In my line of work, I talk to a lot of our Insiders each year who are planning their very first western hunt. This can span from those on the east coast to those that have lived out west their entire lives but are now deciding to venture out of state. Growing up in Idaho and Montana I never really had aspirations of going out of state. I could buy deer and elk tags over the counter every year. What I was failing to realize, though, was that an out of state hunt brought so much more to the table than just another tag: new country to explore, new animals to chase, new people to meet. Not to mention, a few extra hunts a year has really upped my ability to consistently fill tags and I feel like it’s really improved me as a hunter overall.
In general, most people have the same concerns when a conversation turns to out-of-state hunts - It’s intimidating and overwhelming! Where do I start? How do I pick a state? Can I do this alone? Questions like these are exactly why GOHUNT Insider was created and I hope that after reading this article the few remaining loose ends will become more clear. I’ve never had an Insider tell me they regret doing an out-of-state hunt and most wish they would’ve started sooner!
The initial starting point can be one of the hardest to overcome - What do you want to hunt and how do you want to hunt it? There are so many opportunities and hunts across the west that initially deciding where to even go can be a big hurdle. My recommendation is to first sit down and pencil out any and all hunts you might be interested in without focusing on states. Just a species and a weapon type. From here, you can begin to rank these in importance to your goals.
Once getting your priority list the next step would be to utilize Filtering to research whats hunts are available in the various western states. I recently wrote an article on guaranteed type tags in the west and it can be an excellent starting point for helping with a first tag.
After establishing the state, species, and season you wish to hunt it is time to focus on taking the proper steps to secure all of the proper licenses and tags. While researching, I would also suggest checking out our State and Species profiles. These can be excellent areas to quickly reference important dates and other information. Be sure to also check out our yearly application deadline article that Brady builds as you never want to miss a deadline for a state or species you're interested in.
It's also a great idea to fully read every Insider application strategy article our team writes. These articles are jam packed with information that will help you cut the learning curve when it comes to applying in that state and those articles take a deep dive into tips and strategies to put a tag in your pocket.
At this time, also be sure to thoroughly review your state’s regulations for important nuggets of information. Small things can easily slip by. As an example, if your hunter’s education card is not certified through Colorado Park and Wildlife then you must carry the physical card on your person. Or, some states require you to sign a tag in the field with a pen after the kill, some do not. The main point here, take this time to make sure you have all of the proverbial I’s dotted and T’s crossed.
Be sure to check our recent BIG HUNT GUYS podcast for more tips from the team on how to use Insider:
After getting your preferred tag it is now time to start e-scouting the unit and to begin formulating your hunting plan. Utilizing GOHUNT Maps can be an excellent way to quickly begin narrowing down an area and the many layers available can make the writing on the wall a little more clear during your search.I would highly recommend checking out the extensive collection of e-scouting and other scouting articles located on GOHUNT to seriously help in breaking down a lot of the initial hurdles beginners may encounter. A solid game plan put in place far before the hunt can really mitigate unknowns from popping up once the hunt has started.
Any additional planning you can do at this stage will save you in the long run!
A lot of the success of your hunt will rely heavily on the amount of logistics planning you can do prior to leaving for the hunt. At this point, I am focusing heavily on the type of hunting I'll be doing and the gear centered around that. The gear I’ll need for a backpack hunt will be much different than what I’ll use on a hunt where I’m camping at the truck. During my younger years, I would often time wing-it when it came to the logistics side of my hunt. Essentially, if I had some water, my tags, and my bow/gun then I was good to go! The rest would sort itself out. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more aware of how my body reacts to changes and what I need to operate optimally. Things that I used to overlook have now become regular staples on trips - More changes of clothes than I think I need, an actual pillow vs a backpacking pillow, extra food, and goodies.
Hot tip: Make a list of everything you are taking with you on your trip. Once you have returned, go over the list and re-evaluate everything. If the item was not used and is not a safety necessity then it gets removed. I’ll also keep a small notebook with me while on trips. If there is an item I wish I had then I‘ll note it.
During this time I am also going to look at my travel plans. How am I getting to where I am hunting? What type of vehicle concerns should I be considering - Will I need chains? This is also the time to evaluate any maintenance needs you may have. Check your front-end components, change your oil, check your spare tires. These are all things that can save you big time when addressing them prior to the trip.
With your months of pre-hunt planning out of the way, it is now time to act on your plans. By this point, you should have a tag in your pocket, a solid e-scouting plan assembled, and all of your travel and logistical plans covered. All of the months of previous planning are going to make things so much nicer when you can hit the ground running upon arrival. While the hunt is finally here, there are other things to still consider that can keep your hunt on the tracks.
Most hunters have likely broken down a deer in the field, but what about an elk? A full grown elk on the ground by yourself can be a daunting task and having some general know-how and a game plan can save a lot of frustration. Will you be dealing with long packouts? What about the weather? Depending on your hunt, you may need to plan for warm weather meat care. Beyond that actual kill itself, you also need to plan for post-kill care. What size coolers do you need? How do you use those effectively? This recent article by Brady Miller covers a lot of those questions.
Really, planning an out of state hunt is a lot of work—a lot. There are no two ways around it. But with a solid plan, the planning stages can be far more enjoyable (and even fun!). The more you continue to do out-of-state hunts the quicker, easier, and more comfortable this process will become. This year is the year to take all of your goals, aspirations, and dreams to a new state and to a new environment.
If you want to learn some extra tips on planning an out-of-state hunt, be sure to check out the video with Brady Miller and Chris Neville below.