If you're looking for an adventure and a chance to hunt one of the largest land mammals in North America, then bison hunting in the United States is for you! In this blog post, we'll discuss everything you need to know about hunting these impressive creatures, including where to go and what you need to bring. We'll also provide some tips on how to bag your bison buck. So if you're ready for an unforgettable hunting experience, keep reading!
The American Bison, also called the buffalo, is one of the few legendary animals the great plains of North America. For a select few hunters, tagging one of these animals is a dream, and one of the ultimate tests of your hunting sportsmanship skills.
Once you've set your sights on adding one of these majestic creatures to your trophy collection, the question becomes where and how you'll hunt it. We've scoured the country for the best ranches to give you the best experience, both hunting and relaxing.
Bison Hunting For Beginners
Most hunters are familiar with the basics of deer hunting before they even touch the trigger for the first time. Bison hunting though is a bit more exotic and so I want to start off with some quick bison hunting tips for beginners.
What To Expect On Your First Bison Hunt
Hunting American bison, also known as buffalo, is a significant undertaking that requires careful preparation and respect for the animal and its natural habitat itself. Here are some things a person should know before they begin:
- Understand the Regulations: Hunting bison is regulated by state and federal laws. You should check with local wildlife agencies or hunting guides to understand the specific regulations in your area. This may include obtaining a hunting license and a specific bison tag.
- Physical Fitness: Bison hunting can be physically demanding. Bison are large animals that often live in rugged terrain, so hunters should be in good physical condition.
- Equipment: You will need a high-powered rifle, as bison are large and tough animals. A .30-06 caliber rifle or larger is often recommended. You'll also need appropriate clothing for the weather and terrain, as well as camping gear if you plan to hunt for several days.
- Hunting Skills: Bison are large, but they can be elusive. Understanding their behavior, knowing how to track them, and being patient are all important skills. Hiring a guide can be very helpful if you're new to bison hunting.
- Field Dressing and Transport: Bison are massive animals, often weighing over 1,000 pounds. You'll need to know how to field dress the bison to preserve the meat, and have a plan for transporting it. This often involves having a vehicle capable of carrying the animal, or packing out the meat in multiple trips.
- Respect for the Animal and Environment: Bison are a symbol of the American West and hold significant cultural value for many Native American tribes. It's important to approach the hunt with respect for the animal and its environment.
- Safety: Bison are large, powerful animals and can be dangerous if provoked or cornered. Always maintain a safe distance and never attempt to approach a bison too closely.
Remember, hunting should be done responsibly and ethically, with a focus on our conservation efforts and respect for wildlife.
How Much Does A Bison Weight?
The average bison bull will weigh between 1000-2000 pounds, with cows (females) and big bulls on the lower end of that spectrum and big bulls often weighing well over 2,500 pounds. A full-grown bull can stand up to six feet tall at the shoulder and twelve feet long from nose to tail. Their massive heads can account for one-third of their body weight.
What States Have The Best Bison Hunting?
There are several states with large bison populations and great hunting opportunities. These include Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Texas. Each state has different rules and regulations regarding bison hunting, so be sure to do your research before planning your trip and pick a professional bison hunting outfitter who can make sure everything goes smoothly.
Is A Buffalo The Same As An American Bison?
Most Americans use the term "buffalo" and "bison" interchangeably and this is a misnomer that historians believe began when the first European settlers began exploring the American west and thought these huge animals were the same as "Old World" buffalo herds such as Cape Buffalo and Water Buffalo that are native to Africa and Asia. American Bison however are not closely related.
Regardless though, in the context of big game hunting - buffalo and bison hunting methods are pretty much the same here in the United States. Though there are actually places where you can hunt Asian Water Buffalo in Florida though.
Are Bison Endangered?
The American bison was once on the brink of extinction, but thanks to conservation efforts, their populations have rebounded in recent years. There are now more than 450,000 bison in North America, with the majority of them (~400,000 bison) living on private ranches and farms for hunting and harvesting as livestock. The rest of the wild bison live in national parks and other protected areas such as zoos, wilderness preserves, and state or regional parks.
What Does Bison Meat Taste Like?
Bison tastes similar to beef, but their meat is leaner and has a slightly sweeter flavor. Like beef though, it depends highly on the type of food that the animal eats and you'll notice regional variations, as well as large differences between farm-raised bison, fed a diet of hay and native grasses followed by grains to turn the natural yellow fat color into a milky white. In fact, wild buffalo meat is also a great source of essential fatty acids due to the natural grasses consumed.
Bison steaks are best when cooked medium-rare to rare, and the buffalo meat can be used in any recipe that calls for beef.
