Toughest Game Animals to Bring Down
Getty Images: Kim Marriott

5 Toughest Big Game Animals to Bring Down

There may have been a time when the construction of large caliber rifle rounds were meant to serve the hunt for game animals that are indigenous to the Dark Continent, but the fact is that some of North America's wildlife need every bit of the same power and accuracy to finally bring them down. At some point, those who have spent generations bringing us the most up-to-date, well rounded, and accurate ammunition found new and safe ways to ramp up the stopping power. Often without drastically modifying the casings of already existing rounds too much. Since these manufacturers know their business, it's safe to say that it had a lot more to do with it than just adding more gunpowder. Today's modern hunting bullets fly faster, flatter, and hit with more energy than our forefathers could have dreamed about. Like so many things in this world, once we climbed the mountain, we needed to try and fly over it. The same goes for hunting some of the largest and most powerful animals on Earth. We generally concern ourselves most with the beauty and power of the game animals in North America, but a couple of these African game animals just had to be added to our list.

Hard To Hunt vs. Hard To Bring Down

If you're talking about mountain goats, (for example) then you have to discuss the fact that they live in some of the most dangerous surroundings that a hunter will have to access. You'll need a long distance rifle, accurate ammo, top of the line optics, and a great shooting eye. And then you may have to hike miles over tough and dangerous terrain just to get to your prize before you ever pack it out. For us, the mountain goat is the very definition of hard to hunt.

When it comes to hunting one of the Dark Continent's dangerous seven - the leopard - you may need an experienced outfitter and guide. Then three's the fact you may be putting your life in danger since these ferocious felines can and will maul you to death. But does a leopard take very large caliber ammunition? No.

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Then there are the hard to bring down animals that require a little more extra firepower than you'd normally use. We're thinking something large animals with tough hides and mean dispositions here like the Cape buffalo. Some of the larger animals may even call for extreme rounds like .375 H&H Magnum, .470 Nitro Express, .404 Jeffery, and other large calibers that are as punishing to your shoulder as they are the animal itself.

For large and decidedly more powerful game, you'll need all the skills you might use for the species mentioned above and more. You're still going to have to access terrain that is difficult, spend many hours in areas where the animal has the advantage, and many times will need to get quite close to your quarry before touching off the shot, especially for bowhunters.

While there are none on this list that cannot be hunted with a bow, you will find a new definition of patience and danger when it comes to tracking one that may only be wounded. The animals on this list require a combination of heavy calibers and honed hunting skills if you want to be successful.


The Nilgai is extremely skittish, fast, and difficult to stalk. Nilgai have a perfect combination of excellent eyesight, a strong sense of smell, and incredible hearing. Add to that the fact that they are quite thick around their vital organs and you've got a tough hunt all around. Most experienced guides have a minimum caliber restriction, usually one in the realm of .300 magnum.

The best part is that a good outfitter can put you on a big animal in all the right conditions, and you'll only have to travel to the Lone Star State to do it.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear Hunting

While there aren't a lot of options for hunting the Ursus arctos horribilis - Alaska, the Yukon, and parts of the Northern Territory provinces of Canada - the fact remains that the grizzly bear can have a standard weight of around 700 pounds. On the higher end, some members of the species can weigh well over 1,000 pounds. Don't let a first glance at a fat bear fool you, even the biggest ones can easily outrun you.

They are thick, muscular, and built for power and speed. In some areas rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns with slugs, or archery equipment can be used, but knowing what a grizzly bear can do and how difficult they are to bring down do you truly want to take a shot at one with a bow at less than 40 yards?


So, what is the largest game animal in North America? A Yukon moose or an elk perhaps? No, it is the American bison which can run upwards of 1,000 to 2,000 pounds on average. It is said that the .30-06 cartridge is the bare minimum for these powerful, unpredictable and potentially dangerous creatures. However, it's probably best to err on the safe side. You should really consider the .338 magnum or larger to take down a bison.

Alaskan or Yukon Bull Moose

toughest animals to bring down

It's true that some of the biggest bull moose ever taken are by bowhunters. This is a testament to the fact that we now possess some of the strongest, fastest archery equipment ever built, with kudos to the esteemed outfitter community.

The bull moose is second only to the bison in overall size and muscle. They can still be a handful to bring down at the moment of truth. A .30-06 Winchester magnum may well do the trick for many, but it is calibers such as the .300, .308, and up to the inimitable .375 Ruger that will stop a big bull from running so far that he will add miles to your pack out.

Cape Buffalo

With nicknames such as "Black Death" and "Widowmaker" you just knew that the black (Cape) buffalo would make this list. Since they can grow from 900 to an incredible 1,800 pounds or more, you might think that no creature would ever mess with one, but we do it all the same. You'll hear many hunters call the hunt for a Cape buffalo the most dangerous hunt on Earth. And they may be right given the quick temper of these animals.

The .375 is the standard for hunting cape buffalo, but most Cape buffalo hunters will ramp up their game with heavy beast calibers such as the .416 and the insanely powerful .458 to be on the safe side.

Lasting Impressions

There are many game animals that need a lot of power to bring down, especially when the hunter's life could be in danger otherwise. The fact is that we only want to bring our hunt to a quick and satisfying end by stopping our quarry in its tracks.

Most hunters will agree that they don't want to see wild game run for long and have zero desire for the animal to suffer either. Making sure it's a quick and ethical kill is part of the responsibility you take while hunting. The larger calibers along with today's modern ammunition types will make for hunts that do this with regularity, and that's something that we can all agree on.

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