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What Types of Animals are Hunted in North America?

Updated May 23, 2024
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Many people hunt animals for food or sport. Animals that are hunted in North America can be divided into several categories: big game, small game, predators, fur-bearing animals and birds. Some of the most popular types of animals that are hunted in North America include deer, elk, moose and pheasants. Most North American hunters use shotguns or bows and arrows to hunt.

Big Game Animals

Big game hunting involves the pursuit of large animals. In North America, these animals include mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, elk and caribou. Other big game animals include wild boars, big-horn sheep and javelinas. Bison, or buffaloes, also are considered to be big game animals, but they were hunted almost to extinction during the 1800s and early 1900s, so it was made illegal to hunt them in most parts of North America.

Other Types of Game

Typical North American small game animals include hares, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels and opossums. Fur-bearing animals include those that usually are hunted more for their pelts and skin than for their meat, such as foxes, beavers, minks, bobcats and muskrats. Predators that are hunted include bears, coyotes, mountain lions and cougars. Birds that are hunted include grouses, pheasants, quails, turkeys and waterfowl such as ducks and geese.


The hunting of varmints, or vermin, also is common in North America. Creatures that are classified as varmints usually are small mammals, and they are hunted because they are considered to be pests, so their populations must be kept at manageable numbers. Uncontrolled pest populations often result in damage to crops and livestock. Animals that are often considered varmints include wild rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, foxes and raccoons. The hunting of varmints is closely regulated in many places because the populations of these animals and their impact on local farmers and ranchers is carefully monitored.


In most places in North America, hunters must have a hunting license that was issued in the jurisdiction where they intend to hunt. The species and number of animals that can be hunted typically is limited, and hunters must purchase a tag for each animal that is killed. When the number of people who want to hunt a certain type of animal in a particular area is greater than the number of that animal that is allowed to be killed during a specific time period, the hunting tags might be awarded through lotteries. Hunting quotas typically are set by regional wildlife agencies.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon336806 — On May 31, 2013

Yes, some hunters use shotguns and bows and arrows, but you neglected to mention that hunters use .22 rifles and high powered rifles for game hunting as well. Smaller .22's like crickets are used for snakes or rabbits because they are more accurate at closer range.

Using a shotgun to hunt deer is just a waste of a slug unless you can get really close to it.

As for the post that mentions hunting as distasteful, hey - where do you think that burger on your plate came from? Except that animal didn't even have the freedom of being hunted. It was raised in filthy conditions in a tight corral with a bunch of other unfortunates.

After being speed fattened, they are led down a chute with all their 'friends', where they are hit between the eyes with a sledge hammer or just shot in the head.

Unlike hunted animals, they never had a 'shot' at life or a even chance to escape. Same with chickens.

By anon306904 — On Dec 02, 2012

Ted from Burgettstown, PA said that no one should be allowed to kill and leave the carcasses to rot. I have lost all respect for Ted Nugent for this violation. Any hunter that kills and does not retrieve their animal can go to jail if caught. Killing the pigs on TV and leaving them? He should be held accountable and not just by paying a fine, just because he is a celeb!

By galen84basc — On Oct 12, 2010

Hunting game is an American tradition, and it will remain so as long as people have guns. I don't do it myself, but I think that anybody who wants to do it, is trained appropriately, and fills out the paperwork should be able to.

By Planch — On Oct 12, 2010

I didn't know that you could even still hunt big game in North America. I guess that makes sense in the wilder areas, but where I live is super-urban, so I can't imagine people pulling out their bear guns (or whatever you use to hunt big game) and going after animals like that.

I'm kind of glad for that though, because although I don't disagree with hunting on principle, I find it a little distasteful.

By closerfan12 — On Oct 12, 2010

Now I've never hunted game, but my father and cousins do it all the time, so I've kind of grown up used to it.

I think the whole point of responsible hunting is to do it in moderation. It's not the responsible hunters that wipe out animal populations, it's the ones that just fire away and then leave the carcasses to rot.

That's how it happened with buffaloes, and unfortunately, wolves, in some areas.

I don't think there's anything wrong with hunting for pleasure, as long as you do it responsibly, and use what you bag. Doing it for any other reason is just kind of silly, I think.

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