USA Hunting and what it has to Offer
Many hunters feel that being born and living in the United States of America is one of the greatest privileges we have been given!! Second only to that is having the right to hunt freely in this great nation. Here in the USA we have a plethora of hunting opportunities to choose from. Between big game, small game, waterfowl, predator and bird hunting, plus many others, we have multiple avenues in which to pursue this sport. In this article, hopefully many of the numerous choices available in the USA will be revealed.
HOBBY OR JOB??
It has been estimated recently that there are almost 15 million hunters involved in this sport, including men, women and children. And it is a sport. Although many hunters consider this more than a hobby or sport, they will tackle hunting with a passion usually not seen with leisure activity.
FINDING LAND: FAMILY AND FRIENDS
One of the common questions for hunters is “How do I go about finding land to hunt?” One of the easiest (and luckiest) ways to obtain hunting rights is by having family that owns hunting property. Friends and associates are another really good source for finding land. In years past, one commonly used method for finding hunting land was to go door to door, negotiating permission to hunt for services or work provided. Even though this is sometimes successful, this trend has become less used as property owners have become more skeptical.
If the family and friends option hasn’t worked, there are always various types of hunting clubs looking for new members across most states at different price ranges. They will also have different club regulations (not including each state’s regulations) regarding harvesting, antler restrictions and “per hunter” limits specific to each private club. Joining a hunting club has it’s positives and negatives. You get to mesh with other hunters with like views and it can be rewarding when a club pulls together as a team, both physically and mentally. A hunting club can have negative aspects when individual egos get in the way of their goal of every one working together. This can frequently happen when clubs become too large.
HUNTING LAND LEASE
There are multiple ways of leasing land for hunting. In recent years the trend has been for more and more websites to list hunting properties across the country. For hunters, this can be accomplished by individuals or by joining like-minded friends who want pool their resources. Hunting lease prices per acre may vary greatly from area to area, region to region or state to state. This depends greatly on hunter demand, game quality and game harvest records. A hunting lease can be very specific or not. For instance, a hunting lease can run for an entire year with the lessee being able to harvest all legal state game. Then again, other leases may limit hunters to harvesting specific game, i.e.: duck hunting, deer hunting, turkey hunting, bear hunting, etc. As stated above, these USA hunting leases may be only for a year, but, in some cases hunters may be able to negotiate a multi-year contract, which can be very desirable. This allows hunters to become very familiar with the leased land, which is always an advantage. Most lessors advertise a set price (such as, $12/acre), but some large corporations use a bidding process over several months, with the highest bidder winning the lease.
HUNTING OUTFITTERS AND GUIDES
If for various reasons these methods listed above have not worked out or are not your choice, another option is to hire a hunting guide or outfitter. Prices for this type of hunting vary greatly depending on services provided, state or region hunted and type of game hunted. A good outfitter or guide can arrange for semi-guided hunts, where they basically point the client in the right direction on land they have access to. Or they provide the hunter with a turn-key package, where the outfitter provides a personal guide, transportation, lodging arrangements, meals and other activities. In most cases both types of hunts provide the client help with game retrieval, possessing, shipping and any taxidermy (if needed or wanted).
PUBLIC LAND HUNTING
Last, but not least as on option is the use of public hunting land. In the U.S., there are many millions of acres of both state and federal public hunting properties. Generally speaking, the eastern section of the United States that has a higher general population will usually have more hunting pressure on game lands and government property. But, this in itself should not make eastern USA public hunting less desirable. Many trophy harvests have been taken on eastern public lands if the hunter is willing to get off the beaten path. In comparison, it goes to say that the western section of the USA and Alaska has some of the best public hunting land in the world!! There are multiple ways of finding public hunting lands on the web. One of the best methods is going to each individual state’s hunting resource page and checking for detailed public hunting land information. It is possible to find public hunting land with so little pressure that the hunter can have an entire trip without seeing other hunters.
