Favorite Photos of 2023

By Zack Boughton, SG Director of Content

Each year our small team tackles the wild with cameras in tow, finding unique glimpses into the world of hunting. The men in front of the camera are dedicated hunters, eager to embrace the grind, willing to put in the work even when the odds are stacked towards failure. The men behind the camera, hunters themselves, are able to help and not hinder as the shutter clicks and the hunt unfolds. With every calendar year, tens of thousands of edited images get uploaded and reviewed.

Photo hunting collage

Photography is an art. The perspective, angle and lighting are to be admired or despised by those who view it. With so many images, picking a favorite or favorites is tough. But narrowing it down helps refine the eye, looking for the small details that hold the gaze a minute longer or pull an extra string in our soul.

The following are ten of my favorite images from last year, in no particular order. Picking ten feels a bit cheap given the depth of the work provided us, but I figured a small glimpse into some of the brilliance is worthwhile.

Mule deer hunter with mountain mule deer on hunting pack📷 Philip Vaughan | @philip.vaughan

From the second I saw this image, I loved it. To me it speaks to the whole hunt. All the time, the energy, the work, the patience, and it ends here. Posted up, eyes closed, soaking up the sun and reflecting on a successful hunt. Popular trailheads are usually a bit active, high paced and frantic as people circle up kids and dogs and head up trail. This is the opposite, calm and quiet, similar to what hunting is much of the time.

Moose hunter with Alaskan moose on hunting pack📷 Sam Averett | @samaverett

Finding angles this unique and eye-catching can be a challenge but Sam has always had an eye for the quirk of a unique piece of the wild, in this case a beaver pond. For me this image forces a pause and makes the eye wander. To understand what you’re looking at takes a minute, and this was provoked not only by the image but also the edit. The photo was taken in a flipped version, but the best way to view it is as you see it. We see the image the way Sam intended us to see it, and it kicks some serious ass.

Bear hunter on boat on Alaskan bear hunting trip📷 Travis Boughton | @tjboughton

It’s not often a top 10 image for me isn’t hunt-focused, but this one breaks that mold. We all know a hunt is more than just the pursuit, it’s the entire experience. For me this image captures the grit of the people and lifestyle of SE Alaska. It’s wet, a bit grainy, and badass. It has a “headless horsemen” vibe, and I love it.

Alaskan wild sheep hunting📷 Daniel Vastyan | @transientoutdoorsman

I’ve seen some images like this over the years, but this one does it better and holds a true “connection” feel to it. Man at the top, a wild landscape in the background, the animal pursued, and the basics of life below, fire and food. The framing is solid and there’s enough going on here to make the viewer spend a minute and take it all in.

Mule deer hunter with mountain mule deer on hunting pack📷 Philip Vaughan | @philip.vaughan

To me this is one of those dream moments in hunting. A big buck on top of a full pack, a glimpse back onto the mountains that provided, and the day fading with a last burst of light and energy. A fitting send-off and a moment we all look forward to.

Bull elk📷 Sam Averett | @samaverett

This photo doesn’t jump off the screen at you, but I love the image. It’s a sort of a nod of the cap to the hunt and the landscape. The elk is really just the attractant that brings us here and makes us appreciate wild places. It’s a different style of trophy photo and one that better reflects the bulk of the experience.

Mountain hunter with mountain hunting tent📷 Daniel Vastyan | @transientoutdoorsman

There’s a lot of staged “feel the pain” photos in the hunting industry. You can sniff them out easy, and for me this is why I love this photo. Our hunter is packing a ram back to camp, but you can barely see it. The lighting isn’t amazing, there’s no epic backdrop; it’s just a frame capturing the pain we all know too well. Our camp or truck in sight but one more break forces us to stop, to breathe, and to find that last bit of energy despite only a short distance left before us. There’s not a lot of struggle photos I like, but this one I can feel.

Mule deer hunter bowhunting mule deer📷 Philip Vaughan | @philip.vaughan

This was the goal of this shoot: capture an archer at full draw on a high-country buck. Only a very deadly duo has produced as often as these two, and again they made magic. A true DIY giant, inside 50 yards, an arrow about to take flight. It’s a testament to the quality of hunters we get to call friends and colleagues and part of what makes working at Stone Glacier a dream. Unfortunately, this image requires a large space to view it best but it’s an easy top 10 for any year of images.

Elk hunter with bull elk📷 Sam Averett | @samaverett

It’s not so much that this image is unique, more so that it’s so relatable. It’s a fire in camp after a successful hunt. Looking at the image, it pops. The clean sharpness embodying the presence needed to fill the tag. The second part, the smoke, the floaty feeling — partially beer-induced — of being successful and happy.

Elk hunter with bull elk on hunting pack📷 Philip Vaughan | @philip.vaughan

I like this image because you can feel the brush. It wants to snap free of the antlers and hit you in the face. If you hunt elk long enough, you’ll have success and getting a rack through certain terrain can require some extra effort and language. This image captures the feeling well.