Big game roam this entire continent, but the
largest populations and widest variety of species can be found west of the Mississippi River. The West is home to those stand-bys such as elk, bear, antelope, mule deer, and whitetail, but it also has
opportunities for more exotic species such as ibex, oryx
A big game hunt in the West provides numerous opportunities to check off
most hunter's bucket lists as well as make progress
toward the species of big game listed on the Safari Club International's "North
Hunters take a Western big game hunt for a variety of reasons, but it is an
adventure that needs a lot of preparation and planning. An outfitter can be hired to do
all the grunt work, but a fair amount of effort must still be exerted by a
hunter and changing conditions can make any routine hunt into a harrowing trip
States throughout the West don't make it easy for non-residents to hop on a
plane or vehicle and drive west for a quick hunt. Permit deadlines, quotas, and
license fees make it a hunt not to be entered into lightly. It requires a bit
of study, research and navigation of paperwork.
Fortunately, most states have very helpful and informative websites with
complete details on how to go about planning and arranging a hunt in their
state. Not all of the websites are easy to navigate, but many are improving
each year with more information, interactive maps, population reports, and
quality articles on tactics and trip preparation.
All Western states today require that non-resident hunters possess hunter
certification before applying while others require it once a license is
officially purchased. Hunters need to make sure they take the necessary courses
offered by their state natural resources department.
Now is the time to start planning that 2013 big game hunt because, in some
states, the deadlines are rapidly approaching! Cruise through the information
here and then dig deeper on the website of the states you are interested in
hunting. From there, determine whether you are going to outfit your own trip or
use the services of an outfitter/guide.
Alaska Department of Fish and Game
home to more big game species than any other state with an incredible amount of
public land. Non-residents may hunt black bear, grizzly bear, bison, caribou, Dall sheep, deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, musk ox,
wolves, and wolverine.
The best way to start an Alaskan big game hunt is to pick the species and
then consider the region you can hunt. Some regions require a permit
application and draw process while other hunts are open.
Most hunts require the use of a guide or relative of the second degree who
is an Alaskan resident. Start by reading the "Alaska General Hunting
Information" page on the website and download the "Plan Your Hunt" workbook
from the website.
It is also recommended that first time Alaska hunters hire a guide. The Alaskan
Occupational Licensing department has a list of reputable guides and
transporters listed at www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/pgui.htm.
You can also look up guides and/or transporters and have a list e-mailed to you
by using that division's Professional Licensing Data Retrieval System
Another source of information is the Alaska Professional Hunters
Association, which represents many guides and outfitters. A list of guides in
your game management unit can be found by visiting http://www.dced.state.ak.us/occ/apps/GuiUseReg.cfm.
Arizona Game and Fish Department
Arizona is a good state for antelope, black bear, desert bighorn sheep,
whitetail and mule deer, elk, javelina, buffalo, and
mountain lion. In recent years, Arizona
has become one of the best states for a trophy elk hunt, too. It's also a good
state for a do-it-yourself hunt.
Approximately 1 million additional acres of land are available to hunters
next year on top of the already ample amounts of public land. The Arizona Game
and Fish department also has a web-based tool called "HabiMap"
allowing users to visually explore the distribution of the state's wildlife.
The application deadline for elk and antelope is Feb. 12,
2013 while the application deadline for deer, bighorn sheep, fall buffalo, bear,
and mountain lion is in mid-June.
Regulations for fall hunts will be available online in early May, but elk,
antelope and spring hunt information is available right now.
California Department of Fish and Game
a great state for a deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk, bear, or a
wild pig hunt. The state is divided into zones and utilizes a draw system for
each individual zone.
There are special hunts for youth, muzzleloaders and archers depending on
the species. Regulations are published in mid-April and the application
deadline is always the first Monday in June.
Division of Wildlife
With around 40 percent of the entire continental population, Colorado is a great
state for successfully bringing home an elk with plenty of trophy
opportunities. There are also opportunities for deer, bear, antelope, moose, Rocky Mountain
bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.
The application deadline is Tuesday, April 2, 2013. Hunters can go to the
website or call if they want to receive the brochures in the mail once they are
available. There are some big game opportunities available over the counter so
check back often or call the division of wildlife for details.
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
Idaho is home
to a lot of public land with magnificent access to private lands. It's an
overlooked destination for elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, antelope, and
is often passed over by non-residents who are drawn to states farther south.
Department of Fish and Game has a good website with detailed maps, a trip
planner and lots of information. A word to the wise, no outfitter should
suggest that you buy your own tags from the general non-resident pool of tags.
Instead, the outfitter should buy your tags from the "outfitter set-aside" pool
of tags. Check the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Board website at www.oglb.idaho.gov for some solid leads.
The application period for spring black bear runs from January 15 to
February 15. The application deadline for mountain goat, bighorn sheep and
moose is in April. The application deadline for deer, elk, antelope and fall
black bear is in May.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Eastern Kansas is a land of trophy whitetail deer, western Kansas is predominantly mule deer and both
species mingle well in the middle. Non-residents can't hunt the Kansas elk population,
but they can archery hunt antelope.
Non-resident deer permit applications will only be accepted online between
April 1 and April 26.
