Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like… you know. That thing with a tree, presents, and Santa, the season that the shopping malls begin to remind us of even before Thanksgiving. Most of us have our own rituals for the Christmas season, but sometimes you look at the mistletoe and chocolate display and feel a strange desire: why don’t I just get away from it all and go, like, hunting? Somewhere? Why not, indeed! We at BookYourHunt.com, the best online marketplace for hunting trips, would be the last people to talk you out of it.
We know, however, that it could be easier said than done. Most big-game hunting seasons in the Northern Hemisphere are closed or have passed their prime time. In the Southern Hemisphere, including such otherwise hunting tourism friendly destinations as Argentina and New Zealand, it’s not much better – up there they have the dead of summer, a time not entirely suitable for hunting. Still, here are a few ideas.
1. Mountain Lion Hunt over Hounds
Difficulty: Hard. Comfort: Rustic. Family: Probably no.
As mentioned, most big-game seasons in North America are over by Christmas, de-jure or de-facto. Yes, some hunters swear by late season mule deer season in Arizona, and others find cow elk hunts in the West a great and affordable option, but overall there’s little to be found. With one exception: mountain lion, a.k.a. puma. Winter snowfall offers the best environment for the exciting pursuit of the big cat with packs of hounds (read more about it in our blog story here). Two things to be borne in mind are: Mountain lion hunts are highly weather-dependent and are best performed in a ‘call-to-action’ manner – snow falls, outfitter calls, you come and go after the big cat. Second, most Western guides and outfitters don’t provide accommodation in their own lodges, and staying in roadside motels doesn’t always tick the boxes for a quality stay, especially if you’re traveling with your family.
2. Deer Hunting Lodge in Texas
Difficulty: Easy. Comfort: Max. Family: Yes
Hunting should always be taken seriously – after all, it’s literally a matter of life and death – but some hunts can be taken in a more relaxed manner than others. If you’ve had all the excitement you could stand from this turbulent year, you’ll want more comfort and less pressure, and if you’re planning an escape with your family, you want some extra entertainment for them, too. That’s a classic Texas deer ranch for you. You can set your sights on one of the famous big-antlered whitetails, or an exotic creature like nilgai, blackbuck, or axis deer, or even chase some pigs from a helicopter, the only two limits are sky and your credit card balance.
3. Along the Traplines in Canada
Difficulty: Medium. Comfort: Rustic. Family: Depends.
Have you ever been bitten by the bug of a trapper’s life in the wilds of the north? Have you spent half of your childhood flipping through old adventure books, and imagined living through the winter in a snow-covered cabin, skiing every day through the winter paradise, checking traplines? As an adult, you probably wouldn’t want to do it for a living, but our outfitters offer you a chance to get a taste of what it felt like. This is surely more than rustic, and will require from your family a certain preparedness to living under tough conditions, but what an adventure to tell their schoolmates about will it be!
4. Masailand Safari in Tanzania
Difficulty: Moderate. Comfort: Moderate. Family: Depends.
Generally speaking, Christmas time is not a very good time for African safaris. Across most of the continent, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, and a large part of South Africa, it’s simply too hot. But Africa is big, and there are at least three areas where mid-December to mid-January are great time for hunting: Ethiopia, northern Cameroon, and the Masailand region of Tanzania. The first two are not very suitable for a last minute getaway; the Masailand, by contrast, is one of the best places to be hunting in all Africa. The cradle of hunting safari business, it offers comfortable tent camps and outstanding hunting for both plains and dangerous game. The only disadvantage is that it’s not cheap, and the spoiled younger part of your family might find the camp a bit boring, but if you’ve ever wanted to walk in the boots of Hemingway’s characters or heroes of other safari classics, this is your chance.
5. Hunting Lodge in Eastern Cape
Difficulty: Easy. Comfort: Max. Family: Yes.
Wait a minute, didn’t we just say that summer is too hot for hunting in South Africa? Yes, generally so, but if you’re looking for an easy to plan, family-friendly, and affordable option during the Christmas break, there are parts of the country where it is doable. Not perfect, but would work. We mean the southernmost tip of the country – in particular, the Eastern Cape. Here, on the coast of the Indian Ocean, you can find manageable weather and excellent options for family entertainment, including beaches, historic sites, game viewing excursions, and a variety of other things, not to mention high-quality cuisine, outstanding local wines, and comfortable lodging.
6. Driven Hunt in Eastern Europe.
Difficulty: Easy. Comfort: Max. Family: Yes.
Hunting during Christmas break in Europe is a long tradition, although it’s comparatively low-key and more focused on rediscovering old roots and having a good time with old mates than on harvesting amazing trophies. While trophy hunting opportunities do exist, in the Old World the time around Christmas is the season for driven hunts. Such hunts take place all over the continent, but experts agree you get the most bang for your buck in Eastern Europe, including but not limited to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Participating in one of those driven hunt is an experience you’ll never regret: it’s about tradition, ritual and camaraderie, but it’s also about excitement, responsibility, and challenging shots at running game. Season it with a service at a centuries-old church, traditional Christmas bazaars, the smell of cinnamon and bier, perhaps an opera or museum, and the recipe for a perfect Christmas break getaway is complete.
7. Ibex Hunt in Spain
Difficulty: Medium. Comfort: Max. Family: Yes.
In winter, sheep and goats descend to lower altitudes, and become easier to access; in addition, all the four subspecies of ibex in Spain have the rut from mid-November to mid-December, so with luck you can even catch some late rutting activity. In short, Christmas break is a good enough time to hunt ibex in Spain. Alternatively, you can target chamois, which would be a little more difficult, or aoudad, which is a bit easier. There are a number of mountain ranges in Spain which differ in climatic conditions, so check with your outfitter what kind of clothes and gear you’re going to need. Depending on where you hunt, you’ll be in reasonable proximity to one of Spain’s great cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, with their cultural and historical attractions; the hunt could be, with some effort, mated to an Alpine skiing vacation. In any case, your non-hunting companions will have enough diversion to keep them entertained.
The options above are not the only ones, and there are other choices for an excellent hunting getaway during the Christmas break. If you think there’s something we missed, do tell us in the comments. Or simply go to the search page on BookYourHunt.com, enter the dates for your hunt, the destination and/or species that interest you, and find your own way to break away from the crowd and meet the New Year on the hunter’s path!