Planning a DIY Hunt: What You Need to Know

Planning a DIY Hunt

Every hunting enthusiast has dreamed of taking the ultimate hunting trip at least once. It is empowering to venture into uncharted territories and hunt an animal you have never encountered. Consequently, why doesn’t everyone pursue it? Is it likely that the fear of the unknown is at play here? Figuring out where to start is the first step. In this article, I will elaborate on organizing a Do-It-Yourself hunt trip. If you have a successful first trip, you’ll no doubt be eager to do another one. With this hunting guide, you can start planning your hunt immediately!

Research, Research, and More Research

Before investing money and time, it is important to ensure that you have reviewed the requirements and fees associated with planning a hunting trip, especially in another state.

To find the best whitetail deer hunting states, research online using phrases like “best whitetail states” and “best states for whitetail deer hunting.”

Those of us who prefer to hunt by ourselves usually don’t like the idea of using commercial guides. However, this shouldn’t be ruled out as a possibility. Many places can set up campsites and liaise with landowners to provide hunting opportunities for a fee.

Joining a hunting guide or club can be beneficial since they provide the needed equipment and have knowledge of areas that are less crowded with hunters.

Getting help from experts is an excellent way to gain knowledge of a new hunting ground which will likely result in greater success than attempting it alone.

Sources for Help

Many different resources are available to you, some of which are free, and some require an annual subscription. I have subscriptions to both Bow Hunting and Hunting Journals from Eastman’s. To access the Member Research Section, subscribe to one of these magazines. This allows you to see the deadlines for applying for a hunting permit in a given state and how popular a unit is for a given species. It also considers variables such as the type of terrain and the amount of public vs. private land in those units.

Suppose you’re looking for help with your hunting applications or want someone to front your application fees. In that case, Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA) is a great option. They can handle everything for you for a small fee on each application. You only pay for the tag if you draw.

The Huntin’ Fool is another excellent tool. They offer a magazine that gives you access to a database of North America’s premier outfitters and an application service. I haven’t used Rolling Bones Outfitters, a new service. A new magazine, “Hunt The West,” is being released and provides much good information. Most of this information comes from vetted outfitters.

Hunt by Species

The most popular hunting adventure species in the western United States are as follows: deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn, and black bear. The species are listed from most to least popular, with the easiest to tag/have a successful hunt listed first.

Pronghorn

The states you should look at are Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Montana.

There are a few states where it is easy to draw or get an over-the-counter option for an archery tag, especially if you are interested. Buying a landowner hunting license is possible in some US states, such as New Mexico. I have used the Outfitter option two times and have had great success finding game for a nominal fee.

Mule Deer

States to look at: Colorado, Nevada, Wyoming, South Dakota

Although there is no license specifically for hunting mule deer in South Dakota, it is possible to get a license with no points required in many areas. This makes it an excellent option for bow and rifle hunting. A significant amount of land in the Western part of the state is open to the public for walking. By learning how to play the system, you can increase your chances of getting more than one tag in a season.

Elk

These are all great states to live in if you want breathtaking scenery and plenty of outdoor activities. Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and New Mexico are some states to consider living in if you desire stunning natural surroundings and many opportunities to be active outdoors.

A few licenses in Colorado allow people to go archery and rifle hunting, and it’s usually easy to get a general season tag in Montana. The odds of being drawn for a limited unit decrease in both states. Wyoming and New Mexico have more difficult draw odds.

Colorado has the largest elk herd of any state. The state is focused on producing a large quantity of elk. The areas with a limited number of available permits may have good quality. Still, it could take many years to get a permit.

States to look at: Alaska and Canada

The tags for these hunts are relatively easy to obtain. Still, they will cost more than the average hunt because of these hunts’ travel and out-of-state or country nature. Hunting in Alaska may require many different transportation methods and opportunities, from taking a river float trip to working with an outfitter or transporter to dropping a camp. You can also drive on the “Haul Road.”

Carve Out Time—A Lot of It

The amount of time you have is essential to consider when determining if you have the motivation and ability to begin this venture. The specific dates you can hunt depend on where and what animal you want to hunt. Generally, the Western Archery season for most big game animals falls in September. It is usually October or November in the Midwest and East. Rifle seasons are traditionally short, lasting around eight days. Can you imagine having only eight days to a month to bike, ski, climb, or run? You will value the time you spend hunting, which will become more important to you than anything else. You will start to think of hunting the way you think of a day when there is a lot of fresh snow for skiing.

