Surrounded by the tall, snowy peaks of the northern Rockies and the low deserts of Arizona and New Mexico, there are few places around the globe that are more exciting and challenging to hunt at than in the American West. Whether it’s whitetail deer, game birds, wild boar, or squirrels you are in search of, or rabbit, grouse, or even alligator, the western U.S. is home to more than a wide variety of game all dwelling in diverse habitats, making it a hunter’s paradise.
So the next time you pick up that rifle or bow in preparation for a backcountry expedition to remember, head on over to the woods, valleys, and rivers of the wild wild West. Here are the top seven hunting destinations in the West.
If You Love Hunting, Check Out These Destinations Out West
The mule deer is one of the West’s greatest trophies and those looking for a good buck to hunt should head off to Nevada's more than 150 mountain ranges, which all rise above 10,000 feet and provide grassy plains that serve as a perfect habitat for deer.
Sometimes, hiring a guide can be your best chance at scoring on some really big buck, so try out Mike Sondermann of Black Mountain Outfitters in Battle Mountain, one of the state’s best mule deer guides. He’s well known for drawing exceptional tags, such as a 223 1/8-inch buck last year-- the exact kind of trophy find that every Western hunter dreams of. What’s more is that along with nice big muley buck to find, the Silver State’s Selenite Range is another prime hunting area, especially for chukar birds, which have doubled in number over recent years.
If you've got a taste for grouse, mountain quail, or other plentiful populations of birds, Oregon’s Curry, Jackson, and Josephine counties are the places to head towards. Sheep tags are also popular at various hunting areas around the state, such as the John Day River units in northern Oregon, which boast plenty of sheep all along the way. Try floating along in a raft in search of your next trophy. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife even predicted that the next world-record California bighorn will come out of this area!
The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is another superb spot, boasting everything from mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and bighorn sheep, to upland birds, rainbow trout, bass, and crappie. It’s a fantsicailly isolated area that allows gamers to fully venture into the wild for a couple of days without seeing any other human being or vehicle. There’s also Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Lake County, another sizable spot featuring 278,000 acres of land that provides more pronghorn antelope than any hunter could ever dream of. Find mule deer, bighorn sheep, and chukar as well.
It’s no secret that mule deer populations are plentiful along the Snake River Breaks and the foothills of the Blue Mountains of this state, as well as in the fabled Palouse region along the southeast corner. Nowhere else in Washington will you be able to witness a better overally quality of animals than in this region, as herd sizes have been consistently increasing over the years. What’s more is that 3-point restrictions have been in place for several decades now and have assisted a larger percentage of buck population to reach older ages, which has, in turn. increased the size of the bucks killed by hunters annually.
Also in the state is Kittitas County, which has been deemed as “elk world” because it is a spot where the elk often outnumber the amount of human residents! Grab that bow, rifle, or muzzleloader and get ready to do some Washington huntin’.
In the Golden State, the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge provides hunting options for those in search of waterfowl, such as ducks, geese, and coots. The Delevan National Wild Refuge in Willows is also a popular spot for everything from duck, goose, and pheasant, to snipe, coot, and moorhen. Diehard gamers typically show up well before dawn and head out into the wilderness guided only by light reflective signs that help them make their way through the darker spots. If you’re lucky, it’s possible to end up with up to a dozen mallards, as well as some sprigs and widgeons as well. The hunting areas at Delevan are sandwiched between two closed zones, so the shooting conditions are bound to be superb in any weather.
Hunt some of the best diversity of wildlife year round in the Apache State, which offers “big game” finds from big horned sheep, elk, and buffalo, to antelope and small game varieties like rabbit, quail, tree squirrels, and pheasant. There are also an abundance of waterfowl, especially in and around the Flagstaff, Kingman, Yuma, and Tucson regions.
Mesa’s best for seeking black bear, quail, and dove, while in Show Low, you’ll probably find an array of pronghorns to the north of town, and tons of elk, deer, and lions to the south and the east. The nearby White Mountains are also the only place in the world to fish for Apache trout.
From sea trout to feral hogs, the fish and wildlife available at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on Blackjack Peninsula, tucked behind Matagorda Island, is magnificient, offerring fantastic hunting and fishing opportunities for wilderness seekers of all sorts. Just an under three-hour drive from Houston, the 115,000 acres are home to clumps of large live oak mottes similar to the African savannahs, where deer, wild boars, and javelina often hang out. Come across white-tailed deer and fat feral hogs on the plains, each of which will offer challenging archery and rifle hunts. Or why not venture into the brackish waters of the coastal marsh grasslands, where trophy red drum, sea trout, and alligators lurk?!
Also in Texas is Trans Pecos, which is well known for its population of huge mule deer (numoerus private ranchers host deer hunts on their properties each year), as well as the Uvalde area, which has been deemed the beating heart of South-Texas deer country. It’s home to some of the best dove hunting in the nation—not to mention some of the most excellent bass and catfish opportunities near Lake Amistad on the Mexican border.
7. New Mexico
With elevations ranging from the southern Lower Sonoran Zone to the northern Alpine Zone, the Land of Enchantment offers a variety of habitats for many different animals and is a more than appealing place for hunters. Opportunities include species such as deer, pronghorn antelope, elk, and dove, along with way more exotic animals like oryx.
New Mexico's Gila National Forest is a great spot for wild turkey hunts, as well as for those in search of bears, Barbary sheep, Persian ibex, pheasants, or teal. The state was even ranked by Game & Fish Magazine as the second best state for hunting pronghorn antelope bucks, with the best counties being Mora and Colfax in the northeast corner of the state and Socorro, Catron, and Lincoln in the central region. Savvy hynters will also have a blast near the Cibola National Forest and the Santa Fe National Forest, which both rate as two of the best public land areas in the nation, according to Field and Stream Magazine.
This article was written by Pamela Chan.