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The Forest Service Welcomes Hunters to the Nation's Forests and Grasslands

Hunting Heritage

The national forests and grasslands of the United States provide over 192 million acres of diverse wildlife habitat and excellent hunting opportunities. All the major big and small game species are found on these lands. Hunters are able to pursue species such as caribou, moose, dall sheep, and brown bears in Alaskan forests and mountains. Elk, pronghorn antelope, mule deer, and a variety of game birds are abundant on the western forests and grasslands.

Photograph: David Romero poses with deer.

White-tailed deer, black bear, ruffed grouse, and waterfowl are common throughout our eastern forests. Four sub-species of the wild turkey are represented throughout the entire National Forest System, except for Alaska.

The national forests provide abundant hunting access and are excellent places for first-time hunts. Most forests have developed camping areas and good access roads. Dispersed camping is also allowed in most areas.

Aldo Leopold recognized that preserving large tracts of wilderness could also provide a unique hunting experience. Federally designated wilderness areas within our national forests protect some of America's best remaining undisturbed wildlife habitat and fishing streams.

The national forests and grasslands of America are recognized as among our Nation's greatest treasures.

These lands contain world-class public resources - with hunting opportunities that are second to none!

Know Before You Go Hunting - before you go hunting, you need a hunting license. States sell specific hunting licenses. Find the related state licensing information by key word searching for the state name plus hunting plus license, (e.g., Georgia hunting license). Start with results ending in '.gov'.

Photograph: flock of turkeys in open grass area.

Photograph: lucky buck by Kreig Rasmussen. National Hunting and Fishing Day

Posters & Feature Stories - download
  • Mallard
  • White Tailed Deer
  • Pronghorn
  • Redfish
  • Eagle
  • Wood Ducks
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Wild Turkey
  • Bison
  • Elk


Article - Are Wildlife Recreationists Conservationists? Linking Hunting, Birdwatching and Pro-Environmental Behavior
The Journal of Wildlife Management 79(3):446-457; 2015; DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.855
Caren Cooper, Lincoln Larson, Ashley Dayer, Richard Stedman and Daniel Decker


There is a widely held assumption that outdoor experiences are a key precursor to pro-environmental behavior (PEB). We tested the hypothesis that wildlife recreationists are more likely than non-recreationists to voluntarily engage in different types of PEB, grouped as conservation behaviors and environmental lifestyle behaviors. Via mail and web-based surveys of rural New York residents (n = 941), we compared the self-reported PEBs of 4 types of recreationists: hunters, birdwatchers, hunter–birdwatchers (i.e., individuals who regularly engaged in both activities), and non-nature-based recreationists. We statistically controlled for group differences in socio-demographic characteristics and environmental beliefs. We found wildlife recreationists—both hunters and birdwatchers—were 4–5 times more likely than non-recreationists to engage in conservation behaviors, which included a suite of activities such as donating to support local conservation efforts, enhancing wildlife habitat on public lands, advocating for wildlife recreation, and participating in local environmental groups. Moreover, effects were additive; hunter–birdwatchers had the greatest likelihood of engaging in all types of conservation behaviors. On the other hand, engagement in environmental lifestyle behaviors such as recycling, energy conservation, and green purchasing were roughly comparable among all types of wildlife recreationists and non-recreationists. Our findings of elevated rates of conservation behaviors among hunters and birdwatchers despite different demographic attributes and environmental beliefs highlight the similar conservation potential associated with different types of wildlife recreation. Diversified strategies that include programs to encourage both hunting and birdwatching are likely to bring about long-term gains for conservation. © 2015 The Wildlife Society.

Hunting in America
PDF 1.42 MB

From Southwick Associates: ."..the latest hunting economic impacts covering the US and each state. These are based on the 2011 USFWS National Survey, and continue the trend produced by Southwick Associates back to the 1985 Survey. This latest in the series was funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), who took over for the AFWA based on funding needs. AFWA was a partner in this latest effort. The methods are exactly the same as the 2006 results, thus providing strong trend numbers. ..."

Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation Plan - December 2008
PDF 3.24 MB

Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation. The Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan as directed by Executive Order 13443. 10-year plan.
Developed in cooperation with the Sporting Conservation Council (a federal advisory committee), diverse volunteers from state agencies, conservation and sportsmen’s organizations, and participants in the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy.

