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Types of Game in the U.S.
The United States is a county rich in natural resources and animal life that populates the vast deserts, grassy plains, tall mountains and the many rivers and lakes. Because of the extreme variety in landscape and climate, the United States' fauna is very diverse and offers an assortment of hunting opportunities to U.S. citizens. Generally, hunting game can be divided into two main groups, according to the size of the animal: small game and big game. Depending on the type of game, hunters can use a variety of techniques and hunting equipment to hunt carnivores, herbivores and both upland and waterfowl birds.
Read the sections below to learn more about the following types of game available for hunting across the U.S.:
- Big game animals
- Small game animals
Big Game Animals in the United States
Big game animals are almost always large land mammals. These types of animals are often hunted for their meat or for certain byproducts such as bone or horn. Hunters use various methods to hunt big game including: hunting from tree stands, stalking, trapping and driving. Some of the most common big game animals in the U.S. include:
- Deer – The most common deer in the U.S. are the white-tailed deer east of the Rocky Mountains, the mule deer west of the Rockies and the blacktail deer populating the west coast of the U.S. To hunt deer, hunters generally use bows or modern firearms.
- Antelope – Found primarily on the grass prairies of the western United States, the antelope is difficult prey as it is one of the fastest land mammals, reaching speeds of nearly 60 mph. Hunters who intend to hunt antelope are encouraged to buy a long-distance rifle with good optics.
- Bighorn sheep – A species of sheep native to North America, bighorn sheep populate the western parts of the United States. The biggest advantage for bighorn sheep hunting is to maintain an excellent physical condition, as bighorns often traverse rugged terrain.
- American bison – Also known as the American buffalo, the bison roams the vast plains of the U.S. Hunting bison nowadays is legal in certain states such as Montana, Utah and Alaska where culling is used to maintain a healthy bison population. A limited amount of bison tags is issued annually.
- Cougar – More commonly known as the mountain lion, the cougar is native to both North and South America. To hunt cougars, hunters generally hire an outfitter who owns track-running hounds.
- American black bear – Widely spread across the country, the black bear is America's smallest bear. This omnivorous species can be hunted with dogs, horses or with scent baiting.
Small Game Animals in the United States
Small game animals are typically small mammals such as: rabbits, beavers, squirrels, reptiles, amphibians, and furbearers like foxes or coyotes. Upland game birds and waterfowl are also considered small game for the purpose of the hunt. The following animal species are regarded as small game in the United States:
- Duck – As part of the waterfowl family, ducks are aquatic birds found in both salt and fresh water. The usual duck hunting gear includes: waders, decoys, guns and shells.
- Pheasant – Males and females of the species differ greatly. Males are larger with longer tails and are highly decorated. Good pheasant hunters use a trained bird dog such as a Labrador to retrieve the downed pheasant.
- American crow – Found throughout North America, the American crow is an entirely black passerine bird. The most common crow hunting methods include the run-and-gun and stand hunting methods. Run and gun involves bird calling, shooting and changing position, whereas stand hunting is hunting from a stationary position near a feeding area.
- Rabbits and hares – These small herbivores are among the favorite prey of small game hunters in the U.S. Rabbit and hare hunting involves using dogs as well as trapping and shooting methods.
- Squirrel – Native to the Americas and Eurasia, squirrels are a large family of small- to medium-sized rodents. Two main ways of hunting squirrels include: still hunting and stand hunting. Still hunting involves walking slowly, scanning the area and moving again. Stand hunting, on the other hand, requires scouting for trees with an abundance of nuts and positioning yourself close to their feeding ground.
- American alligator – A large reptile native to the southeastern United States, the alligator is an apex predator that consumes all other species in its habitat. Alligator hunting methods include: bows and arrows, firearms, hooks and lines, and gigs and snares.