An awful lot of whitetail hunters look at an out-of-state trip as a means to kill a big buck and not much more. Because of that, a lot of folks travel out of state only to return with an unfilled tag and a distaste for traveling to hunt.
There is a misconception amongst hunters that it’s only a matter of getting to a new state, or better yet, one of the heralded big buck trophy states, and success is a given.
This, unfortunately, is far from true.
Every year I hunt whitetails in four or five states with at least half of my stand time spent on public land. I don’t necessarily travel to kill giants, but to extend my season. My home state of Minnesota offers decent whitetail hunting, but it’s a one-buck state. If I fill out on opening weekend, I may be done for the season. I look to other states to get my fix.
Most of us would benefit from looking at our traveling hunts in a similar fashion. Go to have fun, learn some new ground, and maybe, just maybe, harvest a deer. That’s not to say you can’t kill a big one while spending a long weekend on foreign ground, because you certainly can.
I have, and to be honest, several of my largest bow-killed bucks have come while hunting other states. And they all died on public land. That said, I’ve also harvested smaller bucks and does. Go to have fun and keep your expectations grounded in reality and you’ll have a good time. It’s that simple.
If this sounds intriguing, then it’s time to start researching where you can get a tag.
Over-the-Counter is Everything
Unlike elk and mule deer, it’s still easy to find plenty of states that will sell you a nonresident whitetail license every year without having to play the points game. What I do when looking for an out-of-state hunt, is to spend a little Internet time identifying over-the-counter (OTC) states within 10 to 12 hours of drive time from my home.
Where I live, I’m fortunate enough to be able to reach several in that amount of travel time, with Iowa being pretty much the only state that I’ve got to wait a few years to hunt. Once I’ve decided on a state – Nebraska, Missouri or wherever – I start to look at the timing of it all.
In Minnesota, I know the firearm’s season will open the first weekend of November. This means I usually travel somewhere to find a rut bowhunt. Or, I might just look for a hunt that opens earlier than Minnesota’s mid-September bow opener. Find a way to hunt somewhere that expands your season instead of stealing too much time from your home-state endeavors and you’ll enjoy yourself much more.
During this phase, it’s a really good idea to make sure there are no sneaky extra seasons going on during the same time. This might include a youth firearm’s season, or maybe a doe-only season.
Make sure you can hunt what you want to hunt, when you want to hunt. If you find the right state, keep reading the regulations further. Different states mean different hunting laws, and it’s on you to know them once you start hunting.
The key to a disappointing hunt is to expect too much. If you aren’t killing Booners every year at home, you’re not likely to do it on the road. Hunt to learn new ground and figure out what the deer like to do, and success will follow. And on that note, you’ll probably need a place to hunt.
Feel free to knock on doors, tap into social media, or do what you have to in order to find a spot. Me, I look for public land – big chunks of public land that aren’t very close to major cities. Then it’s time to scour aerial photos and figure out exactly where the most promising spots are.
This is the step where most of us falter. The more research you do ahead of your hunt, the better your hunt will go. As an example, last fall I planned to hunt some Walk-In-Areas in South Dakota that I’d never set foot on before.
The forecast called for warm temperatures, so I started looking for isolated ponds. When I found them, I identified potential stand sites. One of those locations paid off with 12-foot shot at a crazy non-typical buck the first day I sat there, and it was all made possible because of the pre-hunt research conducted from my favorite recliner in my living room.
If you’ve got private ground, research also is extremely important. Spend the time now developing a plan and you won’t waste a second once you load up the truck and hit the road.
Traveling to hunt is sort of like buying land. Everyone wants to, or says they want to, yet very few actually do. Aside from tag costs, fuel and at most a motel bill, an out-of-state hunting trip can be very affordable.
And better yet, if you put in the right amount of work, you can extend your season and find success on new ground. There are very few things quite as rewarding when it comes to whitetails.