The sight of Travis Brave Bird bumping fists with Neil Davies illustrates the potential of hunting Indian Reservations throughout the West. Brave Bird is a tribal Wildlife Ranger with the Pine Ridge Oglala Sioux tribe and served as a guide on this hunt. Native Americans own millions of acres of land across the West; most reservations have huntable game populations. At first, one might think that tribal members would take all the best locations, yet many tribes have learned the value of their natural asset and offer them to nonmembers for a fee. Like the West in general, some areas are very good while others are poor.
Extra tags are one of the chief benefits of reservation hunting, since bag limits don’t count against state limits. For example, you can bag a bull elk in Arizona and hunt elk on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, or hunt pheasants on one of nine Indian reservations in South Dakota — in addition to private lands. Neil Davies and I had a tremendous hunt with Travis Brave Bird, but those deer licenses on the Pine Ridge are difficult to draw. Here are several tips to remember.
1. Understand the lay of the land. Indian tribes are like small towns complete with politics and fluid regulations. Things change annually, so keep current on game specs.
2. Be patient. Reservation officials rarely have elaborate computer systems like many state wildlife agencies. Follow their written rules, and don’t hesitate to call the reservation office to speak with someone personally.
3. Use a guide if possible, and always ask for references. Often an Indian guide is someone who just knows boundaries.
4. Do your online research. Many tribes list their game options on the web, yet some do not. You may do well to just call the wildlife office.
5. Plan ahead. If you’re hunting in the West, plan to stop by the main office of a nearby reservation and speak to the rangers and get a personal feel of the hunting opportunities. Ask for specific guides or ranchers who may own property within the reservation.