Best Time For Buffalo Hunting
The best time for hunting trophy bulls is between September and February. Winter hunts are the best time of year if you are looking for full robes. However, for those doing meat hunts, summer is a better choice since the weather can often be better and the meat bulls have been feasting so the meat will be a bit fattier and more flavorful. Ultimately it depends on what you want out of your own trophy bulls and buffalo hunts as to what time of year is best.
Best Weapon And Ammo For Buffalo Hunts
The best weapon for bison hunting is a rifle that can handle large and heavy bullets. A good choice would be a .300 Winchester Magnum or larger. As for ammunition, you'll want to use bullets that are designed to penetrate deeply, such as the Nosler Partition or the Barnes TSX.
However, many people enjoy hunting buffalo with bow and arrow, while others like to add an additional level of challenge by hunting with muskets and historic weapons in the style of early pioneers.
Do I Need An Outfitter or Guide To Hunt Bison?
While you don't technically need an outfitter or hunting guides to go bison hunting, it is highly recommended, especially if you're a beginner. A good outfitter will not only help you with the logistics of your bison hunt, but they will also ensure that you are following all the rules and regulations.
Additionally, most outfitters and ranches offer hunting on their own private property. This means there is less risk of encountering other hunters as well. However, several states do offer public-land bison hunting opportunities. These include: Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. As with other large game, these tags are limited and awarded by lottery, often with preference to state residents.
Our Picks For The Best Bison Hunting Outfitters
Hunting the legendary American bison is an experience that is as achievable as it is exotic. While acquiring one of those public-land bison hunting tags is quite literally like winning the lottery, there are numerous options for those aspiring buffalo hunters who are looking to work with a bison hunting outfitter.
Having an expert hunting guide and a trained, experienced, and knowledgeable outfitter will make the difference between a mediocre hunting trip and a bucket-list-worthy adventure that you will remember for the rest of your life.
This list is not ranked. While there are certainly great buffalo hunting outfitters and some that fall short, we find that it is just as important to find a bison hunting outfitter that matches an individual's personality and style. As such, we've chosen to organize our list of buffalo hunting ranches and lodges by state and encourage you to find one that matches your hunting style best.
Bison Hunting In Colorado
Colorado is one of the best places for bison hunting. With its diverse landscape of great plains and large herds of bison, Colorado is a mecca for hunters looking to add this impressive creature to their trophy deer collection.
Some of the best places to hunt bison in Colorado are on private ranches. These ranches offer experienced guides, comfortable lodges, many hunting grounds and access to some of the largest herds of bison in the state.
Prairie Ridge Buffalo Ranch
This working buffalo ranch offers a variety of activities orbiting around their private herd of bison roaming the Colorado prairie. From tours designed for families, cookouts, and of course buffalo hunts, Prarie Ridge Buffalo Ranch has something for everyone.
Offering a wide variety of big game hunting options on this private ranch, this is almost like a free-range bison hunting experience since the fences are low and the bison are roaming free across thousands of acres of canyons packed with pinyon, rocks, and cedars as well as the flat grasslands of this private ranch.
Bison Hunting in North Dakota
Outside of Yellowstone National Park, one of the best places to see wild bison is at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. While that park is an amazing destination to hunt bison and explore for those packing a camera instead of hunting gear, the state is also home to private herds and some fantastic bison hunting outfitters as well.
The Bison Ranch Lodge & Outfitters
Get out of the south, and take your next bison hunt to the northern plains of North Dakota, where bison used to roam freely. Here you'll find The Bison Ranch, about 2.5 hours west of Fargo, ND. The ranch has operated continuously since the 1920s, and has over 30 years of experience in the bison industry.
The hunt is unlike any other experience you'll have anywhere else. The expert guides are dedicated to helping you harvest an incredible animal to fill your freezer, not to mention take a trophy. The focus is on hunting methods helping you take the best shot to humanely harvest your trophy, and preserve the most usable meat.
They even have a full state-approved butchering facility to prepare your harvest for an additional fee. Your lodge has a fully equipped kitchen so that you can prepare meals of your choosing.
Bison Hunting In Montana
Montana is one of the top states in the country when it comes to trophy bison hunts and exotic landscapes ranging from the Rocky Mountains to the wide-open prairie.
The state is home to several large bison herds, making it a great destination for hunters looking to add this impressive creature to their trophy collection.
Montana also offers some of the best opportunities for free-range bison hunting in the country. These hunts take place on public lands and require more planning and preparation than hunts on private ranches.
Bison Hunting In Tennessee
Tennessee might be one of the most surprising places to include on this list but don't worry, you can go buffalo hunting here at one of the top exotic hunting lodges east of the Mississippi.
