The 12 Best Public Hunting Lands in the United States

Written by Zoe Carina
Updated: November 20, 2023
Share on:

Advertisement


One of the traditional methods that humans acquired food and supplies was through hunting. Animals were not caught for sport, instead they were chosen carefully and respectfully. Hunts were group efforts that, if successful, resulted in nourishment for communities for days or even weeks. These folks used every piece of the animal for tools, clothes, and other items.

The hunters grieved for and thanked the animal after taking its life.

In the modern day, western colonial forces have spread capitalism around the globe. Capitalism locks away food and guards it violently. Humans must now work to earn a once publicly available resource. Due to this shift, hunting moved from a source of sustenance to a sport. A sport that was generally only acceptable for white, wealthy folks to participate in.

Now, trophy hunting creates issues like species extinction, overhunting, and commercialization. No respect for the animal is left. Rather than completely stop hunting, humans must make a shift back to subsistence hunting.

If you would like to hunt for your community, to bring nourishment and tools to loved ones, here are 12 public land options in the United States.

Southwest Bureau of Land Management Land – Wyoming

Wyoming contains hundreds of thousands of acres of Bureau of Land Management land.

©kenez/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Wyoming is a wonderful place for hunting of all species. Specifically, the southwestern portion of the state offers plenty of opportunity. The state is known for antelope hunting and uses a draw tag system.

Hunters who draw a tag are able roam public Bureau of Land Management areas to catch antelope. If you manage to get a tag, it’ll be best to go in the middle of the season, once some of the pressure is over.

You can also hunt elk, moose, sheep, mountain goats, and waterfowl. Before going out, check the rules and regulations in the state of Wyoming.

Wayne National Forest – Ohio

Winter in the Appalachian Mountains

Ohio has 244,000 acres of public land spread across 12 counties.

©The American Wanderer/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to subsistence hunting, Ohio’s Wayne National Forest offers quality deer, turkey, and small game. Most land in Wayne Forest is public, but some private land is interspersed and requires written permission to use. You’ll want to use a land status app to ensure you aren’t accidentally trespassing.

Ohio regulations include the prohibition of centerfire rifles and a limit of one-buck per-hunter. Does are best hunted for their meat and fur. Residents and nonresidents are required to apply for a license to hunt on National Forest lands.

Waterfowl Production Area – North Dakota

White Butte, North Dakota

North Dakota contains thousands of small wetlands available for public hunting.

©Skye Marthaler / CC BY-SA 4.0 - License

For waterfowl and upland bird hunting, North Dakota is a great location. The state has an area called the Waterfowl Production Area, or the Prairie Pothole Region. The region is located in the northern Great Plains. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns thousands of these “pothole” wetlands, and public hunting is permitted.

North Dakota uses a waterfowl draw system to regulate hunting. Hunters can apply for draws to catch ducks, cattails, pheasants, sharp-tails, and Hungarian partridges. Only nontoxic shots are permitted.

Expect to jump from one wetland to the next if you have a large community to feed/clothe, most are just a few hundred acres. Keep an eye on the dates, because each season varies.

Colorado National Forests – Colorado

Crater Lake Trail - A rugged hiking trail winding through a pine forest at base of Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado, USA.

Colorado has 14.5 million acres of national forest.

©Sean Xu/Shutterstock.com

In the United States of America, Colorado has the most elks. The state has plenty of other opportunities for hunting in the U.S. You can camp in most national forests, if you want to do a multi-day excursion.

Colorado uses a tag system for elks and other creatures. Plus, hunters can purchase licenses over the counter at most ranger stations. These licenses last two weeks and include all general firearms seasons.

For those hunting elk to bring meat home, expect to walking deep into the remote parts of the forest. Make sure you have emergency supplies and a radio communicator available.

White River National Wildlife Refuge – Arkansas

Sunset on the White River in the Mountain View, Arkansas Ozark Mountains

Arkansas is perfect for green timber duck hunts to nourish your community.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/Shutterstock.com

If you want to hunt ducks, Arkansas is the ideal place. The White River National Wildlife Refuge offers duck hunting unrivaled by any other state. There are both developed and dispersed campsites available in the Refuge, for those wanting to do a multi-day excursion.

In peak migration times, tens of thousands of mallards gather in this 160,000-acre bottomland hardwood area. The north unit is hunting to hunting while the south unit is closed.

Most options are only available by boat, but there are a few walk-in sections. Daily hunting goes from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Hunters must acquire a free permit before hunting, they are available at most ranger stations, docks, or partner stores.

Buffalo Gap National Grassland – South Dakota

Buffalo Gap National Grassland

Most of

Buffalo

Gap is public, but there are private lands in-between.

©Craig Glantz/iStock via Getty Images

With more than half a million acres to choose from, Buffalo Gap National Grassland is prime for United States hunting. For hunters interested in longer expeditions, you can be out here for weeks without seeing the same area twice.

If you want to stay on the Grassland for weeks, you are able to camp. You’ll need to haul in all your supplies and water though, since there are no designated sites.

A land status app is necessary to ensure you’re not accidentally hunting in private land. You can choose from prairie grouse, chickens, pheasants, and sharp-tails. You can also hunt prairie dogs, though some areas are unavailable to hunt them in.

Apalachicola National Forest – Florida

Apalachicola National Forest

Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida.

©Boomer3195/Shutterstock.com

Feral hogs are a wonderful source of nourishment, as long as the meat is processed safely. Florida has the highest population of feral hogs, making it perfect for sustenance hunters. If you want to do a multi-day excursion, campsites are available. You can use one of the designated sites or go dispersed. Though if you are camping remotely, bring all your necessities.

