For the general purpose things you mentioned an AK will fill the bill nicely.
Like anything else you get what you pay for and AK's are no different. You did not say what your budget was but there is something for every need.
First caliber. Personally I would stick to the 7.62x39 as the round is ballistically almost identical to the 30-30. The problem with 5.45 ammo is 99% of it is corrosive and you must really clean the gun after shooting it. It seems to be a little light for hunting and as a matter of fact it may be to little you need to check your states laws. Currently 5.45 ammo is generally cheaper than 7.62 but it is all corrosive.
WASR's are good basic rifles. They can have some problems. Canted front sights, gas blocks and out of wack rear sights are the main things. A lot of this can be overcome by being able to handle the rifle first instead of an internet purchase blindly. You can often find great deals on Century Arms Guns (CAI) the only thing is that they are often built from and assortment of parts and quality can be hit and miss.
YUGOS are good guns strong and dependable. Wood looks ok but it is a knock about gun so who cares. The YUGO underfolders are good but as with any underfolder the stock will get loose over time. It will still lock up but just be loose. Many also find that the folding stocks, wire or underfolder that is, do not offer a comfortable cheek weld.
SAIGA and SAIGA conversions are authentic Russian rifles that have been made compliant for import into the US. If you get one great guns but where people mess up is letting Fred with a dremel and a torch convert them back to pistol grip form. If you have the money send it to Rifle Dynamics or some other reputable folks to convert it back. There are dozens of youtube videos on this topic to give you an idea of what the conversion actually does.
Arsenal's are the best value in an AK under $1000. They are Russian made, shoot well and very accurate for an AK. You can find them ranging from $650 to $900 gunbroker has a ton of them. They also have the absolute best without a doubt folding stocks on the market. It is a fixed stock that locks up tight and gives you all the advantages of a fixed stock but when you need to simply press the button and it folds to the side and locks out of the way. Disadvantage is that you must remove any side mounted optic in order for the stock to fold.
Mounting Optics and Sight Mods.
Here your choices get kind of limited. You have about four options. Buy an AK that has the side optic rail in place and buy the right mount for whatever optic you want to put on. Saiga and Arsenal come with them just depending on the model.
Replace the receiver cover with one that has a rail attached to it. The receiver cover on an AK is there for nothing more than to keep stuff out it serves no mechanical purpose. I often shoot AK's removing parts as I go to demonstrate what you have to do to disable an AK on the battle field. They will shoot fine with the receiver cover off, and the recoil spring removed but you have to hold the bolt closed and manually pull the bolt back to chamber a round from the mag, a bolt action AK if you will. Anyways. Because of its lack of any mechanical use it is simply held in place by placing it in a small groove at the front of the receiver and when pushed into place it is held there by the recoil spring but in turn it has nothing to do with holding the recoil spring in place.
What this means is the covers are generally a loose fit and simply by adding a rail does not correct this problem. If you solidly mount an optic to the rail but the cover is loose you are peeing in the wind so to speak. Railed covers come with two screws that fit in the rear of the cover to "tighten it down" but generally speaking they are not all that hot.
Krebs rail conversions take it a step further by actually mounting a rail that goes over the top of the receiver but does not mount to it. It mounts in a bracket at he base where the stock and receiver meet and in the front on the rear sight base. Never used one but they seem solid and it opens up an entire spectrum of optic and iron sight options. They are a little pricey if I remember correctly.
Ultimak makes a rail system that replaces the gas tube and attaches to the barrel. This or one of the replacement handguard rail systems seem to be the best bet for Red Dot type sights. Personally I prefer the Ultimak.
AK sights are to small especially the rear sight notch. This can be fixed by either buying a set of aftermarket sights, sending the sights to be modified or simply taking a file open up the rear sight notch yourself whichever works for you. Depending on your vision they may be just fine from the box they have used the same sights for decades and they have worked fine. They also make a replacement peep sight for the AK and if I remember right Guantes has one on his rifle or has used one before.
The main thing I try to stress when shooters want an AK is that first and foremost it is not an M4/M-16 rifle. Do not attempt to run it like an M4. Do not put M4 stuff on it. There are dozens of aftermarket parts for an AK you probably only need three or four of them depending on your body type and shooting style. An AK is designed to be simple, direct and to the point there is no need to change that. Yes you can do things to the rifle to make those good attributes better but do not try to change the original platform into something that it is not. Just my opinion.
This is what I am talking about. This rifle is a conversion done by Rifle Dynamics. The stock pictured is a Russian Folder described above. It has the Ultimak Rail system installed to mount the Red Dot and a Bolten gas block which combines the front sight and gas block into one unit. It also has the Rifle Dynamics front and rear sight mods done to it.
Now having said all that. Look around at shops and so on. Look on Gunbroker. Often times shops will advertise WASR AK's, no canted anything guaranteed and so on. Dealers know that customers are aware of problems with the rifles and will often correct them before selling if not send it back. If you find one you like post it on here with a link or send it to me and I can assure you myself or someone can look at the ad and can give a good opinion of the rifle or the seller so you have increased odds of getting a good gun. Let us/me know how the search goes and if you can't find anything let me know I run across things all the time and may be able to connect you with the right person.
Please note I have nothing to do with Rifle Dynamics they are just great rifle builders as are Krebs and others. They are building two rifles for me now, an AK like pictured above and an M4 that when I ordered I simply told them build something that works everytime and that you would use. I insisted on I think three specific items and dropped two of those after discussions with them, other than that I completely left it up to them that is how much confidence I have in their work.
I am not claiming to be an AK guru. I carry one daily but I could care less what the roll mark is or if there is an original 1962 rivet in the right place or all the numbers match, it works whenever and however I need it and that is all I care about. An AK or any other firearm used for a specific mission or job is a tool to be used to accomplish the task or mission at hand nothing more, nothing less.
Thank you for all that info it's extremely helpful! I'm still searching. I'm not to keen about buying firearms on the net and not being able to handle them first. There is a local gun shop that always has a variety of ak's so I would like to get one there if possible because I know they will take care of me. I'm still not sure what direction to go in yet as far as saiga, yugo, etc...
I will definitely go with the 7.62x39 that's one thing I know for sure.