Planning a DIY Hunt
Nancy Jo Adams is an avid and accomplished hunter, freelance writer, and staff writer.
As co-owner of Life in Camo Media with her husband, Richard Holt, they enjoy hunting the nation and working together in photography/videography capturing their hunts in multiple states annually for various game animals.
You have to admit that the lure of hunting in another state is a common thought in most hunter’s minds; however, many will never take the initiative for fear that they feel they don’t have the skill to plan a hunt, or they don’t know where to start. Out of state hunts can be experienced on a reasonable budget if a hunter takes the time to research and plan. It is important to keep expectations realistic when planning a do it yourself hunt.The more time spent on the pre-hunt research phase of planning your trip, the higher your odds will be for a successful hunt.
Research and Planning
The first step in planning your trip is to decide on the number of days you will have available for the trip and the amount of money you can invest in the hunt. Keeping this key information in mind, your second step will be to research the states that offer non-resident, over the counter tags for the game animal you wish to hunt. This is easiest done by searching the state’s wildlife agency website for the various states within the scope of the area you want to travel. When you find a state that is of interest to you, the work begins. You need to research the regulations for that state, the season dates, the license acquisition requirements, and obtain maps of the public land available; much of this can be obtained by requesting it through the authority’s website. Once you receive those maps, you will need to research and study them to narrow your choice down to several areas within that state to focus on.
Once you receive publications and maps from the conservation office, spend time researching property, its characteristics, statistics, and access. If you don’t know how to read a Topo map, now is the time to learn; a simple Google search will bring up a list of great tutorials. To maximize your results, use every resource available to you: topo/aerial maps, mapping programs, the Internet, hunting forums/social media groups, public land managers, conservation officer, or biologist in the chosen area. Make sure to keep good records of your research, including names and contact information of who you speak with that are resourceful.
After initial research on the state agency’s website, the maps and other resources, don’t refrain from contacting the game authority agency and speaking with a game warden or conservation officer familiar with the area you have chosen; as public servants they are a very useful resource. These public servants will have valuable detailed knowledge of herd health and population, as well as areas of interest.
You want to explore property that isn’t pressured such as larger parcels that are located in remote areas away from larger cities. Many hunters stick close to the edges of larger parcels so plan to walk in further looking for those prime areas such as draws, pinch points, water sources, or other ideal habitats for game. Smaller parcels that are tucked away near modest, lesser populated towns are often hidden gems. Always have a second and third parcel as a backup and do just as much work researching those properties in the event your first choice falls through.
Compare topo maps and the area-specific conservation maps you requested with aerial maps on the internet mapping programs. If you can purchase mapping software, apps, or programs specific to the state that includes the area you will hunt and have a GPS or other mapping device that you can carry with you, this may be to your advantage in marking access areas, possible stand locations, trails, and general land topography interests. With the number of days that you have set aside for this hunt, you will need to plan your first day or two spent settling in, getting your bearings on property that you have only seen on maps and mapping programs, and boots-on-the-ground scouting of the areas you marked of interest for stand location or hunting areas.
Finding property within an easy driving distance from lodging is an important factor. Most small towns have at least one lodging facility or bed and breakfast, however, you must make reservations well in advance to be safe. It is also a good idea to confirm your reservations with the establishment several months before departing for your hunt. Familiarize yourself with the town or local towns; locating fuel stations, grocery stores, restaurants, processors, and other amenities within the area you will hunt. Most of these can be found when viewing Internet maps, but you can also contact the town hall, courthouse, or library within the city you plan to stay.
Planning an out of state hunting adventure can be overwhelming if you don’t start the research and planning well in advance. Scouting from home with all of the resources available and researching what amenities are available to you locally will go a long way in having a good plan set in place. Nothing can replace boots-on-the-ground scouting, but by doing most of the research and planning prior to departing for your trip, your odds of a successful hunt will be much higher.