These five classic Western hunts are all on public land, so you can go on your own for elk, mule deer, upland birds and waterfowl.
Photograph by Andrew McKean
Is there a greater gift—or a more appealing challenge—for an American hunter than chasing game across public land, using only your instincts, gear and grit to fill your tag?
For many Western hunters, this challenge is literally part of the landscape. West of Nebraska, public land is abundant and accessible. Hunting opportunities are varied and plentiful. And while outfitters do good business, most hunts are open to anyone with a tag and a willingness to learn the country and the animals, and who can take care of themselves in landscapes with few signs of human development.
But a Western hunting trip is seldom as easy as loading up the Suburban and pointing it toward the sunset. Many big-game tags require years of going through the application process before you draw. Season dates, bag limits, and hunting-unit boundaries often change from year to year. And then there’s the scale of the country. It’s big and wild, and often requires specialized gear. Sound intimidating? It is, but don’t let that scare you away from an awesome adventure. Here’s a way to get started.
These five hunts represent classic Western public-land adventures, but they don’t require years of planning and license preference-point accumulation. And all are easily accomplished with basic gear. Best of all, you can do them right now!