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

Restore the predator balance on your land. Land Management

Managing Hog & Coyote Populations for Whitetail Properties

Mark Wooley

Restore the predator balance on your land.

In blackpowder hunting, details always matter. Don't learn the hard way. Guns

Choose the Right Load for Your Muzzleloader

Gordon Whittington - March 05, 2019

In blackpowder hunting, details always matter. Don't learn the hard way.

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!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Fundamentals of the Bow Selection

Fundamentals of the Bow Selection

On this edition of "On Target," Pat Hogan highlights the importance of applying the fundamentals of the draw cycle when it comes to the bow you select.

Battling Breeding Bucks

Battling Breeding Bucks

Stan Potts heads to his home state of Illinois to hunt whitetails with his bow during the November rut.

Putting a New Spin on an Old Whitetail Hunt

Putting a New Spin on an Old Whitetail Hunt

Gordon Whittington returns home to Texas to relive one of his favorite deer hunts of all-time, and make new memories.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Good location is just part of the equation. Scouting

The Best Summer Trail Camera Strategy

Tony J. Peterson

Good location is just part of the equation.

To hear many serious trophy bowhunters tell it, Kentucky must be a figment of someone's fertile United States

Best Spots for Bowhunting Kentucky Trophy Bucks

Gordon Whittington - July 21, 2016

To hear many serious trophy bowhunters tell it, Kentucky must be a figment of someone's...

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 Stories

More United States

I vividly remember the moment I first laid eyes on a Pope & Young whitetail in the suburbs of United States

Your Guide to Bowhunting in Georgia

Gordon Whittington - June 07, 2017

I vividly remember the moment I first laid eyes on a Pope & Young whitetail in the suburbs...

Kentucky abounds with deer-hunting opportunities, and many would consider it a sleeper state for United States

Hunting In Kentucky Offers Plenty To DIY Archers

Bernie Barringer - November 07, 2017

Kentucky abounds with deer-hunting opportunities, and many would consider it a sleeper state...

Ask most people what they think of when someone mentions Oklahoma, and the answer is likely to United States

Oklahoma Hunting Can Be Top Notch

Gordon Whittington - May 04, 2017

Ask most people what they think of when someone mentions Oklahoma, and the answer is likely to

See More United States

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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