Would You Move for Better Hunting?

By Kurt ThorsenMay 24, 20242 Comments

“The grass is always greener on the other side.” 

When it comes to us hunters, we know this phrase all too well. Typically, it’s because we believe the neighbor’s property must be hoarding all the big deer. Or that our success would be higher if we hunted a different county.  

Perhaps it’s the thought of what another state could provide, in terms of hunting opportunity, compared to our own. Sometimes all we can do as hunters is dream. While the vast majority of us do just that, others make their dream a reality. Be honest, you have thought about it yourself.

If you could, what would be your dream state to relocate for hunting?

As someone who resides in The Republic of Illinois, I dream quite often. I like to tell people that it’s a good thing the whitetails grow big around here or else the state wouldn’t have to worry about collecting my taxes each year. Friends often ask me what state I would move to if I could, and to be honest, it’s a difficult question to answer. 

The thought of it has my mind wandering in so many adventurous directions. I can imagine the incredible big game opportunities that lie in “The Last Frontier” of Alaska, but I reckon sharing a mountain with a bull elk out West would be a worthwhile change of pace from the hardwood ridges I call home. 

The answer to that question depends on several different factors. Could I keep my current job? Would my family allow such a move? Or most importantly, what wild game would I prefer to chase? You know what they say, variety is the spice of life. 

For me, the state I would choose must have ample opportunity at an entire suite of species. As a Midwesterner by heart, where whitetail deer and turkeys rule the roost, I can’t help but think of taking up residency in a state where I could chase several big game animals along with numerous small game species. 

Personally, I would not make a move solely based on better deer hunting. So naturally, I would gravitate to the western states. Alaska is likely the ultimate answer here in terms of big game variety, but its long, dark winters sound a bit daunting. 

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For me, the thought of chasing a gobbling Merriam in the spring, speed goats in August, muleys and bull elk in September, and closing out my year chasing whitetails and waterfowl is about as good as it gets.  

With that being said, as I type this article, Montana would be my state of choice. The other factors would make this dream a difficult one to achieve. Unless I could convince my boss to buy land in Big Sky Country, I would have to secure a Habitat Management job elsewhere or change my career path entirely. 

As for moving away from my close family and friends, it would be incredibly difficult to do. But, I imagine the sound of a bull elk bugling through the aspens would quickly drown out my sorrow.

Curious about the answers of other fellow hunters, I recently took the time to ask several individuals within my hunting circle where they would relocate and why. As expected, a variety of responses were offered. 

Todd Graf, owner of Bowhunting.com said, “I used to believe Illinois was the ultimate dream state, where I achieved the American dream with starting my own business and having fantastic hunting opportunities for big bucks. However, as time passed, I’ve noticed other states starting to pull ahead for bigger deer and more abundant hunting opportunities, particularly Iowa.” 

“It seems like Iowa might be the dream state for bowhunting mature whitetails, surrounded by fellow enthusiasts who prioritize habitat goals in large parcels of land.  Yet, there’s always a challenge of finding work in remote areas, not to mention amenities like Chipotle! So, I’m sticking with Illinois as my top pick.”

Todd's Buck

Todd is not alone in his decision. After conducting a quick survey on the Bowhunting.com social media platforms, numerous hunters responded with the big buck states of Iowa, Illinois and Ohio as their top choice. 

Another friend of mine chose the state of Iowa, but for an alternative reason. Scott Schaeffer, former wildlife biologist in Illinois stated, “All things considered, I would have to choose southwest Iowa for their pheasant and quail hunting opportunity. There’s a lot of public ground to hunt and a fantastic place to take my springer spaniel for a run.”

Pennsylvania legend and Technical Writer at Lancaster Archery Supply, P.J. Reilly, had a different midwest answer. “If I could move to any state, I’d move to Minnesota,” he said. “It’s got big deer, lots of turkeys and is home to some incredible fishing. But that’s just a pipe dream because my wife will never go for that, and I’d have to find a new job. Maybe in the next life?”

For those that seek the wilderness the American West has to offer, I spoke with my cousin, Jacob Oomens, and two fellow Bowhunt or Die team members, Paul Morrison and Dustin DeCroo for their insight. 


All three of these hunters left their midwestern, big buck killing states to seek new opportunities and adventures out west. None of them regret their decisions. 

Jacob moved to Montana from his home state of Wisconsin. “Montana, in my opinion, is the best state for the outdoorsman” Jacob said. “With a legislation that cares about preserving our forests and grasslands as well as creating laws to further maintain healthy wildlife populations, there isn’t a state like it. I can chase nearly all the animals that I had back in Wisconsin as well as the species from the Rockies, it’s the perfect combination.”

Dustin DeCroo, co-owner of Big Horn Outfitters in Northern Wyoming, and Paul Morrison, Big Horn Outfitters guide, also uprooted from their respective midwestern states of Illinois and Ohio to seek the ultimate career in western hunting adventure. 

I asked Paul if he had any regrets about moving from Ohio to Wyoming. He responded, “No regrets! There are definitely a couple things that I do miss about Ohio, but for every one thing I miss, there are 10 new ones to replace it with here.” 

As for Dustin’s response to the question of What is the Dream State to Relocate for Hunting? Well, it was delivered as expected. “I’m not answering that! I don’t want to move, and I don’t want anyone else here!”

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America’s 5 Best Hunting States

Disclaimer: The list provided below is presented in no particular order and is entirely based on my own personal opinion when it comes to large and abundant wild game to pursue.

  1. Alaska

Impossible to leave Alaska out of the question. Home to over a dozen big game species to pursue along with endless small game and its expansive wilderness, The Last Frontier is a top contender.

  1. Montana

My personal choice and the option of many others, Montana offers mountain hunting opportunities for several big game animals on the western side of the state while the eastern rangeland provides great hunting for deer, upland game, and waterfowl.

  1. Iowa

Everyone who dreams of giant whitetails has undoubtedly thought of moving to Iowa more than once. Year after year, giant deer are harvested across the Hawkeye State. Pair that with outstanding pheasant hunting and ample public land opportunities and it’s sure to be a go to state for any outdoor enthusiast.

  1. Louisiana

Better known as “The Sportsman’s Paradise,” Louisiana is well known for its hunting opportunities that are as diverse as its Cajun jambalaya. From pursuing waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway to alligator hunting in the bayous, you are bound to find a species, or 10, to chase in this southern state.

  1. Texas

“Everything is bigger in Texas,” so they say. It’s hard to find a state that has a bigger hunting heritage than Texas. Whether it’s native species you are after such as whitetail deer, desert bighorn sheep and Rio Grande gobblers, or free-ranging exotics like the axis deer or aoudad, adventure awaits you in the Lonestar State.

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The Greek poet Ovid once said, “The harvest is always richer in another man’s field.” That translates as follows in the language of a hunter: “The hunting is so much better in that other state.”  

We all dream of hunting truly wild places, and for some of us dreams can become a reality. Have you made that dream a reality? 

If so, where did you relocate? If not, which one do you consider to be the “Dream State?” Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Watch Dustin Decroo take on bucks and bulls out west in the video below.

Kurt Thorsen
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