Where to Hunt: The Best States for Hunting 

Where to Hunt: The Best States for Hunting 

-By Everett Headley

For the hunter looking for something different than hunting their home state, or preferred species, you don't have to travel far or wreck the home budget.  You will need to do good research to understand the draw systems for each state and licenses required. Asking veteran hunters what gear, camouflage, and conditions to plan for will greatly enhance your experience. For those who hunt with primitive weapons (archery and muzzleloading) there are many more hunts available with more favorable draw rates.  

We are blessed in this country with an abundance of wild places and wild game.  The diversity of habitats, challenges, and experiences leave a sportsmen a lifetime of opportunities. 

South Dakota Spring Snow Goose 

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There are few migrations more impressive than the millions of birds returning north to the tundra in the spring.  While not a hunting season, the Light Goose Conservation Order provides an extremely liberal hunt.  An average day will be 30-50 birds per hunter and days of 100 geese are seen several times over the long season.  Semi-guided snow goose hunts provide scouted location and the thousands of decoys and socks needed to have a good hunt and are reasonably priced.  For the collector, a snow goose, blue morph snow goose, and Ross’s goose should be not problem.  Finding a Blue morph-Ross’s hybrid is akin to a unicorn and only a few are ever reduced to hand each year.

Idaho Black Bear

Idaho’s bear spring bear hunts are a great way to knock the rust off after a long winter.  An increasing population of black bears and ample public land combine for an unrivaled experience in the lower 48.  Idaho allows for baiting bears which allows for more selective harvest and a better survey of local bears.  However, that doesn’t mean that  this is an easy hunt.  Setting and maintaining a barrel is hard work that requires diligent monitoring.  Baiting allows for a very intimate look at bear behaviors as they come in to feed and interact with other bears.  Idaho offers inexpensive licenses and further reduced price licenses for areas in the eastern portion of the state. 

Wyoming Antelope

There is no disputing the sovereignty of Wyoming as king of all places to hunt pronghorn antelope.  My favorite species to hunt and dine on, hunting antelope is always a priority in my fall.  Wyoming has more antelope than the next five states combined and the hunting opportunity for all levels of experience.  For those new to western big game hunting, this is your entrance ticket. You will need to learn how draw systems work and how to plan the logistics of travel, meat care, and gear management.  Antelope licenses are also the least expensive of big game.  What you come home with is the finest fare you will ever harvest, if you use good field and table care.  Wyoming is also full of western history and geological wonders.  I recommend if you fill a tag early you stay and explore these. As a total package, Wyoming antelope hunting is unbeatable.

Alaskan Caribou

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This is big country and only reveals itself once you immerse yourself.  Planning a trip on a map does not do justice to just what it takes to fly, drive, or boat to your destination.  For those that are able to brave that unknown, what awaits is a landscape as pristine as you will find anywhere in North America.  My suggestion for those who have not hunted Alaska is to begin with caribou. These herds are closely monitored and local biologists can be a great help in getting pointed in the right direction. Recently opportunity and herd populations have declined, but there is a rebound on the horizon.  Most hunters and sportsmen will fly in which will limit gear options and you may need to supply once on the ground which can be expensive. Alaska’s other big game species make this a destination that could be new for many years of return trips.

Texas Exotics

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Texas is 97% private land with just a few public land areas.  However, ranches across the state have engaged in conservation of local species (whitetail, small game), but also provide the chance to pursue species from around the world that most of us only see in zoos.  A quick internet search will find pricing and species to suit any budget and experience. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has several drawn hunts available for under $10 for exotic hunts.   

North Carolina Turkeys

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This might be my favorite sleep state for southeast turkey hunting.  Cool mornings and plenty of birds make this a very enjoyable hunt. Only the scream of a bugling elk can compare to a tom answering a gobble from a mile distant and closing in for a fight.  All a hunter needs to get started is really a shotgun, but adding a call and decoy to your kit will greatly increase your chance at bringing a gobbler close. After a successful day of chasing turkeys, there’s little better than finding a small town diner and having authentic North Carolina style barbecue.  North Carolina turkey hunting opens in early April, but Florida’s season begins in March and some western states continue into June.  

Whether you add these hunts to your list or find others, I suggest you focus first on the experience, second on the species, and third on the method.

Hunting is a personal endeavor and our motives are unique and blended.  With minimal planning and a reasonable budget, you’ll find plenty of hunts to fill your seasons. 

About the Author: Everett Headley is an outdoor writer and educator.  He was raised hunting and fishing in Montana.  He lives in the Bitterroot with his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Cane, and his peregrine falcon, Freyja.  You can find more of his work on his professional page, on Instagram and his podcast Elevate the Hunt.

Related: Dove Hunting Gear Guide for BeginnersGear Tips for Your Spring Turkey Hunt, What Are Hunter Eyes And How To Develop Them