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Big Sky country with a diverse terrain that greatly ranges from east to west.
It is also home to a great deal of public land.
offers plenty of hunting opportunities for deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep,
antelope, bear, mountain lion, and mountain goat. Deadlines vary by species and
the elk deadline is the first on March 15.
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
another one of those often overlooked states that offers a wide variety of big
game hunts, but limits non-residents to whitetail deer, mule deer and antelope.
The application window for non-residents looking to deer hunt is open in
late May for approximately two weeks. Pronghorn applications begin in
July and run as long as there are permits available. Check the website or
contact the commission in late March or early April for updated details.
Nevada Department of Wildlife
Nevada is one of the few states with seasons
Desert and Rocky Mountain sheep in addition to seasons for elk, mule deer and
Hunters using a guide need to contact their guide prior to the mid-March
application deadline. Those participating in the general big game drawing can
download the application in March with plenty of time to meet the mid-April
deadline. Any tags remaining after the second draw may be applied for
Hunters can also purchase preference points on an annual basis to build
their chances at a hunt. The NDOW website has lots of resources for hunters
with a list of approved big game guides, maps, hunter information documents
with information on the terrain of an area, and details on herd movements.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
has a varied menu of big game opportunities including antelope, bear, deer, and
elk. New Mexico
is known as being one of the world's best places for a trophy elk or mule deer.
The state is also home to a lot of exotic hunting opportunities including
cougar, Barbary sheep, ibex, and oryx.
The deadline to apply for bear, oryx and turkey
hunts is usually February 1 while the deadline to apply for deer, elk,
antelope, bighorn sheep, ibex, and javelina is March
28. Be sure to read about New Mexico's
elaborate process for rewarding licenses to non-residents on the website.
North Dakota Game and Fish Department
non-resident license fees are lower than most other states farther west but the
opportunities are limited to mule and whitetail deer. Non-residents can also
participate in an archery-only antelope hunt.
has a private land access program (PLOTS) that opens up a lot of access
opportunities for non-residents (except for the first week of the pheasant
season). The 2013 hunting regulations will be posted soon with the application
deadline coming in March.
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon has a lot of big game hunting opportunities available to non-residents
with three deer seasons (whitetail, mule and black tail), antelope, bighorn
sheep, cougar, elk, and black bear. The DFW website is easy to navigate and
full of information including downloadable access map with all wildlife areas
and private lands open to hunting.
Most hunts have a May 15 deadline though there are some exceptions. The
deadline for spring black bear is February 10. The deadline for controlled
hunts is the day before the earliest hunt begins. Details on all of these
seasons, locations and dates can be found online. Additional deadlines run from
August into October making it a good state for planning a last-minute hunt.
South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks
non-residents can hunt antelope, whitetail and mule deer. Only a fourth of the
state's deer herd are mule deer with the majority of
those coming in the western section of the state.
The deadline for a special buck season is in April, but most other hunts
have July and August deadlines. Check the website in late January for detailed
information and locations. There is no deadline for deer archery hunters.
has great antelope hunting with archery hunters being able to buy a license
only a week or so prior to the time they hope to hunt. Firearms hunters need to
be more proactive and are susceptible to the desires of residents. If there are
leftover licenses, non-resident firearms hunters can apply after the second
draw in early August.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Texas is home to trophy whitetail and mule deer not to mention wild hogs, javelina, desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope,
alligator, and exotic species including gemsbok, scimitar-horned oryx and waterbuck. Texas
offers a wide variety of terrain including flat brush country, rolling hills
covered with cedar, the Edwards plateau country, desert, mountains, big timber,
Hunting opportunities are big in Texas,
but first you need to decide if you are going to hunt public or private land.
The non-resident hunting publication comes out towards the end of June and
lists all the deadlines for public hunting opportunities. This is available
online or by mail if you call to request one.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Utah is a
terrific hunting destination for deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep,
bison, and Rocky Mountain goat. It is becoming a state known for producing
trophy mountain goat as well as healthy numbers.
The big game application period this year opens February 1 and closes March 1.
Bonus points and preference points can also be obtained until March 14. Surplus
licenses go on sale in mid-July. All the details are easy to find on the
website by downloading the latest version of the 2013 Big Game booklet.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
another of those big game hunting destinations that is often overlooked by
non-residents. Non-residents can hunt deer, elk, cougar, and bear as well as
apply for a raffle to hunt moose, mountain goat or bighorn sheep.
To obtain a copy of the 2013 hunting regulations and application check the
website in April so you have time to plan for the application deadline in late
May. The exception to the rule is the spring bear with a March application
deadline. Hunters can also build preference points by purchasing "ghost hunt
Wyoming Game and Fish
Wyoming has a wide variety of species available including elk, deer, black
bear, wild bison, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. The state
has a growing reputation as a trophy mule deer destination not to mention a
well-established reputation as the premier antelope state.
The elk application deadline begins January 1 and runs until January 31. The
application deadline for deer and antelope is March 15. Moose, bighorn sheep
and mountain goat have a February 28 deadline. Hunters can also buy a
preference point between July 1 and September 30. Application booklets and
forms are available online.
Good luck in your quest for the tag of your choice!
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