Updated: Jun 8, 2020
Over the next couple of posts, we are going to break down our methods we use to plan every hunt.
The great part is we use this same plan whether we're hunting 1/2 a mile down the road, or 1/2 way across the country. Simply start at the appropriate step and skip any that are irrelevant to your situation.
In this post, we're going to briefly go over our complete list of steps and in the next few weeks will dive into the specifics of each step along the way. Let's get started!
Steps to Planning a Hunt.
1.) Identify your goals
We understand that everyone hunts for different reasons and because of that, setting your goals for the season should be the first step in planning your hunting season.
If you're simply looking to spend some time afield a few days and possibly filling the freezer, then driving 500 miles and taking a week vacation from work probably isn't practical. Staying close to home would be the best option as it aligns with your goals.
Some simple goals that many hunters make each year include but are not limited to: hunting a new state, killing a trophy buck, filling the freezer with anything legal, or even just taking a "hunt-cation" with friends.
Regardless of your why, setting goals gives you your first set of directions in hunt planning.
2.) What is your budget?
Once you figure out your goals, the next step is to figure out your budget. If your budget is less than what a state's out of license fees are, then you will need to adjust your plans accordingly.
Budgeting also will help you decide details such as how far you can go, where you can stay, and what you will need to bring.
The brilliant part of planning a trip early is that you can start to save for a hunting trip now to ease the costs of the trip itself later.
3.) Go solo or go with a friend?
You'll want to decide this early in the process because plans can change drastically when other people are involved in the decision making process. The more may mean the merrier, but it also means more planning.
Solo trips can be fun, but hunting with friends and making memories can be unforgettable!
4.) How far are you willing to travel?
Sometimes, going to the eastern vs western part of a state and vice versa can add hours of driving to your trip. Although a region may be better from a trophy potential standpoint, hunting a spot a few hours closer could mean squeezing more than one trip in during a season.
Depending on where you live and where you want to go, you could be facing a 2-3 hour drive just to get out of your home state, so an in state destination may be more feasible.
5.) Do you want to go out of state, or stay in state?
Would you rather explore new parts of your state or venture abroad? Sometimes you can have an excellent experience staying in state and travelling to an area with better trophy potential.
Going out of state is more challenging, but an incredible experience that everyone should try. It takes a lot of coordination but the reward of tagging out can be unmatched.
6.) Research Pope & Young/Boone & Crockett data
Once you know where you want to go, we HIGHLY suggest joining the Pope & Young Club and using their database to find out what counties are producing in what state.
Boone & Crockett also publishes data of where trophy class animals are harvested, but keep in mind they also include any type of harvest weapon and have higher minimum standards.
Click this Link to check out the Pope & Young Club
Click this Link to check out the Boone & Crockett Club
7.) Check Public Land availability and access in the top areas
You picked a state, you picked a county, now it's time to find public land. (Unless of course you have some access to private land or are willing to knock on some doors)
Most states have lists and maps of available public land, and we do our best to help you find these public lands on each state's page.
Now is also the time to narrow down to spots within spots and see how accessible they are. Find places you can handle and are off the beaten path or overlooked by others.
8.) Begin E-Scouting specific areas using topo and aerial maps
Once you find several potential spots (we recommend at least 5-10), it's time to start picking them apart with topographical and aerial maps to find potential stand locations, access points, and devising a hunt plan.
Jay Stern does an excellent job breaking down his process of e-scouting in his article, "How to Find a Hunting Spot- Narrowing Down the Unknown"
To accomplish this task, we take full advantage of all the tools and features offered by HuntStand. It's mapping, weather, wind, parcel information, and more all packed into an extremely user friendly phone app and website.
We highly recommend using HuntStand for all of your mapping and hunt planning needs, be sure to click the picture above and use code ARCHERHS at check out for 10% off!
9.) If possible, get boots on the ground and trail cameras out
This won't be feasible in all situations, but if you have the opportunity to get out and physically scout your potential spots, take it!
Nothing beats boots on the ground when it comes to scouting and finalizing your plans.
If you can't take an advance trip, plan an extra day of your hunt to dedicate to scout and hunt so that you don't waste your time hunting a bad area.
Getting out early also means you can hang some trail cameras to check when you come to hunt. But be sure to follow these precautions to keep them safe while you're away.
10.) Pick a Date
Opening weekend? October lull to avoid pressure? Or November rut action? Several options to choose from and they can all bring success.
11.) Make travel and lodging arrangements
Whether you're staying in a hotel, camper, tent, truck, or big wall tent, now is the time to make these arrangements for when you decide its time to hunt.
It may seem obnoxious, but a large wall tent such as THIS ONE found on Amazon can be a great, cost saving option for a large group of hunters, click on the picture to check it out!
12.) Find a local bow shop or sporting goods store
You never know when things can go wrong with equipment. You lose a release, you have an equipment failure, or you simply forgot something essential. It's good to know ahead of time where you can get for a last minute item.
13.) Find a meat processor or make plans to prevent spoiling
In the event of success, the last thing you want is spoilage. Find a reputable meat processor or plan accordingly to do your own remote processing to get your bounty back home.
14.) Plan for success, find a local taxidermist
Most of us have a taxidermist back home, but it's also important to have one while you are away. If you harvest a trophy buck, you're going to want the hide properly caped and prepped to ensure an excellent mount.
Plan for success by finding a taxidermist near where you're hunting, even if they'll only be used for a small part of the process.
All of the planning is finally going to pay off! The best part of the process is here, enjoy it! Don't be afraid to adjust your strategies if things aren't going as planned, but don't abandon ship too soon.
16.) Reflect on the experience, learn from it, and adjust accordingly
When it's all over, reflect on the outcome and experience whether it was good or bad, it's the best way to learn. What would you better or differently to improve the experience? What would you never do again?
I reflect on my season every year to constantly improve myself as a hunter, check out THIS ARTICLE to see my reflection process.
Hopefully planning a hunt of any scale makes you come back for each year! Stayed tuned as we break down these steps even more, subscribe to our email list to be notified of these and all updates!
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