Charter :: Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council

PDF 273 KB

Recreation Hunting Action Plan - December 2008
PDF 3.24 MB

Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation. THe Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan as directed by Executive Order 13443. 10-year plan.
Developed in cooperation with the Sporting Conservation Council (a federal advisory committee), diverse volunteers from state agencies, conservation and sportsmen’s organizations, and participants in the White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy.

Climate Change Report for Hunters and Anglers
(Excerpt from WMI - Wildlife Management Institute site)
A report outlining the potential impacts of climate change on North America’s fish and game species is released by a joint cooperation of nine leading conservation organizations. Seasons’ End is the result of a collaborative partnership between the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, BASS/ESPN, Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Isaac Walton League of America, Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited and the Wildlife Management Institute. Delta Waterfowl recently joined the partnership to aid in the outreach and dissemination of the report. Only summaries of the 111-page report are available online; copies of Seasons’ End are available upon request and free of charge from the Bipartisan Policy Center at 1225 Eye Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20005.
More information...

Migratory Bird Hunting; Final Frameworks for Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations
Final rule
Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 167 / Wednesday, August 27, 2008 / Rules and Regulations
Federal Register / Vol. 73, No. 243 / Wednesday, December 17, 2008 / FWS Regulations Committee Meeting
January 29, 2009 - Denver, CO

Early-Season Migratory Bird Hunting Regulations SUMMARY: This rule prescribes final early-season frameworks from which the States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands may select season dates, limits, and other options for the 2008–09 migratory bird hunting seasons. Early seasons are those that generally open prior to October 1, and include seasons in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The effect of this final rule is to facilitate the selection of hunting seasons by the States and Territories to further the annual establishment of the early-season migratory bird hunting regulations.
This rule takes effect on August 27, 2008.

USDI Fish & Wildlife Service - Flyways Website:
Initial Assessments of Waterfowl Breeding Habitat Conditions Available
Up to date waterfowl hunting information is available at the site.
It also has some great links to other information that can be used for monitoring such as "waterfowl breeding populations and monitoring surveys", "2007 Waterfowl report", "midwinter ground surveys", and more.

Sportsman Economic Report: "Hunting & Fishing: Bright Starts of the American Economy"
Released every five years. This report, "Hunting and Fishing: Bright Stars of the American Economy ~ A force as big as all outdoors", uses the results from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation" report (released every five years) and compares hunters’ and anglers’ impact on the economy with other industries and constituencies.

State and National Economic Effects of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Related Recreation on US Forest Service-Managed Lands
(aka "Southwick Report"; aka "USFS_Wildlife_Based_Recreation_Economic_Contributions_1_03_07.pdf")
Released January 3, 2007. Prepared by the American Sportfishing Association/Southwick Associates, Inc.
Prepared for USDA Forest Service.
"... This report measures the economic contributions from wildlife-based recreation. Economic contributions, sometimes referred to as economic importance, track all activity resulting from resident and non-resident expenditures. Economic contributions differ from economic impacts. Impacts measure the effects of new dollars brought into the local economy by non-residents. This report only measures economic contributions. Two different sets of economic contributions are included in this report. ..."
Download Document (pdf 1.08 MB)

Photograph: USFS Region 1 Wildlife biologist, Skip Kowalski kneeling with an antelope out on a grassland with blue skies.

Facilitation of Hunting Heritage & Wildlife Conservation
Executive Order - Signed August 16, 2007
Federal Register page and date: 72 FR 46537, August 20, 2007

"Section 1. Purpose. The purpose of this order is to direct Federal agencies that have programs and activities that have a measurable effect on public land management, outdoor recreation, and wildlife management, including the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, to facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat."

The USDA Forest Service supports hunting on the national forests and grasslands. A number of our Wildlife program initiatives integrate hunting (see below). The Wildlife program leaders addressed the Executive Order.

American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) Wildlife for the 21st Century: II - Recommendations to President George W. Bush
May 2005; PDF (1.03 MB)

USDA Forest Service WFW Initiatives - Hunting Related

Photograph: Greater Sage Grouse dancing.  Great Backyard Bird Count photogallery.

USFS Invasive Species - Hunting & Fishing Connections

USFS - The Invasive Species Threat to Hunting and Fishing in America

Partners' Programs

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Biological and Physical Resources (BPR)
Washington, D.C. Office
Author: Shelly Witt, National Continuing Education Coordinator, BPR staff
Phone: 435-881-4203
Publish Date: 8/31/21
Expires: none

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USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20090-6090
(202) 205-8333