Hunting destinations is always a fun topic to discuss. I think it’s safe to say we each have our bucket-list spots, but the folks at Shadow Hunter Blinds provided a few locations to set your sights. ~ KJ
The United States has a wonderful range of climates, making for some of the best hunting destinations in the world. With over 150 national forests, many military bases, and more than a million acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management, it’s easy to find a place to hunt.
However, if you’re planning a hunting trip, you probably want to choose the best hunting destination for your needs. Whether you’re planning a duck hunting trip, looking to bag a deer, or prefer to hunt more exotic animals, the area you choose affects your hunt’s success. The type of animal and the land layout also affect whether you use hunting blinds, hunting stands, or a ground blind chair. Here are five of the best hunting destinations in the U.S., and a breakdown of what game they’re best for and when to go.
This 244,000-acre national forest is teaming with bucks and does and full of ideal places to set up your hunting blind or stand. Despite Ohio’s popularity for buck hunting, as long as you get off the beaten path, you’ll likely find yourself some excellent hunting. The buck hunting season in Ohio usually runs from the fall to late winter, but each county has different regulations on how many deer you can bag at a time. It can get cold in Ohio in the depths of winter, so pack a hot thermos and layer up.
Although there are several easier-to-reach bear hunting destinations in the lower 48 states, Alaska is one of the top places for black and brown bear hunting in the U.S. Besides the abundance of bears––nearly 30,000 brown bears across the state––and the ability to bait hunt, Alaska is full of stunning scenery and wilderness. If you aren’t an Alaska resident, you’ll need to head out with a guide or an Alaskan relative. However, this restriction can be helpful since your guide will know where the best places to hunt are and what type of gear you’ll need.
Depending on the area you choose, you may be able to hunt brown bears in both the spring and the fall. Spring bears weigh less while fall bears are fattening up to prepare for winter hibernation. Although you can hunt bears from a ground blind, it is best to use an elevated hunting blind or a stand. If your bear bait attracts an aggressive bear, you’ll be safer higher up. To save space in your luggage, try a DIY hunting blind.
If you want to hunt waterfowl, there’s no better place in the country than eastern North Dakota. With an impressive range of breeds, including mallards, Canadian geese, pintails, lesser scaup, lesser snow geese, and green-winged teal, duck hunters will come home happy.
The regular waterfowl season opens in October and allows for the bagging of six ducks daily. Other types of waterfowl have varying restrictions on numbers, sex, and breed. Although many waterfowl hunters use dogs, you can also experience a successful hunt using a well-concealed hunting blind and calls. To improve your experience, make sure you bring a comfortable gel hunting seat cushion or hunting blind chair and a warm thermos.
For those interested in hunting more exotic animals, head down to Florida. About 50 miles south of Orlando, you’ll find the perfect place to bag a gator at St. Johns Marsh. Every year, Florida issues around 7,000 statewide alligator hunting licenses, drawn from about 15,000 applicants. With this permit, each hunter can harvest two alligators, and the permit lasts the whole year.
St. Johns Marsh is known for having large gators, and hunters in 2019 regularly caught 9-footers. If those aren’t big enough for you, head up to Lake Okeechobee, where hunters took 645 alligators in 2019. Hunting for alligators differs from hunting many other game animals. You can use a technique called the “hook and line setup,” which is like fishing. You can’t use a steel hook in Florida; instead, attach a wooden peg wrapped in bait to the end of the line.
Once the gator gets close enough, you can use a crossbow, harpoon, recurve bow, or compound bow and a bang stick to harvest your gator. Often, gator hunters prefer to hunt from airboats since the best places to find them have little solid ground. If you want to use traditional firearms, you’ll need to go to a different state or hunt on private property since public waterways ban their use in Florida.
Colorado is undeniably the best hunting destination in the country for elk. With a population of nearly 280,000, no other state comes close. While other states severely limit the number of elk harvested per season, Colorado is much more lenient and allows over-the-counter permits. Elk are often three times bigger than your average buck, with a bull weighing around 800 lbs. You’ll not only need to consider how to track and bag your game but also how you’ll get it home. If you’re new to hunting elk, work with a guide familiar with the area.
Your most essential tools in elk hunting are a bugle and a cow call. Depending on the time of year, one of these tools can help you draw out a buck. You can also use the cow call to convince a herd you’re just another elk instead of scaring them off. Use a hunting blind once you find a herd, to let them settle down and forget you are there.
Each of these hunting destinations is perfect for different game. Regardless of what you’re after, bring the best gear to make your hunt comfortable and successful. You’ll also always want to confirm hunting regulations and permit costs with the state before you travel. Heading to the right destination can make all the difference, and these five destinations are the best available.