There’s nothing quite like the thrill of the hunt. Beyond knowing the origins of the meat you enjoy and filling your freezer with hard-earned game, hunting allows you to be outdoors, spend quality time with loved ones and achieve hard goals. If you’re looking for a new adventure and some of fun — and tasty — game, here’s a list of the 5 hunts everyone should add to their bucket list.
Why: There aren’t many big game animals that give you the opportunity to hunt ALL DAY…but antelope hunting is one of them. Tags are easy to come by, even for a non-resident. Wyoming is generous in their non-resident allocations, which is unique among western states. This, combined with ample public land access, makes Wyoming an antelope mecca. It’s also a great hunt for youth, given the multiple stalk opportunities you’ll have throughout the day. This is one big game hunt where (if you don’t want to) you don’t need to wake up a o-dark-thirty to start your stalking adventures. Due to the open nature of the terrain in which they live, you can spot antelope any time of day. Good optics are a real benefit here, as you may be glassing from long distances. If you haven’t had a chance to stalk the Speed Goats of the Prairie, you’re missing out. Applications for antelope tags are typically due in late May/early June, so circle your calendars for the next application season.
Cost: $341 for the permit, $15 habitat stamp
Where: North Dakota
Why: Whether or not you’re a water-fowler, a spring snow goose hunt should be on your list. After a long winter, I’m always anxious to get back in the field — and an April snow goose hunt in North Dakota can knock off those winter hunting cobwebs. As snow geese migrate back and forth between the southern U.S. and Canada, they like to travel in bunches. And when I say bunches, I mean thousands. Because of the sheer quantity in which they travel, it can provide non-stop action and lots of shooting opportunities. Most states have generous bag limits on snow geese, which aligns perfectly with the desire to empty a chamber on a set-up. Hunting over decoys isn’t always needed, but typically produces better results. Though there are several places where public land can be accessed, much of the best snow geese opportunity takes place on private land. Because of these unique dynamics, I’d recommend going with an outfitter. There are a couple of big benefits here. First, they have access to a lot of prime private land. And second, they already have all of the gear, decoys, calling expertise and blinds necessary to give you an enjoyable, successful hunt. Best of all, goose hunts are relatively cheap to book. If you like non-stop action and the chance for a bountiful harvest, this is the goose hunt for you.
Cost: $100 non-resident small game license, $50 Spring Light Goose permit, $400 2-day guided hunt fee
Why: If you’ve never heard the bugle of a bull elk, you’re missing out on one of life’s most marvelous wildlife wonders. There’s not a sound in the woods that can cause more excitement than hearing a bull elk within 50 yards. One of the best places to experience these shrieking bugles is Colorado. Colorado is one of the few states that has unlimited over-the-counter archery elk permits in the month of September…right in the heart of the rut. Almost half the western portion of Colorado is open to these OTC elk tags and public land is the least of your worries. Western Colorado offers terrain ranging from cedar and sage, all the way to high elevation meadows and dark pines — all of which hold elk during archery season. Though this isn’t a hunt for the faint of heart, it’s doable. You’ll want to start getting in shape now and ensure you have lots of able bodies for a packout to not only chase down, but also extract your trophy once it’s on the ground. Any bull harvested with a bow is hard-earned. Whether or not you’re successful, being in the woods during the elk rut is still exciting. If you’re looking for a fall adventure, pack the truck, pick up a tag and head to Colorado.
Cost: $660 non-resident bull elk permit, $10 habitat stamp
Why: Mule deer are near and dear to my heart. These beautiful animals were the first critters I had the chance to pursue as a young hunter. And they’re one of the most difficult to find and outsmart, especially if you’re looking for a mature mule deer buck. Most western states have mule deer seasons in September and October, but Montana is one of the few states that offers mule deer hunts in November. And that’s the time when those mule deer bucks get love-struck as the rut is in full swing for muleys in November. On a general season deer license, you can hunt these gray ghosts with a rifle throughout most of November. Though there are large tracts of private lands throughout some of the state’s prime mule deer country, there’s an equally ample amount of public lands for any western hunter to explore. You’ll be on the lookout for does this time of year, more than any other. If you find a large group of does, a buck or two is sure to be close by. You’ll want to be very mobile as bucks are constantly on the prowl. If the weather is cold, these bucks could be moving all day. Permits are fairly easy to obtain, but you must apply in the Montana big game draw. You should be able to obtain a permit in Montana on an every-other-year basis, as long as you apply regularly. The deadline for the general deer license is typically the middle of March, so you should plan this hunt in advance. You’ll be in for a treat that is hard to match. Be sure and add this hunt to your “must do’s” for the upcoming season.
Cost: $639 non-resident general deer license, $5 deer permit
Why: Do you love hunting bugling bulls? If so, you’ll love spring turkey hunting. The gobble of a strutting spring turkey is only topped by the bugle of a bull elk in September. These wiley birds are one of the most fun — but difficult — upland game birds to pursue. Due to their amazing eyesight and their penchant for being bunched into groups, avoiding several sets of eyes is half the battle. One of the best places in the country to have a chance to pursue these tasty spring gobblers is in California. Wait…California? Yep. You read that right. Head to the northern half of the state, find some public ground near water and get your shock gobble out. Populations of turkeys around much of the country are flourishing and California is no exception. One of the best parts about hunting in California is the low barrier of entry. Non-resident licenses run $50 for 2 days and you can harvest 1 bearded tom per day, 3 in the season. There are a couple of unique regulations in California to be aware of, so be sure you bring your non-lead shot and don’t plan on hunting after 5 p.m. This is a great hunt to do after the winter and can result in some tasty spring turkey-kabobs. Grab your shotgun and enjoy the sunny skies pursuing thunder-chickens in the beautiful Golden State.
Cost: $49.94 non-resident 2-day hunting license or $174.45 non-resident annual hunting license, $9.98 upland game bird validation
So add these hunts to your bucket list and have a great time out there! And if you need new gear, you should consider joining ExpertVoice. With over a million credential experts, ExpertVoice has some of the biggest hunt, fish and tactical brands that reward hunting experts with exclusive access and discounts up to 60% off. It’s always free to join. Get started here.