Bison hunting can create a thrill unlike any other. When you stand in the meadow, and the herd begins to run, you can feel the thunder of the hoofbeats against the earth deep inside your chest. However, a bison hunt also presents unique challenges to hunters.
Going into your bison hunt unprepared can lead to disappointment and potential danger. That’s why we put together a guide to bison hunting that will lay out the basics. We cover everything to know about bison hunting, including your bison hunting options, bison shot placement, the best guns and ammo for hunting bison, and more.
Prepare for Utah bison hunting with this guide from West Canyon Ranch.
How do you hunt the perfect bison?
For open-range bison hunting in the mainland U.S., the season is usually in the fall, during October and November. However, in Alaska, the season is in February and March. Bison hunting can be physically demanding, so prepare for your hunt beforehand.
Bison tend to gather in open grassland, but they will also roam mountains and forests. Bison leave lots of signs of their presence behind them. They often scratch the bark off trees or wallow in the dirt. Both leave clear escapes or ruts as a result. They also often leave fur behind. They also tend to have a strong scent. Watch for these signs when pursuing your bison.
While historical hunting methods varied, hunters mostly spot-and-stalk bison today. Once you notice signs of a bison, find a ridge that overlooks an open meadow and start glassing for the animals. Bison tend to seek out grassy areas for grazing in the early morning and the evening. Bison have a good sense of hearing and smell. Try to approach from an upwind position.
The simplest way to ensure you get your chance at a trophy bison is to book an all-inclusive bison hunt on private lands like West Canyon Ranch. They can issue their licenses from the state, so you don’t have to win a longshot tag lottery. Just book your private bison hunt, and you’ll have your permit. You’ll also get access to a guide to bison hunting who can either lead your party or advise you ahead of time. West Canyon Ranch even guarantees you’ll get a shot at a bison from the herd we cultivate to be trophies.
If you want to hunt the perfect bison, book a private bison hunt.
How hard is bison hunting?
Millions of bison once roamed America’s plains. In the past, they were hunted to the point that they were nearly eliminated. With some wildlife management by the United States, the population stabilized. Today, approximately 500,000 inhabit North America, most on private ranches.
Because of the limited population, hunting bison is restricted in most places in America. Six states allow bison hunting on public land, Alaska, Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. Many hunters put in for bison hunting tags in these states, but permits are limited. That creates a lot of competition, and only a few lucky hunters get the chance to hunt bison on public land each year.
Even hunters who win a tag will need more luck to bag a trophy bison. Bison hunting is challenging, especially on an open range. Hunters sometimes hunt for days across dozens of miles and never even see a bison. Bison herds can move long distances quickly and lead hunters on seemingly endless pursuits.
Once you find a bison, you still have to kill it. Bison are North America’s largest land animal. They weigh over 2,000 pounds and have thick hides and thick skulls. That robust build makes hitting a kill shot even harder. You need the right ammunition and proper shot placement to bring a bison down.
Where do you put a shot on a bison? What is the best shot placement on a bison?
Your aim will be critical when hunting bison. With an elk or deer, you may have a better chance with a headshot or a shot through the neck that severs the spinal cord. A bison’s thick hide and skull and short neck reduce the likelihood of head and neck shots successfully killing the animal. Unlike hunting elk or deer, your bison shot placement should target both lungs.
Where is the best place to shoot bison?
When hunting a bison, shoot for the heart and lung area. When you look at the bison, aim just behind and above the front leg. Be careful not to aim too high. A shot near the animal’s hump can go over the heart and lungs. Bison with non-lethal wounds can get lost in the herd as they run away. If a heart shot isn’t possible, you can try for a more difficult shot through the neck by aiming six inches behind the horn.
Choose a bison that wanders away from the herd, and get within 100 yards of the bison before you shoot. One accurate shot will be more effective than multiple missed shots.
What rifle/caliber is best for bison hunting?
You can hunt bison using various weapons, but you must have the proper permit. Also, while you can use rifles, handguns, bows, and crossbows for hunting bison, each weapon has to meet a set of regulations to keep the hunt legal.
What do you shoot a bison with?
Shooting Bison With A Bow
Bows must have a peak draw weight of 50 pounds or more, and the arrows must be at least 20 inches in overall length and tipped with unbarbed, fixed, or replaceable-blade broadheads. The total weight of the arrows and broadheads together must be at least 300 grains.
Shooting Bison With A Crossbow
Crossbows must have a peak draw weight of at least 100 pounds and at least 14 inches of draw length. The bolt must be 16 inches or longer and tipped with an unbarbed, fixed, replaceable, or mechanical/retractable blade. The total weight of the bolt and blade together must be at least 300 grains. No electronic devices can be added to the crossbow.
Hunting Bison With A Handgun
To hunt bison with a handgun, it must fire bullets weighing 200 grains or more.
Rifles For Hunting Bison
Bison-hunting rifles also must fire bullets weighing at least 200 grains or more. Specific types of rifles have additional requirements.
Shooting Bison With A Black Powder Cartridge Rifle
Black Powder Cartridge Rifles must fire bullets weighing 400 grains or more. The ammunition must be loaded with a minimum of 70 grains of black powder or the equivalent.
Hunting Bison With A Muzzle Loading Rifle
To hunt bison with a muzzleloader, you must use smokeless powder. The muzzleloader must have a caliber of .54 or larger or at least .45 caliber with a 300-grain bullet.
As the hunter, you are responsible for ensuring your weapon meets the regulations to keep your kill legal. If you book a guided hunt at West Canyon Ranch, our experts can inspect your weapon to ensure it’s compliant. If your weapon isn’t compliant, we may be able to provide tips for adjustments you could make to make it compliant.
Where’s the best place to hunt my first bison?
The best way to hunt the perfect bison is by booking a guided bison hunt at Utah’s West Canyon Ranch. Our trophy bison hunt can be customized to meet your hunting preferences. The all-inclusive bison hunts at West Canyon Ranch come with a professional hunting guide and field dressing services. We also take care of transportation, lodging, and licensing. You’ll even get meals prepared by our private chef.
Spend two days tracking trophy bison across more than 4,000 acres of Utah wilderness and make memories that will last a lifetime. Book your bison hunt at West Canyon Ranch today!