Are you looking for the ultimate hunting experience? Perhaps you've had a dream hunting bucket list, searching for something different or a once-in-a-lifetime hunt? Today, we'd love to share our four unbeatable hunting experiences in the U.S. that we think you'll love.
Alaska - Big Game
Ask any experienced hunter where their dream hunt would be or has been, and you will no doubt hear them mention Alaska, with good reason. Being one-fifth of the size of the United States, Alaska offers wilderness hunting opportunities few hunters will find anywhere else in the world.
Massive moose and vast caribou herds dominate the landscape, with numerous mountain ranges filled with Dall sheep, mountain goats, and Sitka-black-tailed deer thriving in the coastal forests. Once entirely devastated by the state, Muskox ranges all over the western and arctic coastal wilderness, and large numbers of black and brown bears exist here.
Alaska, however, isn't a destination for day hunts or a short weekend for its big game species. Densities for the big game are much lower than in other states, and the cooler temperatures make for short growing seasons. Big game like moose and caribou can be scattered far apart in some months.
For the ultimate Alaska hunting experience, it's best to plan and save up for a vacation and visit for at least five days, at least two weeks—given that Alaska's weather and hunting areas are unpredictable.
Montana – Big Game
Whether you're a DIYer hunter or want a guided experience, Montana is home to many big game species—Elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, black bears, mule deer, and countless upland birds. Montana's public land hunting is some of the best in the U.S. and covers millions of acres throughout the state. Not only are the hunting opportunities abundant, but the areas you can hunt in are also some of the most stunning natural environments in the world.
If you're new to hunting or inexperienced, guided hunts are also hugely popular in Montana and provide you with access to prime locations, experienced guides, and most cases, the necessary equipment and the opportunity to learn about the local wildlife and hunt traditions.
In particular, you might consider Big Sky Country's wide-open spaces, with part of the famed Rocky Mountains and a diverse landscape filled with flora and fauna. Many experienced hunters consider Montana the top pick due to its vast open forest and rangeland.
Remember that to hunt Bighorn sheep in Montana; you'll have to draw one of the few tags that Montana allots by a strict lottery system. Occasionally the tags that are won are sometimes sold at auction to the highest bidder—and it's no wonder why, as hunting a rare bighorn ram is one of the most sought-after bucket list items for hunters.
Arizona – Quail
For the hunter frustrated in the southeast due to the lack of Bobwhites in Arizona, you'll find three of their colorful cousins and may be able to shoot all three on the same day! Like many Western states, Arizona has plenty of public lands, and quail are sprinkled across it depending on elevation and rainfall.
Gambel's quail can be found in the lowland deserts with cacti and catclaw brush, as it's their natural habitat. Populations tend to boom after a winter of high rainfall. In the grassland's versions of Gambel's, you'll find scaled or blue quail, most commonly in the state's southeast corner, also after heavy winter rains.
There's also the Mearns quail, or the Montezuma quail, a stubby and secretive quail with a striking pattern in males with polka-dotted flanks, russet vest, and what almost looks like a silly toupee. Mearns quails tend to attempt to sit tight when in danger, the covey waiting for the last minute to erupt in a flurry of motion. They rely on subterfuge and a simultaneous burst of wings to confuse predators, including us two-legged ones. Many hunters can barely describe the feeling of watching ten to twenty birds or more taking to the air at once.
There's also nothing quite like taking your gun dog with you and that feeling that overwhelms you when they stop stock still, bird scent triggering them into a point. It can be a moment of intensity many bird hunters will talk about for years.
Florida - Turkey
For the hunter that loves the Thunder chicken, aka turkey hunting, you might want to visit Florida. Florida's spring turkey season is an exciting opportunity for hunters to challenge themselves while waiting for the fall. Happening between mid-March to late April, hunters can use various methods to hunt this delicious bird. For example, calling, decoying, and still hunting are all acceptable.
One thing to note is that to hunt turkeys, you must obtain a valid hunting license and permit and familiarize yourself with the state's regulations outlining restrictions on firearms and ammo use.
Why is Florida turkey hunting different from everywhere else? That's due in part to a breed of turkey called the Osceola. These birds are notoriously tricky turkeys to hunt. Years of hiding from Florida's swamp predators and roosting over water have made this subspecies of wild turkey one of the most challenging and rewarding to bag.
These turkeys native to Florida are considered the most cautious of all the turkey subspecies, roosting in water because everything that can and would eat them is down on the ground. As a hunter, you'll probably set up calls anywhere from 100 to 150 yards from where the turkey roosts, but that will probably also mean you'll be sitting in the water waiting while going after the Osceola.
One of the other reasons these turkeys are so challenging is that they have learned that the more they gobble and make noise, the more predators recognize the call and actively seek them out. So these turkeys are almost entirely silent in comparison to their noisy cousins.
These states deliver unbeatable hunting experiences due to their abundance of niche game that can be particularly challenging or exhilarating to bag. Of course, like any hunting experience, your mileage and experiences may differ. What makes one hunter giddy might not work for you and vice versa. Any hunt can be thrilling when it's the right hunt for you.
Just remember before you book that trip or head out to the door to ensure you have the best gear from Freedom Outdoors for an unforgettable hunting experience!