Monday, November 18, 2013
9:55 AM | Posted by Jon Ballard | Edit Post
Named "Lord of the Prairie," the American bison once roamed the North America in numbers estimated between 30 million and 75 million. By the end of the 19th century, American bison were hunted to the brink of extinction with only an estimated 750 head remaining in North America by 1890. The American bison as a species were largely saved by the separate efforts of conservationist James "Scotty" Philip of South Dakota and two Montana ranchers, Charles Allard Sr. and Michel Pablo. The progeny of their small herds, along with the Yellowstone National Park wild bison herd, form the majority of the antecedents of today's American bison population which, according to the National Bison Association, stands at approximately 500,000-head.
Modern Bison Hunting
Today, bison hunting in America has fallen under strict regulatory auspices, but there are many opportunities for avid hunters to participate in these big game challenges. Bison hunting generally falls into two categories: hunts on public lands of free roaming herds and hunts of restricted herds on private lands.
Public Land Hunts
There are several states that issue hunting licenses every year for open bison hunting on public lands, including but not limited to the following states: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska and Utah. The process for obtaining a bison hunting license varies by state but is in all instances very competitive. In 2012, there were nearly 8,000 applicants in Montana with only 34 licenses issued. Last year, more than 15,000 hunters applied for licenses in Alaska with only 100 awarded.
Private hunts operated by professional ranches offer an advantage for many hunters seeking big game. With the sparsity of bison hunting licenses, as well as the limited number of wild bison herds, private ranches offer an alternative to enthusiasts who are unable to obtain a license or travel to regions where public hunting is permitted. The type of hunts range from smaller hunting grounds such as that of the South Dakota Mickelson Ranch which organizes hunts of choice bulls within 1 to 3 thousand acre enclosed grounds, to larger fair chase hunts like the Thousand Hills Bison Ranch in Southern Colorado which organizes hunts more than 62,000 acres of open prairie.
California is another state where bison hunting has become popular in recent years in both public and private venues. Across the state, the government works with third parties to offer a safety course for all prospective courses. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife requires a California hunting safety course before a hunting license can be issued.
Safety & Preparedness in Big Game Hunting
An integral part of safety is bringing the appropriate weapon. On the frontier, single-action rifles were used to bring bison down — and they'll still do the job. A single shot .45 to .70 Browning 1885 High Wall falling block rifle will work; however, it'd be smart to bring a backup repeating rifle, or have your hunting partner carry one as insurance. An auto-loading, bolt-action rifle firing rounds of .338 caliber and up is most recommended. Another advantage to private hunts is the provision of experienced guides with backup weapons in the case of an overly-aggressive animal.
A public bison hunt is not limited as a privilege of only the most experienced. There are a wealth of third-party hunting guides who offer services and assistance to ensure a successful and memorable hunt. Muley Madness offers a superior listing of such services in California. Prospective hunters should understand these animals can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds, are known to be temperamental and can run with extreme agility at 30 to 40 mph. Many hunters may want to consider using these services before taking on a bison hunt for the first time.
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