Photo credit: Brady Miller
Photo credit: Justin Klement
Data source: Brady Miller
Dreaming of that out-of-state hunt, but don't know where to begin? Follow these simple steps to make sure your next adventure goes as planned.
If you are like me, you're probably hoping to expand your hunting horizons and the great thing is that your opportunities are endless. However, the very thought of going on a hunt in a different state than that of which you live can be daunting. From someone who has travelled to a few different states in search of hunting opportunities, take it from me when I say it's easier than you think.
I can remember a few years ago like it was yesterday. I was green as can be, looking for another adventure. Both nervous and excited I knew Idaho was my state of choice for an elk hunt as a nonresident. The first thing I did was just narrow it down. There is a ton of opportunity out there, especially if you want to go over-the-counter (OTC). That’s where the beauty of goHUNT’s INSIDER research comes into play. During my research, I quickly narrowed down the search to the states with OTC opportunities. From there, I started to dive in deeper.
When I started my research, I made a couple mistakes. One was I bit off way more than I could chew. I started researching Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana as if there was a chance I could get all that information straight and concise. This was mistake number one. If I were to give any advice, I would say pick the state that is closest to you or, if you have a long way to travel, pick just one state that you want to visit more than any other. Then, start your research. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of information available. Web-memberships such as goHUNT’s INSIDER can help tremendously with your search.
Next, I would request a paper copy (or print out a paper copy) of the synopsis or big game hunting regulation pamphlet. Read it cover to cover multiple times. This will help familiarize you with the nomenclature and the different definitions according to the state you chose. Many times they are different compared to the state in which you reside so be careful and make sure to understand the finite nuances that can vary from state to state.
Once you have familiarized yourself with the regulations, I would look to the harvest reports. Another great part about researching through INSIDER is that they provide all of the harvest reports on a unit-by-unit basis.
Resources like these help me decide what specific game management unit or area I want to hunt. Being an archery hunter, I can look up all the different units specifically for the archery season. This way, I can tell what type of hunt I should encounter. Let's take Idaho for instance. On Filtering 2.0, you can look up the harvest data for many years and tailor it according to your liking. I look at each specific unit, highlight success rates that are above 15% to 20% and eliminate anything lower than that. This is for an OTC hunt, by the way. Once I have narrowed it down to those, then I look at what type of animals were harvested. Most of the time you can filter according to male or female (bull or cow for elk, buck or doe for deer) and some even have a cut off for antler points. For instance, Idaho has a percentage of harvested elk that are 6 point or better on one side. With some simple calculations, you can easily figure out how many mature bulls are killed by archers and also how much competition you will have.
Another thing to familiarize yourself with is the state’s websites themselves. The agency websites differ from state to state and some require you to print your license but will mail your tag, while others will mail the whole package to you.
Next, you need to decide what type of hunt you want to do. By this I mean do you want a backpack style hunt or the traditional camp and day hunt. Either way can be promising, but will also dictate your avenue for meat care.
Personally, I prefer to backpack in and get away from crowds; however, this requires substantial planning for meat care as access to coolers in short time can be very difficult. But it’s not impossible. I recommend a couple of ways to go about this. If you backpack hunt during August, September or even early October in some states, I would suggest adding a few construction-grade black garbage bags to your kill kit along with some duct tape. This can enable you to get your meat cooled down quickly. You can usually hang your meat in game bags for a day or a half day to let the blood drain out a little bit, and also let the meat skein over. Then, place the game bags inside your black garbage sacks and, very carefully, place them in a creek. You can use logs or branches to “bridge” the water source and tie up the open ends of the bags since that is the most susceptible part to water intrusion. However, the majority of the time, just hanging the meat from branches in a cool spot that stays shady all day can yield the results you want. Be mindful of time though as too long can be detrimental to the spoils of your success.
Getting the meat home can be another tricky part; however, over the years I have noticed that if your meat stays nice and cool for a few days hanging near a creek or in a creek, you can usually place it in your truck bed, wrap it in a tarp and hit the open road if you somehow forgot your cooler. Even at 75 degrees outside in the bed of your truck with the wind, your meat should stay cool and shouldn’t spoil. I have heard of guys emptying out a small chest freezer and freezing it for a week before with ice blocks, taping the lid shut and leaving it in the bed of the truck at the trailhead for a week and it's still cold. Another way would be to debone the meat and place it in coolers with dry ice. Just make sure to place some sort of barrier between the meat and the ice or dry ice. Here are some great tips for keeping a cooler... colder.
Once you have these parts figured out, you are nearly there. Most of these suggestions you will already have an opinion about, especially if you have hunted a few hours from home in the past. Nevertheless, they are important.
The most important part I would say is scouting. At this point, you have narrowed down a specific area you want to target. If you have the means boots-to-the-ground is best, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. Google Earth can come into play in a major way here. GOHUNT’s Brady Miller wrote several great synopsis articles on the intricacies of the program and how you can use it to help you scout: Unlocking the power of Google Earth scouting and Advanced Google Earth tactics to prepare for hunts. Google Earth a fantastic tool. It can help you find benches and saddles that game use to travel, bedding areas and feeding areas and a lot of times you can find elk from the eyes in the sky. I personally have been successful on a hunt that I didn't have time to physically scout and relied completely on information from Google Earth to aid me in finding honey-holes.
It may seem like a daunting task at first, but once you start the process and narrow things down, it can be a very simple thing to do. It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you have ever accomplished.