Four Reasons Why Hunting on National Forests is Awesome

Amazing Access

The National Forest System encompasses 193 million acres in 44 states. While not all of this land is open to hunting, a whole lot of it is.

Whether it’s venturing into the one-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in the Northern Rockies or taking an after work hunt on Arizona’s Coconino National Forest, the hunting access on our National Forests and Grasslands is nearly endless.

Since hunting laws are established on a state-by-state basis, it’s important to check in with your state Fish and Game department before deciding where to hunt.

Mule Deer in grass
At 193 million acres, you'll have no trouble finding hunting opportunities on our National Forest and Grasslands.


Fair Chase Challenge

Hunting on public lands often presents more of a challenge than hunting on private lands. Because of its amazing access, hunting on public lands often means encountering competition from other hunters and game animals that are wise to hunters.

Additionally, in many areas, National Forests and Grasslands still provide habitat for native predator species that make game animals all the more wary. For these reasons, you’ll find that hunting on public ground presents a unique challenge that will require you to understand animal behavior, hone your hunting skills and work hard to find your quarry.

foot on trail
Ample public access means you must work hard to find your quarry.


Excellent Habitat

National Forests provide habitat for 80 percent of the country’s elk, mountain goat and bighorn sheep habitat in the lower 48 states; as much as 12 million acres of waterfowl habitat; 28 million acres of wild turkey habitat; and plentiful habitat for myriad species of other game animals.

National Forests and Grasslands offer wildlife habitat throughout the year – from high-elevation elk summer range to waterfowl-rich wetlands. With this excellent habitat and game numbers, you have innumerable opportunities for finding the quarry of your choice.

Elk trail
A well worn elk trail in the Northern Rockies.


Geographic Variation

Our National Forests and Grasslands provide many different options for hunters – often year round! Depending on your time and budget, you can hunt on coveted public ground across the country.

On Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, Sitka blacktail deer can be found on beautiful and remote islands. On Idaho’s Salmon-Challis National Forest, you can find majestic elk on snow covered hillsides. Further east, you can find bountiful small game hunting opportunities on Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest. You get the point, there’s a lot of opportunity. 

Mountain goats
Mountain goats can be found at high elevations in the western U.S.


While hunting on National Forests and Grasslands, it’s important to keep a few things in mind

  • Proper hunting etiquette will ensure that your public land hunting experience is good for everyone.
  • Always check with your local state Fish and Game department to understand rules and regulations before hunting.
  • Be safe with all firearms and weapons.
  • Respect the animals, their habitat and the National Forest or Grassland where you’re hunting.

Click here to support the National Forest Foundation and help ensure our National Forests and Grasslands remain healthy for wildlife and future generations.

Why do you love hunting on National Forests? Post a comment or let us know on Facebook .


NFF Featured in NPR Story About 5th Anniversary of Station Fire on Angeles National Forest

On August 26, Jed Kim, a reporter with Los Angeles' local NPR affiliate KPCC, traveled to the Angeles National Forest with the NFF's Southern California program associate, Edward Belden. They discussed the restoration activities that the NFF has spearheaded as part of our Treasured Landscapes conservation on the Big Tujunga Canyon area of the Angeles National Forest.

Five years ago, an arsonist is believed to have started the Station Fire, which devasted more than 160,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest. Since that time, the NFF, the Forest Service, and local partners have worked tirelessly to restore this amazing and important landscape.

Read and listen to the story here:

Volunteers work to restore the Big Tujunga Canyon on the Angeles National Forest.


Nine Questions About Lookout Towers

Love the thrill and adventure of camping and backpacking but want something different; perhaps more structural? Well look no further.

Did you know that the Forest Service rents unmanned lookout towers during the summer? For on average $40 a night you can stay on a mountain top in a rustic and charming fire lookout tower. A truly unforgettable experience any way you slice it.

Read on to gain a few tips from the NFF’s resident lookout tower expert Emily who has visited more than several lookout towers.

What’s the point of a lookout tower?
Fire towers started gaining popularity in the early 1900s as the primary way for spotting wild fires. Perched high on the mountain top, these manned towers provided an excellent view point for smoke columns and flames. Today we still have manned towers with hard working men and women spending countless hours watching for fires.

Gem Peak Lookout
Gem Peak Lookout

What’s with the copper wires everywhere?
The Forest Service has many lookouts and other facilities that are subject to lightning strikes. Since these towers are perched high on mountain tops they become a natural lighting conductor. To help minimize injury to employees, structures and to prevent fires, these towers are grounded using copper wires. The wires fastened on the tower purposely attract lighting strikes. Then once hit, the wires shoot the electrical charge deep into the ground to disperse naturally and safely.