Going on a big game bow hunt on public land takes a lot of effort and planning. Suppose you want a higher chance of successfully hunting on a trip. In that case, you can go to a private ranch where the guides are familiar with the area and the patterns of the animals. This is more convenient than researching where to go and what to expect. But the preparation is a real-time suck.

Practicing with your weapon and getting your gear ready before the hunting season starts is a good idea. Before you start hunting, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. I shot my bow every day for two months before opening day. This means an hour at the archery range or a half hour in front of the backyard target. To be ready for rifle hunting, one must adjust the scope properly to ensure precise target acquisition from the desired range. Taking a practical and ethical shot in the field involves practice and confidence. To feel prepared, it is suggested that you practice as much as possible.

Shopping for the perfect software license can be laborious, requiring many hours of staring at a computer screen to decide which tags are appropriate. Or buying new gear (you’ll want more toys than you need or can afford). And generally obsess over learning about a complex new endeavor with life-and-death implications. Pre-season scouting is a process that combines e-scouting (using a navigation app like OnX Hunt) with physically going out into the field. Once you have located a potential destination online, visiting it physically and exploring the landscape is important. Can you see that ridge with your binoculars from the hill you picked out online? Does that stream on the map hold running water?

The people close to you will need to be supportive. Your new hobby will likely take over your life, and you will start planning your trips outdoors to look for animal poop in wooded areas.

Get Ready To Be Uncomfortable

Hunting is difficult, and one will endure hardship. Suppose you want to go bow hunting for antelope in Wyoming in August. In that case, you must bake nearly to death in a tiny convection oven called a “ground blind” (essentially a cramped camouflage tent). If you prefer to deal with painful frozen digits, you can get a fourth-season rifle tag for elk in Colorado. Archery hunting for elk in the Rockies will have you hiking through mountainous terrain and bushwhacking through dense vegetation. You’ll climb steep slopes or crawl through rugged terrain until your legs and lungs don’t work and spend lonely nights in a bivy sack. At the same time, mountain winds whip tent fabric into your face. You can spend a week in a luxurious wall tent, smelling your friend’s chili and cheap beer. I’ve done both. But I usually spend most of my time hunting elk alone in the mountains. I hike between 10,000 to 30,000 vertical feet and dozens of miles monthly.

If you find a big game animal, you have not completed your work once you have gotten within effective range and placed an ethical shot. You must get the meat away from scavengers and return it to your car immediately. If you can’t transport all the meat in one trip, you must put it in game bags and hang it from a tree. If you kill an animal while hunting, you will probably need to spend a couple of hours carrying it out of the woods in pieces. This requires carrying a large, probably heavy, carcass that likely fell in a very inconvenient place. This means that you may have to transport the animal up to five times from where it was killed to your mode of transportation. The animal will be hefty, as an elk’s hind quarter with bone-in and hide-on can weigh up to 70 pounds. If you were to kill an animal two miles away from your truck and were hauling it out alone, you would have to walk 18 miles in total, 10 of which would be with a backpack full of meat, which would be strenuous.

Pick an Animal

In many states, the percentage of harvested animals compared to the total number of hunters is in the teens. Most of your time will be spent on things other than harvesting meat. Like questioning why the animals behave differently than you thought they would when you were looking at maps in your living room. You’ll also constantly come up with new plans and then doubt yourself.

Choose a game that is set in an environment that you find appealing. Even if you never see a single animal, some places would make you happy to spend time. If you’re interested in birds that live in grassy areas, look into pheasants or other upland birds. If you want to see quiet shimmering sunrises in the marshlands, learn the patterns of migrating waterfowl. For some reason, I enjoy mountain climbing in the dark, so I chose elk and mule deer.

Captain Hunter is a seasoned hunting mentor with over 20 years of experience in the field. His passion began as a young man on trips with his father and grandfather in the Colorado mountains. Today, he shares his unmatched skills in survival, tracking, and marksmanship through his website CaptainHunter.com. When he's not volunteering with youth hunting programs, you can find Captain Hunter providing expert hunting tips, gear reviews, and answers to your most pressing questions. His decades of experience make him the trusted guide to help any outdoorsman master the sport.

Scroll to Top