BIG GAME HUNTING
Because whitetail deer are such a savvy big game animal and dispersed across most of the continental USA, it is one of the most widely hunted (and enjoyed). The whitetail deer rut is a spectacular event that takes place generally in the fall and winter depending on which state is hunted. Based on BOONE AND CROCKETT trophy whitetail deer records, the mid-west area of the USA is the prime location for awesome whitetail bucks. Mule deer hunting in the western and Rocky Mountain region of the country is another formidable foe to pursue. Sometimes hunters may even find mule deer and whitetails coexisting in the same regions.
Another big game animal eagerly sought by hunters is the magnificent elk. The majestic bugling mating call of the bull elk is a thing of beauty to the eagerly waiting hunter. One of the largest by size big game animals hunted in the USA is the moose. They are primarily located in the northern states, the Rocky Mountain region and Alaska. The charge of the bull moose has tested the nerves of many a hunter and observer over the years.
Prong horn antelope, one of the smaller by size, is located in the western states and Rocky Mountain regions. This fleet of foot animal has flourished in numbers in the recent years and provides hunters with a worthy opponent if pursued. The bear is pretty much in a class of it’s own. There are basically three species: the black bear, the brown bear, and the grizzly bear. The black bear can be hunted pretty much all over the United States and Alaska. Many big game hunters are dedicated to the pursuit of a trophy black bear. The brown bear is one of the most dangerous hunting pursuits in the USA. The grizzly bear, a sub species of the brown bear is located in the Rocky Mountain region and interior Alaska. The brown bear is located in the coastal region of Alaska. Just viewing a grizzly bear, whether hunting or observing, is a special event.
Bighorned sheep and mountain goat hunting is some of the most extreme hunting in the USA. Mostly located in the Rocky Mountain region, these big game animals provide the ultimate test to hunters, requiring unreal endurance. Caribou, also a member of the deer family, is found mostly in Alaska, with only a few in the northern states south of Canada. This is a rewarding harvest for those hunters willing to travel to Alaska. Buffalo, aka bison, have now got a hunt-able population in the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. and provide some enjoyable hunting with valuable rewards to those who pursue. Lastly, the muskox is not a commonly hunted big game species, primarily because it’s found only in Alaska and has a low population.
WILD FERAL HOGS, RUSSIAN WILD BOAR AND JAVELINA HUNTING
It seems everyone has an opinion about wild hogs lately. Some see them as a true worthy big game animal to pursue, while others just see them as a pest. One thing for sure, all types of hog hunting can be a super fun challenge. Hog hunting can be done while specifically hunting for hogs, taking advantage of a hog kill while hunting other game or hog hunting with dogs. One thing for sure, it seems all types of wild hogs are spreading across the U.S. yearly.
One of the most fascinating aspects of waterfowl hunting across the USA, is that ducks, geese and swans basically fly along four main highways in the sky during the fall and winter migration. Even though the majority of waterfowl flies through these corridors, there is still excellent hunting to be had in beaver ponds, creeks, rivers and lakes outside of these routes. The four main arteries in the sky from Canada south through the United States are: the Atlantic flyway, the Mississippi flyway, the Central flyway and the Pacific flyway. Research by Ducks Unlimited has shown that most waterfowl follow the same routes from year to year. Every spring millions of waterfowl begin their return journey to the far north to begin their mating, nesting, hatching and raising rituals. Based on how successful the new crop of young waterfowl have survived over the spring and summer, wildlife service agencies set the new upcoming waterfowl regulations, waterfowl seasons and waterfowl harvest limits.
Some of the best locations along the Atlantic flyway are coastal marshes and sounds of the east coast states, including the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Chesapeake Bay and Outer Banks of North Carolina. Some of the hot spots along the Mississippi flyway include the upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge, eastern Arkansas Bayou Meto Wildlife Management Area, the world famous Stuttgart Arkansas Duck hunting, the White River National Wildlife Refuge and “America’s Wetland”, Louisiana. Two really good spots along the Central flyway for waterfowl are eastern North Dakota and the Texas Panhandle. And for the Pacific flyway, the central valley of California and the Great Salt Lake in Utah are prime.
