Hunting Mark Twain National Forest

What to hunt and Where to find it

Welcome Hunters

The Mark Twain National Forest has over 1.4 million acres of public lands that are open to hunters with a valid state hunting license. Game include deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, woodcock, mourning doves, ducks, raccoon, bobcat, fox, and coyote. There is no additional fee to hunt in these areas.

In addition to other opportunities, the forest is said to have some of the best bowhunting in the state, even better than areas found on private lands. For all hunters, it is recommended to get as far off the beaten path as possible utilizing an aerial map and explore all of the over 1 million acres that the forest provides.

While trekking off the beaten path, hunters should be aware that private owners will often mark their land with purple paint on trees and fences in certain areas. Public land is marked with red paint. Also, it is important for hunters to remember that shooting of all kinds is prohibited within 150 yards of all buildings, campgrounds, and occupied space. Hunters should be familiar with all regulations set by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Big Game Hunting

Deer hunting is best in the Swan Creek, Paddy Creek, and Pine Ridge Recreation Areas, along with the area around the Round Prairie Interpretive Site.

Swan Creek, located in the Ava Ranger’s District, offers over 8,000 acres of recreation with lightly trafficked hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, making it one of the more remote locations in the forest and an ideal location for hunters of all experience levels. This area prohibits the use of any motorized vehicles and is open to the public year-round.

Paddy Creek Wilderness is located near the Paddy Creek Recreation Area along the crystal-clear Paddy Creek, a tributary to the Big Piney, which flows year-round. This recreation area has camping and restroom facilities available.

The Pine Ridge Recreation Area is a lightly- to moderately-trafficked spot located in a dense pine forest. This area is also the trailhead to the Cedar Creek Trail offering adventurers a 36-mile trek into the public lands of Mark Twain National Forest. Although this area is closed from 10:00PM to 6:00AM, Pine Ridge offers drinking water and restroom facilities available from April through December.

While hunting is not permitted in the developed recreation areas, all wilderness areas are fair game.

Game Bird and Waterfowl Hunting

Game bird and waterfowl hunting are best in the Council Bluff Lake and Recreation Area in the Potosi Fredericktown Ranger District. The Council Bluff Lake is over 440 acres and the largest in the forest. The lake offers two boat ramps, and all boats must operate at no-wake speeds.

Hunters should be aware that Chapel Hill Beach at the eastern end of the lake is a popular destination, sometimes limiting hunting opportunities. Hunting is permitted on the lake, and upland game opportunities can be found at nearby Enough Fields.

Small Game Hunting

Small game hunters should try their luck in the Swan Creek area. At nearly 8,500 acres, Swan Creek offers a variety of dispersed recreation uses. Due to its large size and light use, hunters can enjoy their experience away from the crowds that gather in other areas of the forest.

The area is frequented by bobcat, fox, coyote, and other small game animals.

Happy Hunting

The Mark Twain National Forest offers some of the best public-land hunting in the state. In addition, there are a variety of lodging, camping, and other recreation opportunities that mark the Mark Twain Forest as the perfect place for your next hunting trip. The above is a list of recommended areas for all types of hunters, but it is also encouraged to explore the forest for yourself and find the right area for you within the regulations set by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Mark Twain National Forest. To maintain these wilderness areas for years to come, please remember to use the leave no trace ethics: anything brought into the wilderness areas should also leave with you. Good luck and happy hunting.

 

Updates, Guides, and Helpful Hints to Exploring the Forest

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