Hunting national wildlife refuges is definitely a thing, and here are eight that you need to try.
As most in the hunting community know, you can hunt in many of our esteemed national wildlife refuges and the action can be great. These shared natural wonders of our nation mean that bird watchers, conservation-minded outdoorsmen and women, and those in the hunting community can all take part in some of the most pristine and protected lands we have available.
All 50 U.S. states have wildlife refuges, including the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Minor Outlying Islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. 11 of the 12 largest of these are located in the state of Alaska alone, which should be no surprise.
These refuges are some of the most valuable and desirable lands for the people of our nation to visit, use, and share. Some are as remote as you can imagine, and others have easy access for anyone who wants to take part in our beautiful and amazing NWR system.
Here’s some extra info on what they are, where some of the best are found, and how they can be used for sportsmen and women nationwide.
What is a National Wildlife Refuge?
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has an entire webpage devoted to the use and exploration of our vaunted national wildlife refuge system. As they put it,
“Founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 and administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge System is a diverse network of lands and waters dedicated to conserving America’s rich fish and wildlife heritage.”
More specifically, a national wildlife refuge is an area with a designation for certain protected regions that are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These public lands and waters are set aside to conserve America’s wild animals, plants, and waterways. On top of that, they provide wide open spaces ideal for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing. These efforts are a major way we’re supporting, protecting, and respecting nature in North America.
When you’re ready to venture out to a NWR for a hunting trip, these are eight to put in the crosshairs.
With nearly two million acres of habitat, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge provides a tremendous amount of area for a variety of hunting opportunities. This includes subsistence hunting for the indigenous peoples and special permit hunts as well as black bear baiting and trapping of several species.
Big game hunting, sportfishing, guided wildlife viewing, and sightseeing are what made Kodiak, Alaska a household name. For the intrepid outdoorsman or woman who wants a real adventure in the untamed wild, Kodiak is the first name in bucket-list hunting. You may think of only bear or moose when you think of Kodiak, but the fact is that elk, Sitka blacktail deer, and mountain goats are all available at Kodiak Refuge.
Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Montana
Some consider this area among of the best elk hunting locations in North America, but it is also home to sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, pronghorn antelope, and enough deer for seemingly every hunter.
Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, Louisiana
At first glance you may think that someone left out the “X” in Texas, but the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge has some of the best deer hunting in the south, bar none. Both the Louisiana state record bow and crossbow kills came from the refuge, but if that’s not enough of a draw then the incredible waterfowl hunting might be.
Cache River National Wildlife Refuge and Dale Bumpers White River National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas
If you’ve ever imagined waterfowling in the duck hunting capitol of the south, then you need to explore eastern Arkansas. Classic flooded timber hunts behind a big cypress or oak tree are there for the taking. Any duck hunter who has dreamed of a hunting like this their entire lives should know it can be had inside of a wildlife refuge.
Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, New Hampshire/Maine
Umbagog has a good moose population and it’s not uncommon for visitors to see them regularly. Not only that, but this refuge has great waterfowl hunting along with grouse, woodcock, and deer. Better yet, it spans two states along their shared border.
Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge, Kansas
Originally thought of as a goose hunting Mecca, Kirwin is diversifying. Wild turkey, pheasants and quail have become more plentiful, to the point where these species now keep hunter’s attention more often than not. In 2006, a B&C archery buck scored 229 out of Kirwin, but the refuge only allots 40 tags per season.
Hunting On National Wildlife Refuges
There are so many choices for hunting on our NWR system that it’s hard to list just a few. Even while we all love and care for our shared wildlife and have the desire to keep them conserved for future generations, it is still important that the hunting opportunities for these species are kept intact.
Our hunting heritage is healthy and deeply rooted in our national psyche, so it goes without saying that it is an extremely important wildlife management tool. Be sure to read up on all the rules and regulations, including boundary lines, connected to any NWR before you ever attempt to hunt on them. Doing so with good stewardship and a sense of responsibility will keep the wild places we love wild.
Please check out my book “The Hunter’s Way” from HarperCollins. Be sure to follow my webpage, or on Facebook and YouTube. Go to Rack Hub and use the coupon code Craiger for a new way to display those antler sheds!