6 Great DIY Bowhunting Destinations

6 Great DIY Bowhunting Destinations

I suppose it stands to reason that after nearly 20 do-it-yourself, out-of-state whitetail bowhunts, I have some favorite places.

Most of them qualify not because of the bucks I've bagged there, but because of the hunting opportunities and overall enjoyment of the experience. For example, living as I do in northern Minnesota, where temperatures commonly dip below 0 in November, I find sitting in a Kansas tree stand in 60-degree weather at that time to be quite refreshing.

While I've driven home from all but one of these states with a buck in the truck, the reasons I've picked them have more to do with cost, availability of tags, the amount of available land to hunt for free and the opportunity to shoot a mature buck.

If you're wanting to head out of state on a DIY whitetail expedition in 2014, now's the time to start planning. Pick a destination from the following list and commit to go, and I'll help you get started:


Iowa

You might wonder why Iowa isn't listed higher. There's a good amount of public land, trophy potential is probably the best of any state, and the people are friendly and helpful. The big problems lie in getting a tag — and paying for it.

You must apply during May each year. Preference points are $50 per year, and in some zones you might need as many as three preference points to draw an archery tag. Of course, that means you can bowhunt there only every four years, at most. Some of the better zones will allow you to draw with just two preference points, but don't bank on it.

So what's the tab on this? With two points and all of the required tags and licenses, your bill will come to $651. That's a lot of coin for one buck and one doe. Is it worth it? Only you can decide that. All I can tell you is that I've drawn every third year, and I'll keep on applying.

Kansas

In Kansas deer permits are limited, and there's an April application period. However, most zones don't sell out in the lottery, resulting in leftover permits going on sale (first come, first served) in the summer. Your chances of drawing a tag each year are nearly 100 percent.

While you often can buy a leftover permit if you miss out on your first-choice unit, I favor applying in spring. Licenses and fees total $395.

It's no secret Kansas has big bucks, but the number of them on public land has slowly diminished over the last decade as nonresident pressure has increased. Regardless, this state is still a very good bet for early-season and rut bowhunters, as rifle season opens after Thanksgiving. There's a good amount of public land, and you often can get free hunting permission from farmers. But most premium land has been leased by outfitters.

Kentucky

Of all of the states on this list, Kentucky is the one I haven't yet hunted. But it ranks No. 3 partly because it has so much going for it as a DIY destination. It's been on my to-do list for some time, and it appears I'll finally get there in 2014.

The western part of the state has gigantic tracts of public land that get a fair amount of bowhunting pressure, but nothing approaching the hunter presence you see on public land in Illinois, for example.

Nonresident hunting licenses and deer tags are available over the counter and are a bargain at $190. Kentucky has really been on the rise in producing quality deer, and I look forward to getting a piece of the action. Perhaps you should, too.

Missouri

My top pick might surprise some people, but I love Missouri as a DIY whitetail destination. And there are several reasons. First, you can buy permits over the counter, and they are a pretty good value. For $225, a nonresident gets an either-sex archery tag, an antlerless-only tag and two turkey tags. Just show up, buy a permit and hunt.

The northern tier of counties along the Iowa border and the Missouri River bottoms in the central part of the state offer great opportunities to shoot good bucks. These areas have an abundance of public land, including some large tracts that are restricted to bowhunting only.

An additional plus is that motels in this region's small towns tend to be very reasonably priced. You even can camp for free on most public lands.

North Dakota

This often-overlooked state can be boom or bust. Natural mortality, in the form of winterkill and/or epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), has created a roller-coaster ride for deer populations in this state. I love early season here; the bow opener is noon on the Friday nearest Sept. 1, when many bucks are still in velvet. But the November rut can be good, too.

And there's ample space. Hundreds of thousands of acres of Army Corps of Engineers, state and county lands surround expansive Lake Sakakawea, and almost all of these tracts are open to public hunting. The state's Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program is geared mainly toward bird hunters, but there's also a lot of great deer hunting on these lands.

Nonresident deer permits are $215. Availability is unlimited, but be advised: You can't just buy one when you arrive. You must send for it and receive it in the mail, so plan ahead.

