By Erik Barber
After dissecting your gear list and studying maps for months, you watch in awe as the sun unveils an entirely new landscape. You circled this day on your calendar months ago, and your anticipation peaks as you scan your surroundings for deer.
Planning an out-of-state, do-it-yourself bowhunt might sound daunting, but the adventure and memories you make will reward your efforts. If you’ve considered planning a hunt far from home, the best time to start is now.
You can certainly go solo in planning that adventure, but the camaraderie and friendship of sharing a camp and hunt with a buddy lasts a lifetime. Just make sure you and your friend share similar hunting goals before starting the planning process. A good team plans the trip together, bounces ideas around, shares gear like a tent and stove, and splits the food and travel costs.
Many states offer great hunting opportunities and relatively affordable licenses. Every state, however, has different rules and regulations for buying hunting licenses, so check the specifics for each state you consider. Many states sell licenses “over the counter,” but others hold drawings and assign preference points that accumulate annually.
States like Nebraska and South Dakota let bowhunters take whitetails or mule deer with an archery license for less than $300. If you’re looking for an even cheaper option, consider Wisconsin, which sells a discounted license for $79.75. Wisconsin also has plenty of public land and other over-the-counter hunting opportunities. Regardless of where you go, study the state’s tag prices and its public land options.
After choosing a state, zero in on a hunting spot. Read hunting forums, social media, or any information source about recent hunter success. Dig into the state wildlife agency’s website for each county or region’s harvest details. This information provides insights into herd densities, which helps eliminate certain areas. Once you identify a few intriguing regions, drill deeper.
Digital mapping applications like onX Hunt clearly show public and private boundaries. GoHUNT’s Insider program provides detailed information for select Western states, including the percentage of public land and hunter success rates by region, county, or unit. By pairing information from these programs, hunters can focus on specific areas. Study satellite imagery and topographic maps to identify potential hotspots. Google Earth also provides useful satellite and topographic information, which you can further analyze with these tips.
You don’t want to forget vital equipment when hunting hundreds of miles from home. Forgotten gear creates headaches, but replacing it at a local store can be costly. Instead, make a spreadsheet that lists everything you’ll need to camp and hunt far from home comfortably. Create separate lists for food, hunting gear and camping gear so you don’t get overwhelmed by one giant document. Don’t forget small necessities like a spare headlamp, phone chargers, dish soap and washcloths. Print your spreadsheets and cross off items as you pack them to ensure you leave nothing behind.
Meat in the freezer is every hunt’s goal, but set realistic expectations. It’s challenging to find and arrow deer in a limited time in an unfamiliar place. And targeting mature deer like those commonly seen in most hunting shows is even more difficult. Tailor your goals to what you enjoy, and don’t be influenced by outside factors. Whether your goal is securing venison or going toe-to-toe with an old, wary buck, make hunting satisfaction your goal.
As hunters, we appreciate nature and enjoy exploring new places. There’s no better way to enjoy time in the woods, disconnected from daily hustles. Whether you’re a relatively new hunter or a seasoned vet, consider hunting a new state. You’ll feel youthful excitement in the months, weeks and days leading up to the trip, and then yearn for next year’s adventure after returning home. Wait no longer. Start planning your bowhunting adventure now.