The Apalachicola National Forest offers hog hunting on over 630,000 acres of land. Located in the panhandle near the capital of Tallahassee, there are upland and lowland habitats to choose from.

You can bring a dog to hunt in most of the area, expect for still-hunt areas. There are two remote hunting designated wilderness areas. Make sure you are keeping watch of the specific hunting seasons and have your correct licenses. You can also hunt deer and small game in Apalachicola.

Clearwater National Forest – Idaho

The forest is reflected in the South Fork of the Clearwater River in Idaho, USA

Loggers have cleared much of Clearwater National Forest, but sustenance hunting is still possible.

©davidrh/Shutterstock.com

Idaho offers thousands of acres of public land for hunting. You can hunt deer, elk, quail, pheasants, turkeys, and small game during season with the correct licenses. Clearwater National Forest allows camping, so multi-day excursions are possible. Make sure you bring your own water, supplies, and emergency kit if necessary.

Clearwater National Forest suffered from several large fires, which left expansive openings throughout the forest. These areas allow hunters to easily spot their targets within the new growth.

Dixie National Forest – Utah

Blossoming cacti in Dixie National Forest near Yant Flat sandstone formations in Utah, USA. Exploring the American Southwest.

Most of Dixie National Forest is either Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service land.

©MNStudio/Shutterstock.com

Utah offers plenty of opportunity for U.S. public land hunting. You need a permit and a license, you can purchase them online or from a DWR office, to hunt on the any of the land. Hunters can choose from deer, elk, turkeys, and other waterfowl.

You can also camp within the park; in case you want to catch animals for multiple days. Dispersed camping is available, meaning that you need to bring your own water and supplies.

The state of Utah uses a tag system to manage hunting. The state also offers a free series of hunting guidebooks online that include the latest rules and regulations. Residents get priority for tags, with nonresidents reporting a four year wait time. Muzzleloader hunters have better odds of acquiring a tag.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument – New Mexico

View from Organ Needle

The New Mexico hunting grounds offer three quail species to hunt.

©Rosemary Woller/Shutterstock.com

If you are interested in quail and waterfowl hunting, New Mexico offers half-a-million acres of opportunity. The three species available to hunt in the area are the scaled, Gambel’s and the coveted Mearns’s (Montezuma) quails.

Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument allows dispersed camping throughout the area. Bring your own water, tent, and necessary supplies if you want to camp. This makes it easier to complete multi-day excursions and catch enough food for larger communities.

When hunting at the National Monument, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with low scrubby desert habitats. Varied plant species and thicker cover will hide the birds. You can bring your dog to scare the birds out of cover and take your shot from there.

Bring good walking shoes, water, and lightweight layers to protect from the sun. You will want to bring emergency supplies as well.

Aitkin Wildlife Management Area: Main Unit – Minnesota

Calm lake and fog in northern Minnesota with trees in autumn color and pines on a small island

Some public roads in Aitkin are wheelchair accessible.

©Dan Thornberg/Shutterstock.com

Aitkin Wildlife Management Area: Main Unit is located in Aitkin County, MN. You’ll have over 3,335 acres of area for sustenance hunting. The area is surrounded by private lands, so hunters should regularly check a land status app while out.

The habitats range from upland and low ground. Hunters can catch deer, small game, and upland birds. If hunting in the spring, make sure to avoid breeding sandhill cranes. A valid license and permit are required before hunting on this land.

Dunn Canyon Public Access Land Agreement – Montana

Beneath a blue sky with white clouds on the horizon, rock mountains appear to separate beyond a field of green grasses and yellow wildflowers on a summer day near Townsend, Montana, USA.

Hunters may ride horses into non-motorized use areas of Dunn Canyon Public Access Land Agreement.

©Dave Jonasen/Shutterstock.com

In Montana, Dunn Canyon Public Access Land Agreement offers deer, elk, antelope, and upland bird hunting. Before heading out, ensure you have a valid license and permit. You’ll also want to brush up on the latest rules and regulations.

Motorized vehicle use is not permitted within the park, so expect to walk or ride your horse in to find animals. Hunters may camp on the land for multi-day excursions, though there are no designated sites.

You’ll be able to hunt within the 12,235 acres of land and can get there from Cardwell, Montana. The hunting seasons ranges from September 2nd to January 1st.

Summary of the 12 Best Public Hunting Lands in the U.S.

Public Hunting LandsState
1.Southwest Bureau of Land Management LandWyoming
2.Wayne National ForestOhio
3.Waterfowl Production AreaNorth Dakota
4.Colorado National ForestsColorado
5.White River National Wildlife RefugeArkansas
6.Buffalo Gap National GrasslandSouth Dakota
7.Apalachicola National ForestFlorida
8.Clearwater National ForestIdaho
9.Dixie National ForestUtah
10.Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National MonumentNew Mexico
11.Aitkin Wildlife Management Area: Main UnitMinnesota
12.Dunn Canyon PalaMontana

The photo featured at the top of this post is © SpiritArt/Shutterstock.com


Share on:
About the Author

Zoe Carina is a writer at A-Z Animals who primarily covers plants, animals, and places around the world. Zoe has been a professional copywriter and freelancer for six years and holds a bachelors degree in communications from Florida State University, which they earned in 2019. A resident of Oregon, Zoe runs a blog called Intuitive Traveler, where they write about traveling and language learning.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.