The 10 Best Colleges For Hunters and Anglers
Reading, writing—and the outdoors. What more could you want in higher education?
Final decision time draws near. For many prospective college students who also love to hunt and fish, the choice of which university to attend is made even more complicated because it also means leaving behind favorite lakes, rivers, and woods.
But there’s no need at all to forgo your favorite outdoor pursuits while getting your degree. Field & Stream has compiled a list of 10 sportsmen-friendly institutions to consider if you love to fish and hunt. These stand out from others for their unique course offerings, great geographical locations, abundant resources, and plentiful opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
1. University of Georgia (UGA)
- Location: Athens, GA
- Costs: $26,688 (state resident); $45,762 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 37,606
- Website: https://www.uga.edu/
The University of Georgia should be on every sportsman’s mind.
Established in 1785, this land-grant university is considered one of the oldest colleges in the country. Not only is UGA’s sports program sought after, applicants desiring to make a career in wildlife biology seek out enrollment into the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. The nearby Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) has also offered six-month internships for interested students.
For Brynnan Adams, President of the university’s National Wild Turkey Federation chapter, going here has allowed him to directly partake in one of the most successful wildlife management programs in existence.
“UGA also has clubs such as Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quail Forever, 5 Rivers, and The Wildlife Society, among others, which support student involvement in hunting and fishing as well as the outdoors in general,” says Adams, a Warnell Master of Forest Resources candidate. “UGA also has been involved with the Learn-to Hunt pilot program, R3 (recruit, retain, reactivate hunters), and the Field to Fork program.”
2. Clemson University
- Location: Clemson, SC
- Costs: $27,598 (state resident); $49,352 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 24,387
- Website: http://www.clemson.edu/
For Clemson University Tigers, college football isn’t the only sport in town.
Many take up studies in the Wildlife and Fisheries Biology (B.S.) program or go DIY in the freestone streams that flow through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Chapters of Ducks Unlimited, The Wildlife Society, and American Fisheries Society along with the Clemson Marksmanship Club, Clemson Bass Fishing Club, and Clemson Fly Fishing Club are popular.
Just 40 minutes west of campus sits the Chattooga River—a favorite spot of Clemson Fly Fishing Club president Grant Davidson and his fellow members.
“Because they know that I’m an avid outdoorsman, family and friends frequently ask: “What is there to do at college?” says Davidson, a senior majoring in Agriculture Mechanization and Business. “For a Clemson student, it’s somewhat of comical question—the answers are endless.”
The Chattooga is home to more than 100 fish species—including brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Davidson says this spot is the group’s home water. The club strives to protect her and the surrounding watersheds through conservation efforts for future members to enjoy.
3. Colorado State University
- Location: Fort Collins, CO
- Costs: $28,090 (state resident); $47,512 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 33,877
- Website: https://www.colostate.edu/
Colorado State University prides itself in cultivating good stewards of wildlife and the environment. Plus the scenery is hard to beat.
Many applicants choose to enroll in the Warner College of Natural Resources for their Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology major. If they wish to partake in related activities firsthand, Warner students can join the CSU Fly Fishing Club, CSU Bass Fishing Club, the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers chapter, and a subunit of the American Fisheries Society.
Fly anglers can choose from 15 Natural Areas near city limits to chase trout, smallmouth bass, and walleyes.
For Sandra Hargraves, being involved in and ultimately leading CSU’s American Fisheries Society chapter has greatly prepared her for a future career in fisheries management.
“I began as a member and was later elected the student liaison tasked with spreading word of our organization, recruiting members and handling public relations,” she said. “This past year, my dedication to the organization and to the fisheries field was recognized by my peers and advising faculty who elected me president of the organization. While serving in this capacity I supervise and coordinate all of the unit’s activities including but not limited to community outreach, guest speakers, recruiting, finance, conferences and research assistance.”
She noted the group hosts two large annual fishing derbies annually—one for kids, the other for adults—to encourage anglers of all ages and abilities to enjoy Colorado’s idyllic waters, strengthen family bonds, and mold individuals into solid conservationists.
4. Eastern Washington University (EWU)
- Location: Cheney, WA
- Costs: $23,020 (state resident); $40,071 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 12,635
- Website: https://www.ewu.edu/
Eastern Washington University (EWU) sits roughly five miles north of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to 18,000 acres of the Channeled Scabland. It’s a gateway to diverse terrain replete with coyotes, waterfowl, elk, turkey, and even black bears.
For senior Ruvim Tyutyunnik, his time at EWU will be unrivaled to other experiences.
“As a passionate angler and hunter, attending Eastern Washington University has been an incredible experience and I will definitely miss it,” said Tyutyunnik. “Not only can you drive five minutes from campus and trip over turkeys and coyotes, but there’s an incredible amount of big game hunting opportunity in the Cheney/Spokane area.”
5. Purdue University
- Location: West Lafayette, IN
- Costs: $22,972 (state resident); $38,824 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 43,411
- Website: https://www.purdue.edu/
Purdue University is known for agriculture, engineering, and yes, its Department of Forestry and Natural Resources—which helps pave the way for sustainable use of natural resources globally.