That brings us to the different types of waterfowl in the USA. We’ll start with some of the common Dabbling Ducks hunted in the United States. Dabbling ducks feed in mostly shallow water less than three feet deep. The short list consists of the American Black Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, Mallard, Wood Duck, Northern Shoveler and Northern Pintail. Most all of these ducks make excellent table fare and even better gunning in a blind over decoys.
Diving Ducks make up another list of excellent hunting fowl. Like their name implies, they dive deeper for their food than dabbling ducks. On this short list there is the Ruddy Duck, Canvasback, Merganser, Scoter, Scaup, Eider, Goldeneye, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Harlequin Duck, Tufted Duck and Bufflehead. Again, many of these provide good eating and are an extremely fast target when trying to bring down with a shotgun. The Whistling Duck family includes Black Bellied Whistling Duck, Fulvous Whistling Duck and West Indian Whistling Duck.
The Canada Goose is hunted across much of the USA and their honking sound is loved by both hunters and nature lovers alike. Most all geese and ducks can be hunted over open marsh, fields, sounds, lakes and rivers. Different methods for harvesting waterfowl include using a duck or goose call, using realistic decoys, jump shooting or pass shooting. The Greater Snow Goose and Lesser Snow Goose can provide spectacular sights, sounds and hunting. Brant, White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Ross’ Goose and Cackling Goose can be hunted in some states across our nation also. The Tundra Swan has become a legal hunted waterfowl in some states. Most states that allow hunting for tundra swans require a permit.
WILD TURKEY HUNTING
There is something really special about hearing a mature tom turkey gobbling in the spring of the year. The male turkey sometimes called a gobbler, or longbeard if it’s a mature bird, uses his mating call to alert any hens in the area that he’s available for their service to have their eggs fertilized. In nature the normal procedure is for the male wild turkey to gobble and pull female turkeys to him. All turkeys fly up in trees to roost at night. Most days just before dawn the male turkey will start gobbling in the tree, before flying down to continue his quest of finding a willing lady. In most cases the goal of turkey hunters is to imitate a hen turkey by using turkey calls and convince the gobbler to come within shotgun range of the hunter. Turkey decoys can be used in some cases to help increase the odds of success.
Basically a two year old or older male turkey is considered mature and called a gobbler, longbeard or limbhanger. A one year old male turkey is called a jake and in some cases jakes are legal to harvest. In general the older the male turkey, the longer his spurs will be. Also a turkey’s beard length and weight sometimes increase with age. There’s been many a night’s sleep lost over trying to outsmart a smart, mature old gobbler. There are four subspecies of wild turkeys in the USA, including Eastern wild turkey, Florida Osceola wild turkey, Rio Grande wild turkey and Merriam’s wild turkey. To harvest all four species is called a grand slam and a life time goal for very serious U.S. turkey hunters.
Rabbit hunting in the USA is a long standing tradition for many hunters. There is no sweeter sound in the fall of the year than a pack of barking beagles chasing a long winded cotton tail rabbit. This is an excellent type of hunting to introduce and teach young kids the art and rules of the sport. Although a hunter can jump and kill rabbits without dogs, it is much more efficient and enjoyable with dogs.
Squirrel hunting is another great way to introduce kids to the sport. Some of the different methods for hunting squirrel include spot and stalk, sitting next to the tree as motionless as possible waiting for the squirrels to reveal themselves, and using a good dog to tree squirrels. When other hunting has slowed down, squirrel hunting can provide a good hunt almost anytime of the season.
RACCOONS AND POSSUMS
Although these game can be hunted during daylight, most of these animals are hunted at night. This is because coons and possums often sleep during the day in nests and tree hollows. With the increase of beaver ponds across the country, the population of raccoons has rebounded in recent years. There’s nothing like hearing a good coon dog chasing and baying a treed raccoon.
UPLAND BIRD HUNTING
USA upland bird hunting includes a long list of candidates. In many states across the U.S. the morning dove and white-winged dove kick off the start of hunting season. Many times the weather is hot, but that just seems to add to the enjoyment of trying to harvest these fast flying targets. A dog can be used, such as a good retriever, to help find dead doves that have fallen in tall grass and weeds, but a dog is not totally necessary. This is another good hunting sport to introduce kids to, showing them good examples of what to do and not to do while hunting around other people. This small bird provides good eating after a long day of shooting.
