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In the early 1900s nobody would have bet much on the survival of the antelope, one of the continent's most prized trophies. Meat hunters did their dirty work, and by 1924 the total population of all antelope in the U.S. was estimated at only 26,000, with perhaps 5,000 more scattered in Mexico and Canada. But then the conservationists moved in, and they did such a good job that this year Montana alone has issued permits to take 32,310 antelope. Pronghorn hunting will also be good to excellent in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Antelope populations in Texas and Nebraska are at a peak. South Dakota predicts fine hunting again this year after deliberately reducing its herds from 28,000 to 26,000 in 1961.
Mountain sheep this year will be just as elusive as ever, but there are more of them, and the hunter who is willing to climb a mountain or two may find that his luck has changed at last. Colorado, Montana and Wyoming promise better than average sheep hunting, and Arizona and Idaho predict excellent chances for success. Dall sheep continue to do well in Alaska with the best hunting in the Brooks and Alaska ranges. Barbary sheep populations in New Mexico exceed 3,000 this year, all from an original nucleus of 10 transplanted from North Africa only a decade ago. The animals are doing so well that the state is issuing 400 permits this season and suggests best hunting along the Canadian River.
Mountain goats are almost as difficult to stalk as sheep and almost as highly prized by hunters. There are open seasons this year in four states ( Alaska, Montana, Idaho and Washington), and the outlook in all is good to excellent. Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah (which also has a resident open season on bison) offer limited hunting of moose with surprisingly optimistic forecasts, but the real mecca for moose hunters is Alaska. From now until winter freeze-ups make hunting impossible, moose will be abundant in every part of the state, and record-class heads seem to be the rule.
In fact, hunting for all big game species in Alaska has rarely been better. Caribou arc so plentiful that hunters can drive up to herds of 80,000 in central Alaska, or, if they want to fly, they can take their pick of another 300,000 farther north.
Giant brown bears, synonymous with Alaska as far as many hunters are concerned, offer exceptionally good hunting this season on the Alaska peninsula, Kodiak Island and throughout the southeastern part of the state. Plane surveys indicate that polar bear numbers are up in the Arctic, but hunters will have to wait until winter ice breaks up next spring. There are no grizzly bears in Alaska, at least according to some authorities, but for some reason the grizzlies haven't yet got the word and hunting prospects are excellent in the 49th state. Nongrizzly hunting is inland, and some of the best is in the Rainy Pass area.
Wyoming's and Montana's modest grizzly populations are about the same as last year, with hunting only fair by Alaskan standards. Black bears, on the other hand, are in excellent supply across the U.S., with good hunting in the northern states and in Florida and Georgia. Most of the black bears taken this year will be bonuses. Hunters don't usually go out specifically for blacks, but they sometimes happen upon them while hunting other game. With 17 different kinds of big game to lure sportsmen into the field this fall, black bears have good reason to be nervous.