Under the purview of the department, Boilermakers can get involved with the American Fisheries Society, Ducks Unlimited, Forestry and Natural Resources Council, The Wildlife Society, and Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA).
Brady Decker, president of Purdue QDMA, said he’s grateful that his group has positively contributed to the community.
“I have been a member for three years and president for one,” says Decker. “Through the club I have learned a lot more about conservation of whitetail deer than I would have on my own. I have also been able to shoot at Purdue’s Trap and Skeet Range. The possibilities for an outdoorsman/woman to engage in activities pertaining to their favorite outdoor hobbies are abundant at Purdue University.”
6. South Dakota State University
- Location: Brookings, SD
- Costs: $16,836 (state resident); $20,226 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 12,107
- Website: https://www.sdstate.edu/
Those attending South Dakota State University (SDSU) can access nearby affiliated fishing and hunting grounds as long as they obtain permission to do so.
“As a chapter we feel the camaraderie of the students that are outdoorsmen and women allow for us to partake in various events,” says Pettit. “It feels like everyone at SDSU participates in something outdoors.”
The group hosts an annual “Waterfowler Hunters Party” each spring, and just launched a fall trap shoot to coincide with South Dakota’s duck hunting opener. While the organization caters to waterfowlers, anyone who is passionate about wetlands preservation is also welcome to help out.
7. Texas A&M
- Location: College Station, TX
- Costs: $28,792 (state resident); $56,812 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 69,367
- Website: https://www.tamu.edu/
Everything’s bigger in the Lone Star State, especially the outdoor life at Texas A&M.
Founded in 2001, the Texas A&M Trophy Hunters Association boasts close to 100 active members.
Georgia Newell, who serves as vice president, says they get great support from the student body.
“As an officer, it has been a great way for me to network with people in the outdoor industry by representing our chapter at the Texas Trophy Hunters Extravaganzas,” she says. “This has given me the opportunity to work part-time shooting commercials for an optics company, and apply for an internship with an outdoor magazine! Being able to meet with professionals in the industry as a college student gives me the unique opportunity to get ahead and prepare for my future career now.”
8. University of Montana
- Location: Missoula, MT
- Costs: $20,964 (state resident); $24,410 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 10,962
- Website: https://www.umt.edu/
University of Montana is an excellent choice for those seeking out Big Sky Country’s sweeping mountain vistas and winding rivers.
To attract students into the W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation, wildlife biologists have put together hunting trips to lure in new participants and foster fair-chase and public-land hunting. The department also encourages sportsmen and women to partake in activities through The Wilderness Society, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and the American Fisheries Society.
“The University of Montana is in a beautiful setting where you can just about walk out of your door and be at the top of the nearby mountains in an hour,” says Lea Leggitt, a sophomore and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) intern. “There is amazing fishing in the Clark Fork where the school even has spring and fall fly-fishing classes. There are a lot of outdoor recreation clubs such as kayaking, mountain climbing, and even paragliding.”
9. University of Montevallo
- Location: Montevallo, AL
- Costs: $26,320 (state resident); $39,340 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 2,570
- Website: https://www.montevallo.edu/
The University of Montevallo President’s Outdoor Scholars Program is the first program of its kind geared towards cultivating the next generation of industry leaders.
Launched in 2015, the program was created to offer candidates robust experiential learning opportunities to match their liberal arts education. In order to receive receive scholarships ranging from $1,000-3,000 denominations each year, a 2.5 GPA must be maintained. In order to benefit from the scholarship, students are required to attend monthly on-campus meetings and directly partake in activities related to fishing and hunting. They must also complete coursework, attend lectures, and learn how to field dress and prepare fish and wild game.
Outdoor Scholars have access to exclusive trips like preserve hunting for quail, deep-sea fishing trips in Florida, guided big game hunts, or duck hunting in the Mississippi Delta, Arkansas or Louisiana.
One recipient, Porter James, believes this program has greatly prepared him for a career in this sector.
“Being a part of the Outdoor School program I have been presented with many opportunities in the outdoor industry,” he says. “These opportunities range from being behind the camera on an outdoor TV show, being in front of the camera, marketing new outdoor products, editing video/audio, and even participating in multiple conservation projects.”
10. University of Wisconsin—Madison
- Location: Madison, Wis.
- Costs: $26,026 (state resident); $52,887 (non-resident)
- Enrollment: 44,441
- Website: https://www.wisc.edu/
University of Wisconsin—Madison isn’t the typical urban campus. It’s sandwiched between two lakes where hooking in a nice walleye or largemouth bass is steps away from the classroom. The greater Madison area is also home to prime public land hunting for whitetails and turkeys.
For Jace Steward, President of Badger Hunting Club, attending UW-Madison allows him and his members to partner and collaborate with Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources for recruitment, retention, and retention (R3) efforts and “Learn-to- Hunt” programs.
“The Badger Hunting Club, a student-run organization, aims to unite the hunting community within the student body, as well as recruit new hunters into the outdoors,” he says. “We help our members become informed and comfortable with the outdoors, organize courses for members to become hunter certified, as well as plan hunting trips around southern Wisconsin.”
Given high demand by students to learn about firearms safety, the group recently held their first student-led hunter safety course on campus. It was widely received by their fellow students.