The type of game available for you will dramatically depend on your state’s environment and regulations. (Be sure you always have a license before you hunt!)
However, there are some general guidelines:
In the Eastern and Midwestern states, the most popular animals to hunt are white-tailed deer, small game (squirrel, rabbit, and more), upland birds (such as pheasant and quail), turkey, waterfowl, and black bears. Recently, elk populations have been established in some states (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Arkansas), and hunters can enter a lottery to hunt them.
In the Western U.S., there are more big game hunting opportunities. Common hunts include elk, moose, mule deer, or white-tailed deer. While most areas require big game hunting tags be awarded by a lottery or draw system, hunters still have a good chance. Some states even have over-the-counter hunting tags for public access (though generally only for archery equipment). However, small game, turkey, upland birds, predators, and waterfowl are also available for hunting.
As wild boar populations have grown prolifically, they have become more popular hunting targets, particularly in Southwestern states. Some states consider them to be pest animals, removing the limit on the number of animals that can be taken (unlike other big game animals).
Check with your state wildlife department to find out the particulars for your area.
A “hunting season” is the time when it is legal to hunt and kill a particular kind of animal.
Because of the large role hunting has in wildlife management, hunting seasons are dependent on the type of animal, the environment, and animal characteristics like mating season. Hunting seasons are determined on a state-by-state basis by wildlife biologists who study animal populations. Local laws also can have an effect on the season (for example, some states don’t allow hunting on Sundays).
In general, though, archery season for deer begins in late September through early October, with firearms season following in late October and November. Deer season can continue through February in some states. Turkey is frequently hunted in the spring, in April or May, but may also be hunted in the fall in some areas. Migratory waterfowl hunting tends to open in late September and early October. Upland birds, such as grouse, are frequently hunted through the fall.
Pest animals—such as wild hogs or some species of squirrel—can often be hunted year-round.
Some terms to know are “open season” and “closed season.” An “open season” is the time when a species may be legally hunted. It is typically when the population is at its highest and avoids peak breeding season. A “closed season” is when hunters are not legally able to hunt that species. A season may be closed for several reasons, including food shortages, extreme temperatures, and low population numbers.
It is illegal to hunt during a closed season and is known as “poaching.”
In order to find out the dates of your desired hunting season, consult your state’s fish and wildlife agency or check out www.wheretohunt.org.