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September 17, 1956
A preseason report from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's outdoor correspondents on where and how to find the nation's top big game hunting trophies
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September 17, 1956

America's Big Game Favorites

A preseason report from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's outdoor correspondents on where and how to find the nation's top big game hunting trophies

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If the meat is to be eaten—and it is excellent—be sure to remove the scent glands or they will foul the meat.

Across their 32-state range, black bear Continue to do well. Only New Mexico, Louisiana and Wyoming report decreases. New York, North Carolina, Utah and Vermont all show increases. Regular seasons prevail in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington (with some areas open all year), West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Elsewhere the black bear will be hunted year round in Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina and Utah. Seasons are closed in Alabama, Kentucky, Maryland and New Jersey, and populations are stable. Black bears are even cropping up where they're not supposed to be. A Connecticut farmer last week reported unexpectedly meeting one in a bramble patch behind his property. And everyone knows there are no bears in Connecticut.

The future of the blackie's big brothers, the brown and grizzly, is not as bright. The brown bear, which once rambled over much more of the U.S., today is found only in Idaho, Montana, New Mexico and Wyoming. These last two states report populations dwindling although hunting is still permitted. Idaho, with hunting legal all year, and Montana, with a regular season, report populations static. The grizzly can only be hunted in Montana and Wyoming. Colorado, with a handful, and Idaho protect them year round.

An estimated 25,000 bears will be killed in the 27 bear-hunting states during the 1956 season. Of these, all but about 100 will be members of the black bear family. Most of them will be taken by hunters seeking other big game (usually deer) in areas where bear are also found. For all but very large black bears, brown bears or grizzlies, the average deer rifle is adequate. But only a good marksman, certain of the shot he makes and of his weapon, should tackle bear. Wounded, even the usually docile black bear becomes a formidable enemy. Popular big bear rifles are the .300 Weatherby Magnum, the .375 H&H Magnum, .300 H&H Magnum and .348 Winchester.

Idaho remains the top elk state with its population of 60,000, and this year some 45,000 hunters will kill 9,000 animals in that state alone.

Bigger herds are building up in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon, and elk in Virginia have been pronounced stable enough to permit a November season on regular license for the first time in years.

Other hot elk spots are Montana, which has a population of 52,000, Colorado (50,000) and Wyoming, with 37,000. Seasons will also be opening in the next few months in Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and New Mexico.

California and South Dakota have been forced to close their seasons this year due to herd decreases. Seasons are also closed in Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Harder to bag than deer, the elk is better tasting and carries a bigger rack of antlers. One of America's top trophies, it attracts thousands of out-of-state hunters to its range every year.

It is almost essential to use horses in pursuing elk due to their tendency to roam and the weight of the carcass. The elk hunter should use a gun that is accurate and punishing at extreme ranges.

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