Make Your Dream Bowhunt a Reality with These 5 Easy Steps
Bernie Barringer 04.29.15
You’ve always wanted to hunt deer in one of the destination states. You watch big bucks get shot on TV each week, but you really don’t have hunting like that where you live. Here’s a short course in how to get started on your dream bowhunt out of state.
Years ago, I was like you. I knew there was a lot of great bowhunting out there, but it wasn’t where I lived. I had a gnawing desire to shoot a really nice buck, but I knew I was going to have to travel to do it. I didn’t want to (really couldn’t) spend $4,000 on a guided hunt, so a DIY hunt it would have to be. I took the plunge and I have never regretted it. I have now done more than 20 bowhunting road trips for whitetails, some with great success and some were, shall we say, learning experiences. Allow me to give you a few nuggets of advice to put you on your way to a successful DIY out-of-state deer hunt.
1. Choose a state
The most logical place to start is to think wide and narrow down your search. First of all you need to decide where you want to go. That means you need to pick a state and begin the process of getting a deer tag in that state. Some states sell nonresident deer tags over the counter, some require you to apply and may take a couple years to draw, so you better start now.
In my recent book The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter, I give details on 16 of the top whitetail destination states. If you are starting out, this book is the best $20 you can invest in your success. In addition to getting a tag, other factors that will influence you decision on where to go will be if you know someone in the state that might allow you to stay there, distance you are willing to travel, and the amount of public land available to hunt.
2. Choose some properties
Once you have decided which state you are going to chase a big buck in, you need to spend some time looking over the options of specific properties where you can hunt. This could be state and county public land, Walk-In-Hunting land, even federal lands open to hunting. Each state has details on its website, and most include maps and even interactive aerial property photos. Powderhook is also great resource for this. Spend some time with Google Earth and really look over a few properties until you find some that look appealing.
3. Make some calls
The next step in your research is to talk to some people with their boots on the ground. Start calling biologists who work in the area, game wardens, and any other wildlife personnel that might have knowledge of the properties. Ask them specifics about the amount of hunting pressure, the deer population, the potential for shooting a mature buck, and where the bedding and feeding areas are found. If there are food plots planted on the land, ask them what has been planted and if it will be harvested at some point or still be there when you arrive. This can make a big difference in finding the deer’s food source.
4. Work hard
Once you arrive, you need to really scout the area out. That means a lot of walking and studying sign. It also means getting some trail cameras out and checking them regularly to find out what the deer are doing, where they are moving, and what the potential is for a big buck.
When you are hunting at home, there are places where you wouldn’t just walk through, and you would try to avoid intruding on bedding areas and specific travel lanes. You do not have that option when you are on a road trip. Get out there and learn as much as you can, then put up some stands only when you feel like you have a handle on the patterns and potential of the area.
When I am on a DIY trip, I am not on vacation. I work really hard from sunup to sundown and that has proven successful for me.
5. Have realistic expectations
You are not going to shoot a buck like you see on TV every time you go on a hunt. Outdoor TV, with its back-to-back big buck episodes, can give you the wrong impression about your chances. The more you do it, the better you will become at it. And the more you keep going back to the same places over and over, the better your familiarity with the area becomes and your odds of being successful increase.
I hope you enjoy the satisfaction of bagging a buck on your dream hunt. I’ve done a lot of the research for you in my book. My website, bowhuntingroad.com, has a lot of hunting information for the DIY hunter. Four bloggers write about their hunts, detailing the ups and downs, and they describe what they have learned on each trip.