Can’t afford the time or the money to take an extended hunting trip out of state? Consider the pros and cons of a weekend DIY hunt.
When most hunters think about a road trip to hunt big whitetail bucks, they are usually thinking about a weeklong adventure. Their tactics involve going to an area, scouting it out, hanging stands, and hoping to shoot a big one by the end of the trip. There are certainly some advantages to this approach, and for some hunters it is the only option. But there’s another option to consider: how about the weekend DIY getaway?
A weekend trip has some significant positives if you have a good hunting area within four to six hours from home. This can be a great alternative for the person who doesn’t have large blocks of time to hunt. Let’s explore this option.
Timing is important
If you are planning a weeklong hunt, you must choose the best time to go. Early season? Rut? Late season? With a weekend adventure, you can go multiple times. Go during the early season when the deer are more patternable, then go back during the rut when the bucks are on their feet during the day. Go back once more in the late season when the deer are focused on the food sources and once again fall into predictable daily patterns. Take off on a Friday, say at noon, hunt that evening, then Saturday and Sunday. Head home Sunday night.
I have been on several weeklong bowhunting road trips only to spend a week in horrible weather for hunting. One trip to Kansas a few years ago presented me with daily highs in the 80s during November, and nearly all the deer movement was after dark. With a weekend trip, you can schedule your hunts by watching the forecast and planning your trip to coincide with the best hunting weather.
Today’s technology allows us to have amazingly accurate forecasts including cold fronts, wind directions and wind speed, precipitation, rising or falling temperatures, and even moon phases. Decisions can be made at the last minute based on accurate prediction data. This allows you to be in control of the weather when you hunt instead of the other way around. If you are lucky enough to have a fairly flexible schedule, add a Monday to your trip or leave on a Thursday night when the conditions are good. The ability to use the weather to your advantage is one of the most important features of these short-duration trips to your whitetail heaven.
Scouting is a big part of the weekend road trip. It’s not a stretch to make a trip to a destination area to put out a few trail cameras and then check them a couple times before hunting season. This is a real advantage in shortening the learning curve to hunting a new area.
Last fall I put out three trail cameras in my hunting area in North Dakota on August 31 while travelling to an early-season Montana whitetail hunt. By the time I got back to North Dakota on Halloween, the thousands of photos chronicled the transition from late summer to early rut, and the information I gained from going through all those pictures was very valuable in two areas: taking inventory of the bucks in the area and determining their movement patterns.
I have found that leaving scouting cameras on public land can be a dicey endeavor and I have had a couple stolen. I am never as heartbroken about the loss of a camera as I am over the loss of valuable information it may have contained. I now use bear safes bolted to the tree with lag bolts and padlocks; and rarely have I had a camera stolen when using these. I have had the displeasure of having one exception to this rule—someone went home to retrieve a hacksaw blade. From the markings on the tree they must have spent a long, long time sawing with a blade to cut the bolts behind the camera case. Then, of course, they had the issue of getting the padlock off. When they finally got it open, they found my name and cell phone number tattooed all over the camera—so it probably doesn’t have much value to them for all their effort.
These trail camera reconnaissance trips can also be used for preseason scouting and preparing treestand locations. The earlier you cut shooting lanes the better, and the same is true with getting treestands up. Having the stands in place well in advance of the hunt is an advantage over the “hang-and-hunt” tactics more typical of a weeklong hunt with regard to the amount of scent left in the area. Whitetail bucks, especially the mature ones, don’t miss much. Freshly-cut tree stubs and new appearances of climbing sticks are a dead giveaway.
Weekend road trips are more cost effective because you only have one or two nights of lodging as opposed to a week or more. You can carry easily-prepared food with you or just eat snacks for a couple days to keep your energy up. Food on long trips can be a large expense.
Depending on how far you are travelling, fuel can be an issue. It is usually offset by the fact that you are taking multiple short trips rather than one cross-country trip.
Weekend excursions have some significant advantages as you can see, and you may very well have a good hunting area nearer than you think. A long hunting trip may seem overwhelming so consider starting small. If you look at a map, you very well may find a great hunting area within a half-day’s drive of home. Consider the option of a weekend road trip rather than a long undertaking for your next whitetail adventure.
Images courtesy Bernie Barringer