Skip to main content

Start Your DIY Hunt With These 5 Considerations

Start Your DIY Hunt With These 5 Considerations

The attraction of traveling to hunt whitetails in new places burns hot in many of us. For some, it's a chance to shoot a mature, big-racked buck when the opportunity to do so where we live is slim. For others, the appeal lies in seeing new country and experiencing new challenges. For yet others, it's the camaraderie that comes from doing something new with a few friends.

Setting your buck standards too high can derail any hunt, but especially on public land. The author was quite happy with this 4x4. (Photo courtesy of Bernie Barringer)

For me the appeal includes bits of all three of those, but the second is the strongest. I hunt alone most of the time, and I love a big rack in the back of the truck as much as the next guy. But if my goal were purely to shoot a big buck, I'd keep going back to the same places that offer the best odds. My boots keep taking me to new locations because of the appeal and challenge of trying new things in new environs.

When considering a whitetail road trip, these three factors must be part of the decision-making process. But there are also more practical elements to consider. Let's look at five major categories of components to your DIY hunt.


COST & DRAWING ODDS


If you don't live in Iowa and have no preference points already built up, you won't bowhunt that state any time soon. Every DIY bowhunter I know wants to hunt Iowa because of the low number of nonresident tags, quality public land and abundance of great bucks. But it will take you 3-4 years of applying to get that tag — and with the cost of licenses, fees and preference points, you'll have close to $800 invested before you ever walk out the door to load your gear into the truck. That's not for everyone.

Some other good states are quite proud of their tags, as well. Kansas just jacked up the price to right at $500, including the mandatory nonresident hunting license to go with your permit, and some others are north of $500 for nonresidents these days. So while the cost of the tag is only part of the overall cost of the hunt, it's taking a larger bite in some places.

States offering over-the-counter (OTC) tags have more appeal because you can go hunting without years of planning, and the costs are more manageable; you'll pay $200-$350 in most states in the Midwest and Great Plains, even less in the bulk of the East and Southeast. Do your research and choose what best fits your budget and timing.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE


Hunting the hardwood forests of Iowa, Illinois or Missouri feels a lot different than hunting the river bottoms of Montana or North Dakota. The plains of Kansas and Oklahoma offer yet another experience. You can pick something that's similar to home, or choose something totally new that will challenge you. It's your call.

PROXIMITY & TIME

How far are you willing to travel, and how much time do you have to do it? Heading out 1,000 miles from home when you only have a week off work means you'll spend half your time driving and half your time hunting.


Flying can make things difficult, due to the amount of gear we'd like to carry. But there are workarounds. As noted in a recent column, a friend from Maine hunts in Kansas with a small group of other guys. A few years back, they loaded all their gear onto a pallet and sent it to Kansas in a semi. Then it went into a rented storage facility. Now most of what they need for the hunt is there when they fly in and rent a couple pickups. What can't be included in luggage is there waiting for them.

If you plan to go hunt the same area every time you get a tag, this is a good option. But if you prefer to explore new areas, driving is best. Stay closer to home or take more time off, so you can have more stand time. Trust me, you'll certainly welcome any extra time to scout the land you'll be hunting.

AVAILABILITY OF HUNTING LAND

This is an overlooked aspect of many DIY road trips. I can't count the number of times someone has told me a story of arriving at a place to hunt and discovering the hunting pressure was extreme, or that disease had dramatically reduced the deer population, or that the property wasn't as inviting as it appeared in online photos.

The real problem was not having a backup plan — and then, a backup plan for the backup plan.

Choose a place with at least twice as much property as you could ever hunt in a week. I like big public tracts because most locals hunt evenings and don't have time to penetrate the depths of larger properties. But I've also seen 40- to 80-acre public tracts that were mostly ignored. Look for an area with a mix of property sizes and habitat types.

TROPHY POTENTIAL

You might think this would be No. 1 when choosing where to go. But it's not for me. We're talking public land here, most of which gets quite a bit of pressure, especially during gun seasons. The vast majority of those really big bucks you see on TV come from private land. Most public ground gets run over pretty hard during gun seasons.

I've arrowed 4 1/2-year-old bucks on public land, and I've seen some real giants that made me gasp. But the reality is, a 3 1/2-year-old buck is a representative specimen on most public tracts across whitetail country. So I've learned not to set my sights too high. It's OK to hope for an eye-popping buck, but keep your expectations within the realm of what's likely to walk in front of you at some point in 7-10 days of hunting hard.

IN CONCLUSION

A distant DIY hunt can be fun — and, if properly planned, extremely productive. Analyze what motivates your desire to hunt away from home, then use these five criteria to help you pick the best hunt in the best state where your expectations are most likely to be met. You'll have fun and maybe even bring home a buck to remember it by.

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

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

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.

Gear Wise

Gear Wise

Jace Bauserman explains what bowhunters can do to ease the physical and mental rigors of being caught at full draw.

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

How to Plant Food Plots on a Budget with Small Equipment

Haynes Shelton debunks the common belief that you must have big, fancy equipment to plant food plots. That's simply not the case; he's how to plan and plant food plots on a budget with small equipment.

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

How to Control Predators on Deer Hunting Property

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss ways to help control predators on deer hunting property.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is perfect to fulfill that Cajun craving.Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe Venison Recipes

Bourbon BBQ Venison Backstrap Recipe

Chef Derek St. Romain

With a sweet and tangy bourbon BBQ sauce drizzled over venison backstrap, this recipe is...

Low carb and keto-friendly, this recipe for venison jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon is a great appetizer to serve at your next BBQ or cookout.Bacon-Wrapped Venison Jalapeno Poppers Recipe Venison Recipes

Bacon-Wrapped Venison Jalapeno Poppers Recipe

Emilie Bailey

Low carb and keto-friendly, this recipe for venison jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon is a...

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot Gear

Gear Planning for After the Kill Shot

Mark Kayser

Be prepared to take care of the carcass and cape after downing your trophy buck.

We'll explain which supplements whitetails can obtain in the field, and the best ways to provide them with the ones they can't. Which Minerals Do Deer Need? Off-Season

Which Minerals Do Deer Need?

Dr. James C. Kroll

We'll explain which supplements whitetails can obtain in the field, and the best ways to...

See More Trending Articles

More Hunting Strategies

If you're armed with the right supplies – and the proper snacks – a routine day afield can turn into the one for the ages. Preparing for All-Day Sits in the Deer Woods Hunting Strategies

Preparing for All-Day Sits in the Deer Woods

Lynn Burkhead - August 27, 2019

If you're armed with the right supplies – and the proper snacks – a routine day afield can...

Whether you're hunting or simply scouting with trail cameras, mock scrapes can give you a helpful advantage. How to Make Mock Scrapes Hunting Strategies

How to Make Mock Scrapes

Clint McCoy, DVM

Whether you're hunting or simply scouting with trail cameras, mock scrapes can give you a...

A unique deer hunting opportunity exists in the Sunshine State, if you can handle the conditions.Florida's Summertime Swamp Bucks Hunting Strategies

Florida's Summertime Swamp Bucks

Tony J Peterson - August 15, 2018

A unique deer hunting opportunity exists in the Sunshine State, if you can handle the...

See More Hunting Strategies

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now