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What's considered big game?


Big Game Hunting
The author Ernest Hemingway was famous for hunting big game. He posed for the cover of Picture Post with a dead leopard.
The author Ernest Hemingway was famous for hunting big game. He posed for the cover of Picture Post with a dead leopard.
Earl Theisen/Picture Post/IPC Magazines/Getty Images

Just as the list of big game varies from place to place, so do the regulations and permits for huntin­g. Big game hunting in the United States is done on public and privately owned wilderness hunting regions during a specific time frame called open season, with or without a professional hunter as a guide. Each state determines when and where hunting is allowed, as well as who is able to hunt -- states impose age limits and kill limits (known as tag limits), place residency restrictions on hunters and restrict the total number of permits issued. They also regulate the hunting season to specific times of day and months of the year. Nebraska, for example, issues different types of big game hunting permits to residents, resident landowners and nonresidents. All hunters must wear hunter orange clothing for safety, and hunters as young as 12 years old are eligible to hunt some types of big game when accompanied by an adult -- there's no age limit for turkey hunting.

Choosing the right weapon depends on where you're hunting, what you're hunting and what you're comfortable firing. Local governments designate legally acceptable weapons for killing animals on the big game list, including archery rules and caliber types for firearms (shotguns, rifles, semi-automatics and muzzleloading rifles). Bigger isn't always better when it comes to guns, and in many instances, it's not the weapon used but where the animal is hit that brings it down. Regardless of the weapon, hunters must obey local firearms laws -- which vary from state to state.

Hunting big game in Africa is a different experience from U.S. hunting. Tourists accompany professional hunters on safaris that include amenities such as meals, lodging, transportation, tracking and field-guide services, hunting licenses and field trophies.

In a report of the 2003-2004 season, 6,700 tourists in Africa killed nearly 54,000 animals [source: Tsui]. Much of the appeal of hunting in Africa comes from the allure of dangerous game. Tourists can choose from hunting trips in national game reserves or in private game ranches. Game available for hunting on privately owned land outnumbers what's available on government lands by more than two to one [source: Mkhamba Safaris].

Controversial in both Africa and in the United States are canned hunts and trophy hunts, where hunters pay big bucks for the privilege of killing rare or exotic animals on private hunting reserves. Canned hunts guarantee kills because they typically take place on small, enclosed lands. Trophy hunters compete for the prestige of killing rare animals and often sell hides, tusks, body parts and bodies to interested parties, including museums. The controversy is with both hunters and with animal rights activists. The latter are opposed to shooting animals within small enclosures; the former oppose hunts that don't involve a fair chase. There are no laws against canned hunting other than those imposed by local governments.

To learn more about hunting and fishing, please see the next page.