Is American Bison Hunting or buffalo hunting still available in the United States today?
The time of the great American bison herds may very well be long gone, but present day hunters can continue to enjoy hunting these big game animal while using some of the classic calibers our fore fathers used. Their populations have grown to the point that some herds must be thinned and these days there are various populations that can be hunted “fair chase”.
There are numerous outfitters and some public land hunts available for bison hunting, but very few apply the draw (lottery system), most are pay to hunt.
By the 1800's, the small bison herds east of the Mississippi River were gone. Bison were killed in order to safeguard livestock and farmlands in the area. With westward growth of the frontier, methodical decrease in the plains herds started in the 1830's. Bison hunting took over as primary industry on the plains. The government had sanctioned the wholesale slaughter of the herds to eradicate the Native American's main food supply. Structured teams of hunters slaughtered bison for skins and meat, frequently eradicating as many as 250 bison per day.
One ranch in New Mexico offered “fair chase” bison hunting, free roaming on 80 thousand acres. In the late nineties-early 2000's cow hunts were about $600 and bull hunts ran about $1500 but things and prices have changed. They have also changed to “pen shooting” and are no longer “fair chase hunting”. If I wanted that I would raise a cow.
New Mexico has a free roaming herd in the western part of the state and the fish & game wanted to cull the herd a few years back but the animal rights people protested and the government canceled the hunt. I will need to research this herd further to see how they are doing. The area can only sustain so many animals and I know with the drought conditions we have had the past ten years, this isn't helping the health of the herd.
In Arizona for instance there is 113,000 square miles of land available for outfitters to provide bison hunts to the hunters. In Alaska there is 580,000 square miles available, so as you can see there are oppurtunities out there, though you may have to write a hefty check.
There are also some large tracks of land in South Dakota that offer hunts, along with some smaller tracks of 4000 acres and more for private ranch hunts. Most all of these are fully guided hunts on private ranches like Utah who advertises fair chase hunts, some on unfenced property surrounded by national forests.
There are a few outfitters who offer semi guided bison hunts also. Apparently they review there boundaries with you and inform you where the animals will likely be. There are some outfitters with large tracks that offer horseback hunts to locate herds then spot and stalk to within range.
Be aware that some private ranches do not allow you to take all of the bison after harvest, so make sure you will be getting 100% of your kill to take home. If you are planning a bison hunt make sure you do your research, there are oppurtunities out there.
There are also hunts available in the Yellowstone National Park boundary areas where the bison leave the park on winter migration routes and end up in areas where hunting is legal. These hunts are fair chase hunts on public land around the Jackson Hole area. The state allows outfitters to take hunters into the National Forest and the National Elk Refuge.
Wyoming typically issues about 50-75 bull tags and 50-125 cow tags per year. You pay a fee for a "priority list" drawing which cost about $20 non-refundable. If your number is low enough the fish and game will contact you letting you know you have been chosen and you will be able to purchase a license. Non-resident license fees run about $2500.
Adult bulls can weigh up to 2400 pounds and stand 6 feet at the shoulder. Cows can weigh up to 1200 pounds so you will need plenty of help getting these monsters out of the field. Wherever you decide to hunt make sure you check all the rules and regulations, along with the transport permits.
Today there are also many bison farms that raise their stock for commercial sale of their meat to the public. A few states have implemented “free ranging herds”. We will be bringing you links for the public purchase of bison meat.
If you have never eaten bison meat, you should try it. Very, very good! As with most wild game meat, it is superior to beef. You may also be interested in the Bison – What's Cookin' section for recipes. Good luck and good eating.
We are updating this site constantly so there are more links and details to come. We will be doing the research for every state that allows bison hunting. I highly recommend you subscibe to the RSS feeds to the left and have our web page updates delivered to your favorite reader.
If you have had the opportunity of hunting the great American Bison, we would love to here from you. We have a Buffalo Bison Journal waiting for your story.
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Bison Hunting photo credit Al Stuart NMFG
Please bare with us, we are still new (9/2011) More to come everyday .. stay tuned
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