Were men the only ones “manning” towers?
In 1913, Hallie Daggett became the first female fire lookout in the Forest Service. She spent 15 years on the job, working at the Eddy Gulch fire tower on the Klamath National Forest. (Information and image provided by )

Hallie Daggett
Photo courtesy of

What happens when they see a fire?
Using mapping tools such as the Osborne Firefinder, or variations of it, the first objective is to pinpoint the exact geographic location of the fire. Once the location is identified they report to their local dispatch with the location, relative size and any other crucial details. Then it is decided how to combat and investigate the fire: by air, ground or both.

Ousier Ridge Tower
Ousier Ridge Tower

So you want to check one out, how do you begin?
Among the many resources to reserve a Forest Service lookout tower, I have found to be the best. The site will provide availability options and tower details and the ability to reserve a tower.

How do you get to the tower?
Depending on the tower you will drive or hike in. Make sure you read the ‘Know before you go’, and ‘Getting there’ sections on for important information regarding your stay, including if you can drive there or not. Also calling the local Ranger District for the most up to date information is advised.

Ousier Ridge Tower

Scared fo Heights?
Although routinely monitered to make sure they are safe, some people cannot find solice sleeping so high above the ground. Look in the description and at photos; there are a number of towers that aren’t as high if not on the ground. I have stayed at a couple and it is a nice alternative for those who may be scared of heights (or if you have childeren/pets with you).

Ousier Ridge Tower

Are dogs allowed?
Depending on the tower, you are allowed to bring pets. When filling in your search parameters on simply check “pets allowed” to find pet friendly tower options.

Personal Note:  My pups have not loved climbing the tower; it’s a little scary for them. The first time my husband had to carry them up and down every time (as shown below, that was definitely not ideal). Over the years our dogs and friend’s dogs have gotten used to it but now as they get older we try to find towers that aren’t as high up.

Gem Peak Lookout dogs

Do you have any words of advice?
Since this isnt your typical camping trip, here are a few words of wisdom on what to bring or do in preparation for your trip:

  • Water - This may seem obvious, but because you are on a mountain top, there are very limited water options. Chances are that if you need to refill water you will have to drive or hike to a lower elevation.Bringing more than you think you will need; you will often find it’s the right amount. 
  • Warm Clothes  - You don’t need to pull out your winter parkas, but up high on the montains will be cold even during the hottest summer days Make sure to bring a warm layer.
  • Call Ahead - Check with the local Ranger District office for updates on wildlife in the area, road conditions and more. They are the best resource, since they manage and check-in on the towers regularaly.
  • Combination Code - Another good reason to check in prior to your visit is to find out if the tower is locked and what the combination code is. Not all of them are locked but in my experience most of them have been, including the ones you hike to.
  • Forgot Something? - Although you cannot depend on backups of everything, many towers have a small reserve of supplies like fuel, matches, pans, etc.
  • The Bed - Although the description lists a bed, this isnt your matress at home. I have seen anything from a simple mat on top of elevated plywood, to what I can compare to as a summer camp matress. Bring a sleeping bag and if prefferred, a pad and pillow.
  • Pack it in/Pack it out - As requested with all backcountry hide-aways, whatever you bring in please bring it out. The future generations of backcountry lovers thank you.

Don’t forget your camera – with beautiful views like this you’ll never forget your lookout tower retreat!

Gem Peak Lookout View



Fifty Volunteers Help Restore Trout Habitat on Tahoe National Forest

Earlier this month, fifty volunteers joined Trout Unlimited, Siera Nevada Brewing Company and the National Forest Foundation for a Friends of the Forest Day on the Tahoe National Forest.

Volunteers placed gravel, generously donated by Teichert Aggregates, into Lower Prosser Creek. The hard work and contributions will greatly enhance trout spawning habitat in the Creek.

As part of the NFF's Treasured Landscapes conservation campaign, the NFF and partners are working throughout the Tahoe National Forest to support the health and sustainability of the Truckee River Watershed.

Huge thanks to Trout Unlimited for their generous time and support organizing the day and to Sierra Nevada Brewing for tasty brews after lifting 20 pickup truck loads of gravel.

Check out photos below and click here to support continued restoration efforts on the Tahoe National Forest.

SierraNevada Tent
Volunteers near river
Volunteers moving gravel
Volunteers with gravel
Group of Volunteers