Montana

South-central and eastern Montana's river bottoms provide opportunities to see dozens of whitetails every day, and getting permission to bowhunt private land isn't hard. You probably won't see a Boone & Crockett buck, but your chances of getting within bow range of one scoring 130-140 are as good as anywhere else. Many landowners see deer eating their crops every evening and thus welcome hunters. Just ask.

Montana would be my No. 1 DIY whitetail bowhunting state if not for the cost and short supply of tags. You need to apply between Jan. 1 and March 15, and a permit with all the fees will set you back $572. (Even at that price, demand exceeds supply. You'll draw every other year in most areas, so you might consider buying a $20 preference point the first year and then send in the entire amount the following year.)

Your other option for deer hunting in Montana is to buy what's called a 'œcombination' license, which lets you take both deer and elk. The good news is that you can get one of these licenses each year. The bad news is that it will set you back (gulp!) $960.

In Conclusion

When it comes to putting together a DIY whitetail bowhunt, the more planning you do, the better your odds. And that certainly applies to the states on this list. In fact, with several of them having lotteries with early application periods, it's high time to start working out the details of a 2014 hunt. Come fall, the payoff for that preparation could be big.

Recommended for You

Who says you can't be in two places at once? Other

Real-Time Intel: Moultrie Mobile

Gordon Whittington - July 22, 2019

Who says you can't be in two places at once?

Check out some of the most innovative products hitting shelves this summer! Bowhunting

Best New 2019 Crossbow Accessories

Laden Force - July 02, 2019

Check out some of the most innovative products hitting shelves this summer!

Here's how to crack the summer code. Early Season

3 Types of Late-Summer Bucks & How to Hunt Them

Garrett Tucker

Here's how to crack the summer code.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

September Black Hills Whitetail Hunt

September Black Hills Whitetail Hunt

Gordon Whittington is hunting Eastern Wyoming with his crossbow where he encounters a fast moving situation.

Deer Dog: Replicating Realistic Tracks

Deer Dog: Replicating Realistic Tracks

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore discusses the role scent plays when it comes to tracking and how to incorporate it into your training.

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Alternative Season Whitetail Hunt

Mike Clerkin is hunting the alternative weapon whitetail season in Missouri with his S&W revolver.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season. Bowhunting

The Best Arrows for Deer Hunting

Tony J. Peterson - June 10, 2019

Fill your quiver with the right ammo this season.

After weeks of speculation, the official 60-day entry score for Luke Brewster's epic Illinois non-typical bow-killed whitetail was announced today in the OSG booth at the 2019 ATA Show in Louisville. According to North American Whitetail editor Gordon Whittington and associate editor Haynes Shelton, the Brewster buck is the largest buck ever taken by a hunter anywhere in North America! Trophy Bucks

BREAKING NEWS: Brewster's 320-5/8-Inch Non-Typical Buck Pending World Record Announced

Lynn Burkhead - January 10, 2019

After weeks of speculation, the official 60-day entry score for Luke Brewster's epic Illinois...

In terms of coloration, which whitetails are the rarest of all? Most hunters would claim that Deer Behavior & Facts

Rarest Whitetails Of All?

Gordon Whittington - September 22, 2010

In terms of coloration, which whitetails are the rarest of all? Most hunters would claim that

See More Stories

More United States

You've waited, scrimped and saved and now can finally afford that that once-in-a-lifetime hunt. But United States

The Top 10 Whitetail Spots for 2017

Bob Humphrey - May 31, 2017

You've waited, scrimped and saved and now can finally afford that that once-in-a-lifetime...

With great hunting, good company and food, and rugged countryside, an early December deer hunt in the Hill Country is a memorable experience deep in the heart of Texas. United States

December's Whitetail Hunting Magic in the Texas Hill Country

Lynn Burkhead

With great hunting, good company and food, and rugged countryside, an early December deer hunt...

To bowhunters who aren't in the know, New Jersey might seem the last place to go looking for a United States

Hidden New Jersey Whitetails

Gordon Whittington - September 25, 2017

To bowhunters who aren't in the know, New Jersey might seem the last place to go looking for a

See More United States

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.