November 25, 2013
By Richard Johnson
The U.S. is home to some of the most exceptional big game animals, from 900-pound grizzlies to bison weighing over half a ton. If you want to experience the thrill of hunting an enormous animal, go on one of the top big game hunting trips in America. If you're lucky, you could come home with a Boone and Crockett trophy for your wall, a story for your grandkids, and the key ingredient for some delicious elk burgers.
Alligators in Florida
Each year from August to September, Florida has a state-wide alligator harvest that serves as a sustainable program to manage gator populations, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Residents and non-residents can get a special alligator hunting and trapping permit valid for two alligators. A Florida hunting license is not required.
There is no cost to apply, but once you are approved for a permit, you must pay for two CITES tags and an Alligator Trapping License. The fees are $272 for a Resident Alligator Trapping License with 2 CITES tags, [imo-slideshow gallery=158],022 for a Non-Resident Alligator Trapping License with 2 CITES tags and $62 for 2 CITES tags only if you already have a trapping license, according to myfwc.com
Image via Bogeskov on Flickr
South Dakota Bison
A bison hunt offers a real taste of what the wild west must have been like before it was settled, and there's no better place to experience it than in South Dakota.
Take a guided one-day hunt at Custer State Park for non-trophy bulls weighing up to 1,000 pounds or more. The state regulates the type of guns used on these hunts, and they must be .270 caliber or more with a muzzle blast of 2,200 foot-pounds.
Fees for this special hunt are gallery=158,250 for bulls and [imo-slideshow gallery=158],750 for female cows, but it's worth every cent.
Image via Jack Dykinga
California Black Bears
Black bears typically average 250 pounds and can grow to 600 pounds or more. The world record weight for this astonishing animal is 880 pounds. Over the past two and a half decades, the population increased dramatically from about 15,000 bears to around 30,000 bears.
The season opens in August, and this time of year is huge for California because it's well recognized for its black bear population. The most prominent hunting spots are in the northern counties of Humbolt, Del Norte, Plumas, and Shasta. The Cottrell Ranch is a 14,000-acre private collection of land perfect for hunting bears, elk and other large game species. Trophy Bear Outfitters in central California is another hotspot.
All hunters must be over the age of 12 and take an online hunter safety course
to hunt anything in California. Expect to pay around $25.
Image via Mike Bender, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
If you want a real big game experience, take on grizzly bears in Alaska
. Grizzlies weigh upward of 900 pounds during the fall season, and most fully mature males weigh over 500 pounds. The season runs from August 10 to May 31 in northern Alaska and September 1 to May 31 in lower regions of the state, but residents are on a strict, one bear every four years quota.
As a non-resident, you must hunt with a guide and secure all appropriate permits through the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Your guide will explain all the regulations, but always double-check them yourself.
Where does the hunt begin? Pioneer Outfitters
specializes in big game hunts. The Alaskan adventure brings you face-to-face with real mountain grizzlies in the beautiful Chisana Valley.
Image via Alaskan Dude on Flickr
Elk in Montana
Elk is big game meat, and the best elk hunting in the U.S. is in Montana. In 2013, the general season is open until December 1. If you plan to hunt in Montana, be prepared to hunt several species because licenses cost $959. You can hunt elk, bighorn sheep, deer, and antelope, and fill your trophy room within one season.
Bighorn season runs September 15 to December 1, and bison starts on November 15 and runs until February 15. Montana Hunting and Fishing LLC
is your connection to all big game hunts and can outfit you with the best gear for your trip. They even offer lodges and cabins to rent.
You'll have to use snowshoes in most parts of the state during winter (October through March). Thermals along with a heavy-duty winter coat, gloves, hat, and snow gear are essential.
Image via Hagerty Ryan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service