From the eagle and bison that are official symbols of the USA, to other majestic animals of North America including elk and bear, the states they call home are popular destinations for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. Here are the best destinations in the USA for big game, on a photo safari or a hunting expedition.
The American bison, also known as the buffalo, is one of the most iconic species of the U.S. with an incredible history. Hunted for thousands of years by Native Americans, bison were hunted nearly to extinction in the late nineteenth century. After great conservation efforts, their population has now reached about 500,000. They are home on the range in the American West, including Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota.
National Bison Range, one hour north of Missoula, Montana, was established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt, when there were fewer than 100 wild bison known to exist. The herd today is 500 or more, plus elk, white-tail and mule deer, black bears and pronghorn antelope, roaming nearly 20,000 acres of natural grassland and forested areas. Drive on one of the pre-set gravel road routes to see them.
Custer State Park in Black Hills of South Dakota, near Rapid City, is home to the largest publicly owned bison herd outside of Yellowstone National Park. Consider taking the Buffalo Jeep Safari, which takes you into the herds in an open-air jeep for great photos.
Bison also can be hunted, in Montana and Wyoming, although permits are strictly limited.
The best place to see these majestic creatures, with their huge antlers, is at the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Some 5,000 elk spend winters here, when you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the herd at feeding times. The rest of the year the elk are viewable from roadside parking.
Up the road, in Grand Teton National Park and in Yellowstone National Park, you are likely to see wolves, bear, moose, and pronghorn sheep.
The plains pronghorn—formerly known as the American antelope—is actually not an antelope at all. Although it has a striking comparison to the antelope of the plains of Africa, scientists have discovered its closest cousin is actually the giraffe.
This creature is one of the most abundant in the USA. It spans a wide range across the U.S., Canada, Mexica, Central America, and parts of South America. It is also one of the most widely hunted, because populations are on the rise in many places. Don’t overlook Georgia as an excellent place to hunt deer. Its dense forests, bayous, and hillsides make it a unique place to find this fast-moving, elusive creature.
An estimated 28,000 bears reside in Wisconsin, mostly in the northernmost part of the state. The thriving population allows hunters with permits to control populations to preserve surrounding habitats and wildlife species. These tips from the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources will help protect you in case you run into a black bear:
- Bears normally leave a space once they know a human is around, so make sure the bear knows you’re there, by making noise, talking to the animal, waving your arms, or yelling.
- Make yourself appear larger by holding a jacket up or holding your arms over your head.
- Ensure the bear has an escape route.
- If you surprise a bear at close range, back away slowly.
- Do not approach a bear. Respect them and enjoy them from a distance.
Alaska is a different breed of animal, because it has so many large species, including black bear, brown bear, polar bear, caribou, mountain moose, Dall sheep and even humpback whales.
Bull moose are a formidable animal with an antler spread that can grow as wide as 79 inches at maturity. They also injure more people than any other wild animal worldwide, second only to hippopotamuses. The Dall sheep is another widely recognizable animal, for its white coat and curved horns. They are a prized game animal because of they live in subarctic mountain ranges of Denali National Park and beyond, in the Yukon Territory. They are prized by both photographers and hunters because the rugged terrain they favor make them a tough animal to capture.
Discover the wonders of America’s natural landscape and find hunting guide discounts to give yourself the best big game hunting experience, along with the best opportunities for fishing.
Photos courtesy National Bison Range, Jackson Hole, US Fish & Wildlife
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