Hunters have played a major role in the conservation of the nation’s wildlife resources since the late 19th century. American conservation giants like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold were both avid sportsmen. Their passion for wildlife and hunting helped shape our nation’s wildlife management philosophy and public lands as we know them. By maintaining ethical traditions and respecting nature, sportsmen and women continue to be vital stewards of wildlife and habitat today.
America’s public lands offer unparalleled opportunities for hunting, allowing families the chance to pass down the nation’s rich hunting heritage. It was this hunting tradition that was the primary driver behind the creation of the National Wildlife Refuge System, which has set aside millions of acres of land for the conservation of all wildlife, while providing wildlife-dependent recreation like hunting and wildlife watching.
Today, there are 76 areas managed by the National Park Service, 336 national wildlife refuges and 36 wetland management districts managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and over 220 million acres of BLM-managed public lands -- in addition to most Bureau of Reclamation lands -- that allow hunting in accordance with federal and state regulations and laws.
To ensure you are hunting in appropriate areas please contact your local conservation officers and they will lead you to a list of Public lands to hunt on in your state.
Hunters are a driving force behind funding many of our nation’s conservation efforts. After the extinction of the passenger pigeon and the near elimination of the bison and many migratory bird species in the early 1900s, Americans realized the impacts humans could have on wildlife. To ensure that there would be animals to hunt in the future, hunters began to support programs that helped maintain species populations and protected habitat for wildlife.
Where allowed on America’s public lands, you can be assured of a quality hunt. From deer and waterfowl to turkey and feral hogs, there’s a range of permitted species to hunt on public lands. For those looking for a challenging big game hunt, public lands in Alaska are the place for you.
Before you set off on a hunting adventure on public lands, make sure you are prepared. Weather and conditions may change quickly, so pack accordingly. Pick up maps, and let others know where you will be, when you will be back and develop an emergency plan just in case.
All hunters on public lands must have the required state license(s). That’s because states are responsible for managing wildlife within their borders for the trust and benefit of their residents, even if the hunting occurs on federal lands.
Aldo Leopold, a hunter and conservationist, wrote the book on modern-day wildlife management. The highly successful North American Wildlife Conservation Model is founded on our nation’s great hunting and fishing heritage. Some of the main tenets of wildlife stewardship include using science to develop wildlife policy, only killing wildlife for legitimate purposes such as food, and upholding the ideal of hunting as inexpensive and accessible to all -- preventing the U.S. from becoming like England where only a privileged class had the opportunity to hunt.
Incorporating those guiding principles, hunting on public lands does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations and helps with sound management of wildlife. Public lands in much of America are surrounded by development or human activity in various forms, and as such, need to be carefully managed. At many sites, humans are the only remaining predator for species such as deer, and reintroducing natural predators is not feasible given the proximity to people. This makes hunting a particularly valuable management tool for maintaining balanced wildlife populations. For example if some of the deer are not harvested, they destroy habitat for themselves and other animals, and die from starvation or disease. Not only does this help manage wildlife populations, it also provides food for many Americans.
Alaska is unique among states not only in the extent to which its inhabitants live off the land but because of hunting and fishing directives set by the Federal Subsistence Management Program. Alaska is the only state where the subsistence use of fish and game is given the highest-priority for consumptive use. In our nation’s largest state, there are only 13 state roads connecting urban centers and thousands of acres of uninhabited lands with no roads at all. Driving to the supermarket to buy something for dinner is out of the question, so subsistence harvesting of food and materials becomes an activity of paramount importance in Alaska.
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