The guide for planning your first out of state whitetail hunt and more.
If you have yet to hear of Tony Peterson, you're in for the most useful do it yourself tips you can find! Tony has done it all! Freelance writer, creating his book Bowhunting Public Land Whitetails, hosting two podcasts, Hunt for Real and Sporting Dog Talk, writing for The MeatEater, and guest hosting the Wired to Hunt Podcast.
Tony and I had some spare time to catch up and swap our hunting stories from the past season. We always spend a little time talking about our plans for next year, so I decided to jot down some of Tony's thoughts on getting out of state to hunt.
If you plan to hunt out of state for the first or tenth time, you can learn something from this post.
#1 - Where To Start
Closing your eyes and marking up a map could be a good option for a starting point. But really, an out of state hunt should start with ideas of what you want the hunt to be. Tony points out a few pretty obvious things, but most of us forget to think about them.
"When I'm starting the plans for an on-the-road hunt, it needs to fit into the time I'll have available. Will I have six days to hunt or just three to four? I might be able to kill an antelope in three days in Wyoming, but if I'm elk hunting in Idaho and I need to drive there, I will probably need more than a week. Three or four days can give me time for a great whitetail hunt. But when it boils down to it, I ask myself, what kind of place can I hunt where I can enjoy the whole experience?"
After asking and answering the time frame and personal questions, Tony dives into details that can give him better odds.
"Hunting pressure is one of the biggest things that can make or break a hunt. There aren't many secrets in the woods anymore, but you can take a few steps to improve the odds of less pressure. There are typical things like how difficult is the access? Are there barriers for hunters on foot? Will you need special gear like a boat or chest waders? Getting as far as possible from big population centers is a big thing to consider.
#2 - Staying Legal - Know the Rules and Regulations
A hurdle for a new hunter and a first time out of state hunter is learning the basic ropes of "the system." Every state has different rules for just about anything you can think of, so even if you're well versed in your state's rule book, you should ensure you get it right the first time out of state. This is how Tony stays on the right side of the law.
"Most state agencies now have better resources than ever. As far as what kind of licenses and rules you need to know, they have it outlined well. If they do, you often can only buy a certain permit if you get the necessary things to make it legal. At this stage, reaching out to the state's agency wastes their time and yours. They may need more time to respond to your questions than you'd hoped, and you've got to get the planning done. Dig a little online and find the answers you need to be legal.
After I hammer out the licensing details, I check things out, like what else can I hunt while I'm there? What are the season dates, and when do they overlap? For example, my trip to Colorado this year was for mule deer, but I could also buy a tag for elk and black bears. The tags might burn a hole in our pocket, but often the cost of that tag is well worth the money you'll spend."
#3 - E-scouting and Boots On The Ground
Shakey confidence can come from the unknown of where you're going. Some of us spend hours and hours pouring over maps or hiking as much ground at home as we can. Tony has dialed his on-the-road approach through trial and error, but this is where he stands out from the crowd.
"E-scouting? It's twofold for me. I'm constantly on OnX, and if I'm planning for out of state, I'm either looking at a chunk of thousands of acres or an area with small parcels but a bunch of them clustered together. I've learned over the years that you have to start somewhere. Drop a waypoint and go hunt that area first. See what you like and what you don't like."
"Before I start, I mark all the areas of interest on a single property that will match the time of year I'm hunting. Early in the season, I might be looking for water, and it always helps to know what kind of food surrounding private parcels contain. If we're talking a rut hunt, I'm marking up every pinch and funnel I can find. I'm trying to build patterns wherever I go because it might match up twenty miles down the road where the deer population is better."
Tony has often mentioned in our conversations that 90% of the time, you see something on a map that you'll think is a golden nugget. But instead, 90% of the time, that area you thought was gold turns out to be a pile of bricks. What Tony has to say about physical scouting.
"If possible, I'll plan to hunt where I can use glass first. That can be tough in many places. Most of the time that means I'm going into a hunt, knowing that I might be out for a walk. Even though you're working to build your level of confidence, you need to be mindful of the impact you're making. I never know when I'll bump into something that gets my spidey senses going, and it's important to limit intrusion. When I find something I like, I want to know it will be good when I return. Ultimately, it's all about what the deer are showing you. Move only after you've given them a fair chance to do just that."
#4 - Consider the Comforts of Home
It's easy to check out some booking website for a hotel. But there are a few other things to consider when you're hunting. It might be budget, what is or isn't legal, or how to find unconventional places you can call home during your trip. This part of an out of state plan is second nature to Tony, and he outlines it well.
"I have two big rules for where I stay when hunting. First, if I can, I'm going to camp. There are campgrounds all over the place. In many states, it's even legal to camp for free on any WMA (wildlife management area). I'll look for a federal or state campground if free camping isn't available. Keep in mind that there are legalities with camping on public ground in some areas; you'll want to be sure to get that right.
"My second rule is to stay as close to where I want to hunt as possible. Burnout can happen quickly if you're driving forty-five minutes to your spot every day. Let's not mention the extra cost of fuel you'll burn. If you can't camp, do a thorough Google search for any place that gets you as close as possible."
#5 - Putting The Plan Together in Place
It doesn't matter if you're looking to tackle the most remote and challenging hunt you can think of; it's key to remember the basics. As I've heard Tony say so often, "It's all about the experience, but moving to the next level by hunting out of state can tell you so much about yourself. You won't come home the person you were before you left."
Author: Aaron Hepler, Exodus Black Hat Team Member