Caryonah Hunting Lodge
Forget having to head out west to get an opportunity to have a quality buffalo hunt. Caryonah Hunting Lodge is located about 75 miles west of Knoxville, TN. You'll have the choice between the luxury cabin for groups of up to 22 people, or one of the 10 rooms in the hunting lodge. In either setting, your stay is comfortable, with high-speed Internet access, flat-screen TV with cable, comfy leather furniture, and Italian-tiles showers. You'll also have an all-you-can-eat breakfast and lunch provided throughout your stay.
Most hunts at Caryonah are in close range due to thick brush and heavy cover. You'll likely have your opportunity in under 100 yards, many within about 50 yards, making this one of the most exhilarating hunts you'll experience. Your guide will even haul your harvest into the ranch's walk-in cooler.
Bison Hunting In Texas
The folks in Texas will hunt pretty much anything and so it's no surprise that the Lone Star State is also one of the top places for bison hunting too.
Texas is home to several large bison herds, making it a great destination for hunters looking to add this impressive creature to their trophy collection.
Bison hunting in Texas offers some of the best opportunities for free-range bison hunting in the country. These bison hunts take place on public lands and require more planning and preparation than bison hunts done on private ranches.
Ox Ranch is a step above the common hunting ranch for those who want more than simply a place to hunt bison. The accommodations are top-notch, with luxurious leather furniture and incredibly comfortable beds. You'll also have some of the best food you've experienced while staying here, and have an assortment of other activities when you're not hunting your bison, including night vision hog hunting.
The ranch boasts 18,000 acres, and has about 20 head of bison on the ranch's property, including the more rare white buffalo. Your hunting package is all-inclusive, so you don't have to worry about lodging, meals, or finding an experienced hunting guide. You can even use one of the ranch's rifles if you prefer not to bring one of your own if you prefer.
Champion Ranch brings an entire resort experience to your buffalo hunt. You'll certainly enjoy your hunting experience with one of the Ranch's professional guides, who are themselves lifelong hunters. You'll aim to tag a trophy between 800-2,000 lbs, with an animal up to 25 years old.
While at the ranch, you'll enjoy 5-star accommodations no matter what lodging option you choose. You'll find ample opportunity to relax with the cigar lounge, one of the three unique bars, live music, and so much more. You'll satisfy your craving for spectacular food with the game dishes prepared by Executive Chef Aaron Chavez.
Montgomery Properties Ranch
The Montgomery family has over 6 generations' experience in ranching, including both habitat and wildlife management. The success of this program has resulted in the success our hunters have enjoyed during their trips.
Your bison hunting package is all-inclusive, providing your lodging, chef-prepared hunting trip favorites, a guide for your hunt, and a stocked bar for afterward. You'll also have access to the on-site rifle and archery range and trophy bass fishing. You'll wonder why you waited to visit Montgomery Properties Ranch.
Bison Hunting In Utah
Utah is one of the top states in the country when it comes to big game hunting and offers a wide variety of landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the sagebrush-covered desert.
The state is home to several large bison herds, making it a great destination for hunters looking to add this impressive creature to their trophy collection.
West Canyon Ranch
For a more mountainous experience, head over to the West Canyon Ranch, tucked away in the northern Wasatch Mountains in Utah. There are two cabins housing guests, both of which offer you the comfort you're longing for while experiencing a hunt. The packages include lodging, meals, beverages, airport transportation and field care. You'll even enjoy the signature 50oz tomahawk steak on your last night at the ranch.
Your trophy hunt will give you the opportunity to take a 6-10 year old bull. This will not only give you an incredible trophy of your choice, but will fill your freezer with some incredible meat. On West Canyon Ranch, you're free to use your weapon of choice, including rifle, muzzle-loader, bow and arrow, or crossbow.
Bison Hunting In Wyoming
When it comes to Americans and their first experience seeing wild bison, Wyoming probably comes to mind first. While there is a huge herd of more than 4,600 bison that call Yellowstone National Park home - there are also plenty of bison outfitters here that are ready to guide you on an epic buffalo hunting experience.
Rockin' 7 Ranch
Moving a little further west, you'll find Rockin' 7 Ranch about two hours north of Cheyenne, WY. Your stay at Rockin' 7 is where rustic meets comfort, bringing the best of the old-fashioned wood lodge to the modern hunting experience.
For this hunt, you'll have the pick of the herd, with about 140 total heads to choose from, both cow and bull. You pick the one you want, and your guide helps you stalk close enough to get a clean shot, usually within about 100 yards. Your package includes both lodging, all meals, and your guide fees. There are no hidden trophy fees while hunting on Rockin' 7 Ranch. Meat processing and taxidermy are not included in these packages.
Bison hunting is a popular pastime in the United States, and for good reason - these massive creatures are impressive to see in the wild. If you're interested in embarking on your own buffalo hunt, there are plenty of great destinations to choose from. Just remember to be smart, be safe, and enjoy the experience!