Have you ever wanted to chase a species in another state that you have never targeted before? To go on a grand adventure but don’t quite know what to do, or have the money to hire a quality guide? The time between seasons is a great time to discuss the issues non-resident hunters face when arriving in a state that they may not have ever hunter before. The challenges facing non-resident hunters are significant but the can be overcome with a bit of planning and common sense. Things such as non-resident hunting fees and hunter education regulations are just a part of the equation.
What and where to hunt?
Once you decide on what type of North American hunting animals are part of your plan you can then decide what state do you want to hunt in? This too is relatively simple as most people already know the state that has a good population of a certain animal, but this is where it gets tricky as most states are broken down into specific hunting zones or units. Each state may break down these hunting units differently and it sometimes feels like you need a Master’s Degree to decide what zone to hunt and whether it is actually available to you. It’s also important to know what the particular rules and regulations for your target species and whether or not you need a hunter education certificate just to apply.
Choosing the right hunting season
Another important thing to consider is if there are multiple seasons for your game, such as Spring Turkey Hunting. If you are applying online you may run into trouble if you are applying for the 1st or opening season in a very competitive game management area. When quota permits are the rule you may consider a mid to late season or if you missed the application date you can look into left over tags. Again, these are usually for the less desirable units but you’ll still have a better chance than if you are stuck at home on your couch.
What hunting permits are available over the counter?
Most often I take the ‘do it yourself’ approach to non-resident hunting and purchase my licenses over the counter where available. This is not usually the best idea as more often than not the available licenses are in zones that either have low numbers of your target animal or very little public land to hunt on. However, some of my most amazing hunts have been in areas that others have told me were going to leave me many blisters and little to show for it. For the “Do It Yourself” hunts sometimes it’s best to just get out there and hunt where you can in order to have a much better idea of how you want to hunt in the future. One of our most impressive Pronghorn Antelope hunts in Gillette, Wyoming came from a left over permit bought at Walmart on a little sliver of Public land with a magnificent lone antelope walk through it.
Hunting Technology and Maps
I often use a product called OnXmaps which is available for many of the states I hunt. I place a chip in a handheld GPS and it lets me know which land is Public and which is private (among other features). But knowing which land is available to the public is only part of the information you’ll need for a do it yourself hunt, quite often it is not always so easy to know how and where to access that land. Are you able to walk in or do you need some manner of transportation? Have a lot of public land to hunt is only good if you can get to it. Depending on your target species topographical maps are great tool, but I rely heavily on aerial maps and satellite photos if available as they tend to give me not only a good lay of the land, but I can see many routes and funnels that game animals may use, and I can set up accordingly. Google earth actually works well for much of this.
How many hunters have the same idea?
Another thing to consider when taking the public land hunting approach for the Do it yourself hunt is to remember that if it’s easy for you to get to this land, then it is easy for many others as well. This can cause many issues and I try to plan my hunt a bit differently should I be hunting that land.
My home state is Florida and much of the prime hunting areas are either private land or subject to quota permits that are given out by lottery, I never win, so when Florida Spring Turkey season rolls around one of the few public hunting areas I use is in close proximity to a few larger cities thus allowing an abundance of newer hunters to try their skill. This is especially true of the JW Corbett WMA just Northwest of West Palm Beach, FL. During Spring Turkey season at JW Corbett I tend to set up to hunt where I think the hordes of Hunters will push the Gobblers to, rather than how I know the birds naturally tend to move. This tactic tends to work well wherever many newer hunters seem to congregate.
How do I get access to the hunting land?
The second reason we need to consider the topography is related to our previous point of accessibility. The mountains are no joke. If you, like me, are a “flatlander”, then you need to be very realistic about your experience, abilities, and understanding of living in and hunting the mountains. How much elevation can you handle? How remote should you go? How are your navigation skills? What is your backcountry experience? Could you pack an elk out if it means climbing up and down thousands of feet of vertical over several miles? Don’t let the ever-increasing machismo of rugged, remote, backcountry hunting get into your head and make you think that you need to scale to dangerous places to hunt.
Am I in good enough shape to hunt?
How good are your skills? How is your health and cardiovascular ability? These are important factors in determining what type of Non-resident hunting you will be able to enjoy? If you are a bit overweight and can’t do a lot of walking then you will be limited to short distances or sitting in a stand or blind. Add to this any type of altitude or hill climbing and your hunt can be a miserable experience or worse.
If you are in reasonable good shape and can put in some distance and can also handle changes in elevation than you need to know how to get back to your car. Many a seasoned hunter has over estimated his or her navigational skills and gotten lost. A handheld GPS and compass are great navigational tools, but only if you are really proficient with them, and they should not be totally relied upon. Search and rescue have had to get many hikers and hunters who thought they could rely strictly on technology and primal instincts.
Finally, once you have picked a target species, a non- resident Do it Yourself hunt is a great way to test yourself and your abilities after you have already spent time with seasoned hunters and have gotten yourself in shape, both mentally and physically. Non-resident hunters a welcomed by a majority of the residents of most places you might choose to visit. Much of their economy is based on Hunting and the outdoors and most residents will give you great information. It is up to you to know the local game laws and do some serious studying of the land available to you. Just because you have only targeted Wild Hogs and Turkey in the Southeast does not mean you can’t fulfill a dream of hunting Antelope or Elk in the Western states. You may have to survive the learning curve, but as long as you are out there you have a chance of realizing a dream, and at least spending quality time under wild blues skies!