dangerous game animals, including lions, Cape buffalo, and a leopard. He was also successful in taking several kinds of antelopes, gazelles, and zebras. The equally-famous professional hunter Philip Percival, who missed making our list, accompanied Hemingway on both safaris.

In his later years, Hemingway spent much time hunting in the American West, primarily in Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. While there, he took many classic big game animals like deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and bears. At least two of Ernest Hemingway's homes, one in Florida and another in Idaho, still contain some of his trophies.

1. William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill)

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Is there any name more synonymous with the American West than Buffalo Bill? Yeah, we don't think so, either.

Cody is best known for his exploits as a bison hunter. Legend has it that he got his household nickname after shooting over 4,200 bison to feed workers on the Kansas Pacific Railroad between 1867 and 1868. He is also said to have once won a buffalo shooting contest by taking 68 bison in just eight hours while using an old trapdoor Springfield Model 1866. This feat was impressive, considering his competitor used a more modern Henry repeater.

Of course, those things wouldn't happen these days, considering what we now know about conservation and wildlife management. But it helped Cody make a name for himself in the American West. Today, visit the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming. You'll learn that Cody often wished he had more time for hunting. Still, his busy schedule with his Wild West Shows, which took him all over the United States, Canada, and Europe, kept him away from the field. You'll still be hard-pressed to find a more well-known American bison hunter than Cody.

This article was originally published on August 4, 2018.