Adventure. There is a longing in some of us to leave the familiar and go to distant lands to vanquish an opponent. The adversary might be a cliff face in a far away National Park, or maybe a treacherous river racing past wet jagged boulders. For a lot of guys, dimpled balls, manicured lawns, and tucked in collared shirts are all they ever need.
Me? I require a more visceral experience. I like the smell of gun powder, cutting up an animal, and bringing home something tangible and bloody. Early spring is the time I begin my quest to invade a foreign land and bring home its finest meats. If you are like me, but have never attempted an out of state hunt, here are ten steps to get you started:
- Choose an animal (or two). There are numerous opportunities for you to bring home some honestly won meat. Antelope to alligators, the species you can hunt are varied and many. Some are a once in a life time hunt for most–think Desert Bighorn Sheep–so odds are against you drawing one of these fine hunts. I also like going somewhere with a couple tags in my pocket. No sense flying or driving across country without maximizing my chance of pulling the trigger. Mule Deer, bear, and elk often have overlapping seasons and just about everywhere that has turkey has a fine pig population nearby. I’m not opposed to small game either.
- Choose a Season and Method. Do you live in a subtropical climate and dream of hunting in the snow? Maybe you are looking for something in the spring or summer to chase. Many western states have seasons beginning in August and some going through February. Spring turkey and bear are available as well as exotics like pigs and axis deer during any month.
- Decide on a destination. There are trophy hunting locations, just as there are trophy animals. From the Maine North Woods to the Brooks Range in Alaska there are many epic places to spend a week hunting in North America. Many are full of critters you can chase with a rifle or bow. Why not choose one of these?
- Read the Statistics. Once you’ve decided on a general region, look at the draw and harvest statistics to determine where your best chance lies. If you want to hunt this fall, don’t count on being drawn for that Bison tag in Montana if you live in Texas and this is your first year to apply. (Though, still apply–miracles do happen and you can accrue points in some states).
- Pick a Unit and buy the maps. At this point you should have an idea of a few spots you want to hunt based on numbers, but your research is far from through. The Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, and even National Geographic will likely sell quality maps covering the areas you want to hunt. The problem is, they don’t build their maps for hunters so you will likely need to buy a couple maps to cover your unit. For one unit I hunt, I need four different BLM maps to cover the area I need.
- Talk to Locals and Internet Scout. Every region has an online discussion forum of some kind like this, this or even this. Find it, and read through their discussions. Of course, you have to sift through the malarkey–which can be thick at times–but for the most part you can find some kernels of truth. Also network with any friends and family in the region. Take a summer scouting trip and talk to the guys at the local outdoor shops. No one will or should give you their honey hole’s GPS coordinates, but they can give you helpful advice.
- Call a wildlife biologist. With the above research accomplished, call your units wildlife biologist with specific questions. They are busy, so it pays to have your questions be specific. “Will I see any bear?” may not get you as good an answer as “Do you think the bears will be out of their dens by April 29th or am I too early?” or “I am expecting snow to be on the ground in my late season hunt, but if it hasn’t snowed heavily how will this change the elk’s migration pattern?”
- Apply for multiple hunts. Make a chart with the deadlines, dates and fees for each state you dream to hunt and get your applications in on time. Also, if you are applying for points make sure your unit is not an automatic draw. Mistakes can be costly.
- Work your credit card to your advantage. Most states have now gone to requiring you pay your tag fee upfront and refunding your money if your tag is not drawn. I like to use mine to build flyer miles and points at Cabelas. From my research, no one offers better flyer miles than Alaskan Airlines. I’d highly suggest you applying for this card and using the miles to your advantage.
- Develop your budget. Decide what you want to spend a year on your out of state adventures and set a small portion aside each year for when your dream tag is drawn. Those muskox hunts can be expensive!