Many of those reading this story probably have some experience hunting, whether it’s white-tailed deer, black bear, or any of the incredible game animals available in North America. But what you can hunt every year could be someone else’s unicorn. I am lucky to hunt elk every year – spotting them, tracking them, watching them through a scope, and so on.
But if you are from Florida, the idea of seeing an elk or even hunting one may be just a pipe dream for a distant future hunt. Today, we’ll embrace that dream and jump down the rabbit hole with both feet. How far we go depends only on your ambition.
A Ghost in the Clouds
My dream hunt might be different than yours, but I’ll bet it shares some of the same attributes. It begins at the very end of the world, up around the tree line where the air is thin and weather uncertain. I’m talking about high country strewn with dark wet clouds filled with sinister motives. A place so remote you may question the safety of every step, and yet it’s so beautiful nothing can keep you from cresting the next hill to see what lies ahead.
I dream of a Dall sheep hunt up north. The romantic draw to such a wild place consumes the dreams I still have left. I have been lucky to experience some of the wildest country the lower 48 has to offer and just enough of Alaska to want everything it has to offer.
The wild and unsettled mountains of the north is where I imagine myself chasing after these incredible animals. I want to experience steep mountain ridges that take days to climb and chase after an animal that can evaporate from view in seconds. But what gun would I take on this adventure?
The rifle I would take on such a hunt absolutely needs to be lightweight. It would likely have a carbon-fiber chassis, a carbon-wrapped barrel, and, if possible, a lightweight titanium or aluminum action. While I’d obviously want a strong and rugged rifle, it will not likely be used to fire more than a few shots. The rifle I have in mind is the Proof Research Glacier Ti. It comes in at 5 pounds, 5 ounces with a built-in scope base. The rifle is just perfect for a Dall sheep hunt. It’s guaranteed to be accurate, and I’d have it in a caliber like 6.5 PRC just in case the sheep are out at a good distance.
I’d couple the rifle with a good scope like the Leupold VX-6HD. It’s a moderate-sized scope but not so big as to weigh down the whole operation. A magnification level of 3-18x is a good range for hunting scopes, and the robust large tube and lenses should produce a good image despite harsh weather conditions. That is the kind of rifle I’d want alongside for the hunt of a lifetime – light, accurate, and rugged, just like the ghostly sheep I’d be chasing.
Shadows in the Forest
There’s another elusive creature that many hunters never get the chance to see, but his eyes have surely watched you as you stalk through the woods. Perhaps you have felt it deep in the dark places surrounded by deadfall, where an eerie sense of caution floats on silent air. If you’re lucky, you might see a cougar’s long tail as it hides its shape in the forest.
But for the dedicated hunters who choose to pursue these beautiful predators, finding shadow cats is almost a way of life. I count myself lucky to have been on the trail of a lion. It’s intense and exhausting. For a challenging hunt like this, a proper firearm can be an incredible asset.
Here in the Rocky Mountains, it’s nearly impossible to get on a cougar without hounds, at least if you want to find one on purpose. Both the cat and dogs will take you on a chase. So for a hunt like this, I would carry one of two options.
Cougars aren’t particularly hard to kill. A good-sized pistol caliber is plenty to take one down. My choice would probably be a .44 Magnum, such as the compact Henry Big Boy lever gun. Small lever guns are great for working through thick timber, where snow can be waist deep. If you’re carrying a bunch of other gear, you don’t want to have an overwhelming firearm. You want something strong and quick to get on target or reload. This brings me to my next suggestion.
Cougar hunting might be cumbersome enough to leave your rifle in the truck, so many folks opt for a handgun instead. After dragging a lion out of frozen creeks and deep snow, I can completely understand that reasoning. I would choose something like a Ruger GP100 or Super Redhawk, probably chambered in .357 Magnum. Cougar shots are typically not too far, so a good revolver or a short rifle should do the trick. Anything comparable to the calibers listed will work.
Hard to Draw
Cold, stony mountains are the haunt of this next dream hunt. The views and climbs are unprecedented. Those afraid of heights will have to check their fears as they leave the truck and take a deep breath of thin air. The last mountain goat hunt I went on was an incredible adventure and had me stepping over cliff edges that dropped for thousands of feet. Glassing goat after goat while looking for just the right animal, I had to be sure the one I shot wouldn’t involuntarily descend the thousands of feet I just crossed over.
You're probably thinking, “Why couldn’t he just use the same rifle as the Dall sheep hunt?” Well, I could, but life is about choices. If I draw a mountain goat tag, you can bet I’ll use it as an excuse to get another choice rifle. Mountain goats are not as difficult to hunt as other species in my experience, but they do involve some serious walking through the clouds. So my goat gun would definitely not be heavy, and it would probably be in a non-magnum caliber.
You could probably drop a mountain goat in its tracks with a .243 without any issues. But because I get to choose, I’d choose a .25-06 like the Weatherby Vanguard. If I’d just gotten paid, I’d likely choose the Sako 85 Grey Wolf. With a rifle like that, I’d throw a good little scope on it like the Sig Sauer Sierra 6. The 2-12x magnification is plenty to pick out the bright white coats, and I could use the BDX feature with my Sig rangefinder. These guns would leave me completely confident that this rare hunt would end with great memories and satisfaction.
Make Your Own Dream Hunt
I hope I haven’t bored you with my dream hunts. Instead, I hope I inspired you to chase your own hunt of a lifetime. Whether you like my choices or not, I hope you pick the right equipment for your hunt and keep dreaming big.