The male pheasant is one of the prettiest birds on earth. Wild ringnecked pheasant hunting is mostly located in the Midwest section of the country and Prairie states. Although many times pheasants can be flushed out without dogs, such as when hunting solo or with small group drives, using a good bird dog can really increase the odds for a hunter.
One of the most hunted upland birds in the country is the quail. Although there are many species of quail, the bobwhite quail is the most common across the USA. These very fast fliers really do need to be hunted with a dog. The pure sound of a bobwhite making his mating call in the spring of the year is a sign that all is fine in the hunting world. There’s nothing like the heart stopping event of a covey of 12-15 quail rising from your feet in all directions. It takes a quick shooter to be able to pick off these small birds as they zoom away. Some of the other species of quail include blue quail, scaled quail, Mearns quail, mountain quail, California quail and valley quail.
A larger bird than the quail that provides very good hunting is the many species of the grouse family. The ruffed grouse is mostly located in the eastern mountains and northern states. A little further west is blue grouse hunting, where these birds are a little larger than the ruffed grouse. Go a little further west and prairie grouse hunting picks up. The species of the prairie include the prairie chicken, sage grouse and sharptail grouse.
Another upland bird is the partridge. This low and fast flying bird is located mostly in the Dakotas and Rocky Mountain section of the country. There are two species of the partridge family consisting of the chukar and gray partridge. Hunting chukar can require extreme fitness as these birds seem to like steep hills. Rounding out the lineup for our list of upland birds includes the ptarmigan and woodcock.
There is a reason that predators have survived for eons…. their keen sense of danger. A saying in the hunting world is that if turkeys could smell like deer there would be very few wild turkeys killed. Well, most predators have the ability to smell and see, combined. This combination in the hunting world makes them practically invincible. Wile E. Coyote got his name for a reason. Even though coyotes are dispersed all across the nation, it is very unusual to see them during daylight hours, because they mostly hunt their prey at night. Although there are many methods for hunting coyote, one of the most common is imitating a rabbit or mouse, with this sound bringing the coyote out in the open for a shot. Smaller than the coyote is the red fox and the gray fox. Gray fox hunting mostly takes place in the southern half of the United States. Red fox hunting is found across the USA and can many times involve the traditional use of horses. In this instance often it’s the thrill of the chase that’s exciting and not the kill.
Just as secretive as the coyote are the bobcat and lynx which are found all across the country. Although there are hunts specifically dedicated to hunting these predators, these animals are more likely to be killed by chance while hunting other game. Sometimes dogs are used to bring them out of their daily hiding places. Predator calls imitating mice and small game have been known to work effectively in dislodging them as well.
Mountain lions and cougars are a much larger species in this category than their cousins the bobcat and lynx. Most of the huntable population is found west of the Mississippi. Because their home range can be so large, they are usually hunted with hounds.
One of the ultimate predators is the gray wolf. Mature wolfs can weigh in at 100 pounds, with a few being over 130. Because of successful conservation measures, the gray wolf population has rebounded enough to allow limited permit hunts in various states. Since wolves hunt their prey in packs, they can take down most any game animal.
PRAIRIE DOGS AND GROUND HOGS (WOODCHUCKS)
Both of these animals have underground dens. They can provide long range hunting targets when they venture out if using a long range rifle and scope with flat shooting ballistics. The prairie dog can be found in the west central section of the county, whereas the ground hog is located in the mid south and northern states.
Hopefully this article has provided you with some basic facts and knowledge of the exciting and wonderful opportunities that exist in the USA. There are many resources available to do hunting research, including state and government agencies, private hunting outfitters and guides, sporting goods stores and websites, fellow men and women hunters participating on hunting message boards and hunting related media.
Good luck in all your hunting endeavors!!!
