Hunting in the USA
Hunting big game in the United States is extremely varied due to the different terrain, weather and habitat found across the country. Its 3,796,742 square miles encompass mountains, valleys, seas, lakes, canyons, and rivers that support an immense amount of big game. Whitetail deer are the most popular game animal in the United States. They are found in almost all the lower 48 states. Other popular animals include wild boar, bison, turkey, pronghorn antelope, Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep wolf, cougar, and black bear.
Some of the top states for hunting big game in the United States are listed below.
Bear – Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, Wisconsin (northern)
Montana is probably the best state for black bear spot-and-stalk hunting in the lower 48. There are approximately 18,000 bears in the state, and if the hunter is willing to backpack into the backcountry the odds of success are quite good. Alaska is the number one destination for black bear hunting. There are over 100,000 black bears in the state, and a hunter can take up to three bears per year. Brown bears inhabit the coastal lands and islands. Grizzly bears are located throughout Alaska.
Cougar – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Texas Washington
Cougar hunting is legal in thirteen states. Each state has its own regulations, limits, and reporting requirements. For instance, Texas considers cougars to be varmints and has no restrictions or reporting requirements. Efforts to exterminate cougars have resulted in their virtual elimination in the eastern two-thirds of the USA.
Cougar, or mountain lion, hunting can be fairly difficult, even with dogs. Most hunting with dogs takes place during the early spring or over the winter when there can be snow on the ground which will aid in tracking. In the south or southwest, this won’t work as well due to the lack of snow. In an area free of snow, sometimes a hunter can climb to the elevation where the game travel and locate lions that are hunting the game. If the tracks take you near civilization look for areas with no human activity.
Deer – Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin
Texas has the most deer of any state – whitetail, mule, blacktail, and various rare species – a total of 5.5 million. Wisconsin is second with 1.6 million. It’s rated number one in the Boone and Crockett record book for the top whitetail. Alaska only has Sitka deer at the moment, but mule deer and whitetail deer are moving through western Canada and are expected to venture into Alaska soon. Deer hunters are encouraged to contact Alaska Fish and Game for further information.
Elk – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Arizona has very good elk hunting. However, it can take years to draw a tag. Nevada has excellent elk hunting, and a hunter can buy a landowner permit. Wyoming is fairly easy to draw a tag in with high success rates on public lands. Their grizzly areas hold some very large bulls, but the hunter might have some company of the furry type. Washington and California are good destinations for harvesting Roosevelt or Tulle elk. Washington has a large amount of public land to hunt, while California elk are mostly on private land.
Hog – Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas
The US is home to more than 9 million feral hogs, and there are hunting experiences all across the nation. Many states have year-round hunting with either no bag limits or very large limits. All hogs in the USA are a mixture of domestic swine that were allowed to roam free and some European wild boar. Hogs are prolific breeders; two litters a year are quite normal. They are expanding exponentially and are responsible for more than $2 billion in yearly crop damage. Mature boars grow a shield of cartilage that protects their chest and neck area by acting like armor. They also will sport a wonderful set of tusks that can make for some interesting moments when hunting them. This author had the rare and dubious privilege of watching a 30-06 bullet fail to penetrate a hog’s shoulder. It just took a tad bit of hair off the shoulder; didn’t seem to affect Mr. Hog in the least. A 240-grain piece of lead from a 44 Magnum DID get his attention.
One interesting way to hunt hogs is by using thermal night vision. Another method for the dedicated hog hunter is to check out helicopter hog hunting in Texas. With the alarming rise of the feral hog population, aerial depredation aids in reducing hog numbers.
Turkey – Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas
Alabama has a turkey population approaching 500,000 birds. About 40,000 of them are harvested yearly. The state’s limits are five birds in the spring or fall seasons – very generous limits. Florida is the only state where a hunter can bag an Osceola from a population of over 100,000 birds. Kansas is home to the World Turkey Hunting Championship and has around 300,000 birds of which half are Rio Grandes. Kansas has a Walk-in Hunting Area (WIA) program that leases private land for public hunting access. Kentucky has plenty of public areas to hunt Easterns which makes it a great destination for out-of-state hunters. Missouri has an annual harvest of 50,000 Eastern turkeys and allows possession of two bearded birds. Plus, there’s lots of public land hunting in the state. Nebraska has three subspecies of turkeys – Rio, Eastern, and Merriam. Finding public land to hunt on in Tennessee is fairly easy, and the odds of finding a bird on public land are good. The state should be on the shortlist for non-resident hunters. Texas offers Rio Grande, Eastern, and Merriam with the Rio being predominant. The bulk of the state’s hunts is guided or semi-guided.
Pronghorn Antelope – Colorado, Montana, Wyoming
It is said that Wyoming has as many Pronghorns as inhabitants. The herd is said to consist of over 400,000 animals. The state is the best for drawing a tag. Some hunting units are under-subscribed, and tags can just be purchased over the counter. All three states have a great deal of BLM land, and much of this acreage is open for hunting.
Only five states allow free-range bison hunts in the United States: Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. However, tags and permits for these hunts are almost impossible to obtain. Some private ranches in other states offer bison hunts. Bison are herd animals and aren’t afraid of much. Approaching a herd on the open range is relatively simple. However, it takes a fair bit of work to pick out a trophy animal at a reasonable distance. Average shots should be no more than 150 yards. The size of the gun isn’t as important as the ability to put a shot in the proper area. A bison can be put down quite quickly with a shot two to three inches behind the ear.
Hunting Exotic Animals in the USA
The top five destinations for exotic hunts in the USA are Texas, New Mexico, Maine, Florida, and Ohio. A partial list of animals runs from Aoudad to Zebra. Texas has over a million non-native animals belonging to 125 species on over 5,000 ranches. Animals from Asia, Europe, Africa, and India enjoy the habitat in the Lone Star State. The exotic animal industry in the US exceeded $2 billion dollars last year. Some of the endangered animals of the world are much more numerous on US exotic ranches than in their homeland.
Each state in the USA has its own hunting regulations. Also, within individual states, hunting styles, gear, and types of clothing can change. Stand hunting can call for heavy, warm clothing while spot-and-stalk hunting would be better served by layers of clothing. It’s possible for the beginning hunter or the expert to find a large number of hunts and a plentiful selection of game animals. Because hunting regulations are closely enforced, it’s a good idea to obtain a copy of the hunting regulations for the state you wish to hunt. The state’s fish and game department will have a copy of the rules on its website.
Visiting hunters from other countries
Visiting hunters must have a passport that is valid for at least six months from their planned departure from the USA, and those who are using the Visa Waiver Program will need an e-passport. Importing firearms requires the visitor to obtain a federal permit in advance of their arrival. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE) handles the permits. All states require that a hunter has a state-issued hunting license to hunt in that state. Some states accept a valid license from your home country The United States is a safe destination that is easy to get to from nearly anywhere in the world.
There’s every type of hunting available in the United States from stand hunting for deer, to chasing hogs with dogs.