Every year, Senior Western Correspondent Lance Stapleton seeks out some North American hunting options for readers who failed to draw a permit or had other fall hunting plans evaporate. Here is Stapleton's first set of replacement-hunt recommendations for 2012. He'll have more for you throughout the summer.
This month I contacted two booking agencies I trust to see what last-minute openings they had for hunters who failed to draw permits in the lotteries for western hunts this year. I was especially looking for both trophy quality and high hunter success, and was surprised to find some excellent discounts as well! Here are a half-dozen great hunts for some of the most sought after big game in North America. But you will need to contact these agents immediately because these hunts won't last long. They are just that good! Cliff Graham of Hunting Consultants Unlimited (724-538-8686; www.besthunts.net) suggested an elk and/or mule deer hunt with guaranteed permits in Colorado on a 21,000-acre ranch located north of Craig at elevations between 7,500 to 9,000 feet. This ranch is registered in the Ranching For Wildlife Program, and liberal seasons allow you to hunt either during the elk rut in September or in November (when migrating elk congregate on the ranch) or during the mule deer rut. Last fall, 37 elk hunters killed 34 bulls averaging 240 to 250 points, and 32 deer hunters took 31 bucks averaging around 160 inches. The best elk scored 285 points; three bucks scored over 180, including a massive 5x6 buck that scored 205 points. Even though this is not normally a physical hunt, older hunters should consider the late hunts (mid-November to early December) when the game moves into the most accessible country on the ranch. The four-star lodge is extremely comfortable and includes an open bar and great food. Typically, they host from six to eight hunters a week, but can accommodate up to 10. This 2x1 guided hunt is priced at $4,000 for either the elk or mule deer, but the real surprise is the combo hunt pricing at only $5,500. Although the permit is guaranteed, you........(continued)