Blaze Orange: Not a Fashion Statement
The sight of blaze-orange clothing, particularly in the fall, has become so common that it’s difficult to remember that its use – therequirement of its use – is fairly recent, only beginning 25 or 30 years ago. Until the 1960s, state hunting laws were not requiring blaze orange as a solution to the problem of shooting accidents in the field. “Hunter’s red” clothing was worn by some, but it was more of a tradition than anything else, and did not seem to have much of an effect. Statistics from 1967 (reported in aField and Stream article in 2013) show that there were 2,591 shooting accidents by hunters that year, accounting for approximately 400 deaths. As more and more states began to require the wearing of blaze orange, those numbers had declined to 723 shooting accidents (with 75 deaths) in 2001.
Hunting safety is – or should be – a basic part of the sport. Almost all aspects of hunting safety involve the hunter’s own skills, preparation and attitude because, in the end, each hunter is responsible for making sure that he comes home whole and healthy. Proper firearms handling, good fieldcraft and being in good physical shape are all part of a hunter’s skills. There is one aspect of hunting safety over which an individual seems to have no control: Other people sharing the field with him. Each season, some percentage of the hunters in the field have rarely been out or handled firearmsexcept during the hunting season. Even with the best of intentions and care, they’re more likely the make mistakes that can lead to tragedy. Firing at a target before they absolutely identify it as legitimate game or shooting without making sure that the field of fire is clear are the most common reasons for hunting accidents.
In point of fact, however, there is a simple way that hunters can help control the danger of “the other guy” – by wearing blaze orange. Not only is accidental shooting a serious problem, but as records show, wearing blaze orange in the field can help to make a difference in the number of incidents. Even as the number of accidental shooting deaths has declined, it’s notable that the majority of the victims in recent years were not wearing blaze orange at the time of the accident. Like many other safety features, such as seat belts, it can only work when it’s used.
The blaze orange color, also called “safety orange,” defined by an ANSI standard, is used on many safety signs, markings and clothing in a range of industries. It’s a very visible hue to humans (but not to deer), particularly in conditions of low light, such as near dawn and dusk when deer and other large game are often on the move and mis-identification can be the greatest danger. Almost every state requires that hunters wear blaze orange during the rifle season for deer and other big game (such as elk, moose and bear), but the details of how and when the color needs to be worn varies from state to state. Some states require that hunters wear a minimum number of square inches on clothing, visible from all angles, with some also requiring that blaze orange hats be used as well. Since the greatest concern is usually with shooting accidents using modern high-powered rifles, some (not all) states waive the blaze orange requirement during blackpowder, archery and shotgun (e.g., upland birds and waterfowl) seasons. The details vary widely from state to state, but the regulations can be easily accessed. In those states which require wearing blaze orange during hunting season, a violation usually carries a stiff fine.
In addition to hunters, many other people who find themselves in the field – particularly during firearms hunting season – wear blaze orange. Hikers, bicyclists, cross-country skiers, bird watchers and landowners who are just moving about their own property realize that they are just as likely to be in danger. Some dog owners are even placing blaze orange vests on their pets before going for walks in the woods. (There is, of course, the old story about farmers who paint the word “COW” on their livestock at the beginning of hunting season; there’s no indication if this tradition will be replaced by bovine-size vests.)
The increasing use of blaze orange is not a magical solution to the problem of firearms accidents during hunting season; the vests are not bullet-proof. They do, however, provide one more safety feature that can reduce these incidents. Hunter safety courses for new hunters are vitally important, of course, as are constant reminders to all hunters (or anyone who carries a firearm, for that matter) that a targetmust be identified before a shot is fired. Although accidents are showing a steady decrease, there is always room for improvement, and blaze orange is one tool to help achieve this goal.
Most states now require that hunters wear blaze orange while in the field during big game season. The color, easily visible to humans, particularly under low-light conditions, has been shown to help reduce hunting-related firearms accidents. The requirements vary from state to state, but most states make it a violation not to wear this color to prevent mis-identification and accidental shootings. Many non-hunters, such as bird watchers, hikers and landowners going about their own property, are also now wearing blaze orange during big game hunting season to increase their safety.