DIY: Out of State Hunting

May 4th, 2017:
By Blake Mallory,

Are you thinking about planning an out of state DIY (Do It Yourself) deer hunt? You better get to work! Planning for these types of hunts takes a lot of work if you want to be successful. There are 3 major questions you need to ask yourself when preparing for an adventure like this.

Question number one: Where will you be hunting? The earlier you get started the better! If you are just getting started right now you already can eliminate some states, because you are too late for the application process. Do you have any leads? Talk to anyone and everyone, but take everything with a grain of salt. Use other people's experiences and advice as a clue but not as an answer. When you narrow it down to a state, read the latest rule and regulation book cover to cover. You will learn that not one state's regulation book is even close to another one.

Public or Private? 
This is a question based on budget. Obviously, private is usually a better option but I prefer public for two reasons; cheaper and feels like a greater accomplishment when you succeed. For myself, I don't use guides, but if I absolutely have my heart set on private land I will email every outfitter in an area and see if they have any land for lease for a week. Most will not respond to you, but it only takes one. When this approach works out it is usually a piece of ground that is far away from the Outfitters headquarters that they lease and rarely hunt. Make sure you stress the fact that you will not need stands hung or anything from them other than access to the property.

If the destination is too far to travel for scouting spend time on the computer. I know for an outdoorsman this part stinks but is necessary! Aerial imagery is not a sure thing but it can help you zone into key spots come crunch time. The first thing is to pull up the state you are interested in and find the big buck map, usually, it is by county. I typically will look at all the surrounding counties because a lot of the time there is usually a little less hunting pressure when you arrive.

After you find at least three core areas, you are willing to risk your hunt on, you will need to find a place to stay. Never find the place to stay before finding your core three areas of hunting, only because it will limit your hunting area. This is when you want to decide your budget. My out of state 2016 hunting trip, where I arrowed a 130” 6x6 whitetail, only cost me $275. This including gas, tag, and lodging was camping in a tent at a campground for $9 a night.

Question number two: When will you be hunting? This is usually dictated by a couple things: work schedules, rut, family schedules, opening day dates, etc. Key into the best time for your schedule and then hunt accordingly. You have three times to think about: Pre-Rut, Rut and Post Rut.

Pre-Rut: With this option you will want to either go as early as possible so that you can still pattern the deer. Or as close to rut as possible, to hopefully catch a big buck scent checking. It will be hot and the bugs will be out, but other hunters usually will not be. Also, when you hunt the pre-rut you always have the possibility to return later in the season if you are unsuccessful the first time around.

Rut: This obviously is the most popular and for that reason expect to see other hunters. You will see the most deer activity, but also the most activities from other hunters. If you decide that rut is what you want, DO NOT let other hunters discourage you. From experience, I have hunted within 200 yards of other guys that were unsuccessful, and yet I filled my tag.

Post Rut: This option is one that is very overlooked. In some states, I prefer hunting post rut. You will hardly ever see any other hunters, especially if it’s an archery only season. Key in on the food sources and be willing to move. Hunt the post rut right and you can have a hunt of a lifetime.

Third Question: Who will be joining you on this hunt? This question is just as important as the previous two. From experience, two is a party and three's a crowd. If you hunt with a partner make sure it is someone who will not back out last minute and hunts as hard as you do. When there is two hunting, a vehicle can be parked at a somewhat close proximity to your hunting area. When there is three, someone is going to be stranded. Typically when I have three people interested in a hunt I will find a fourth and partner up.

DIY trips are rewarding but also frustrating. Be prepared to eat your tag, but use every trip, day, and hunt as a learning tool to hone in on being successful with the next hunt. Two years ago my out of state experience went from 1 buck for 4 guys to 1 buck, and 2 missed opportunities for two guys. If success finds you, it will be because all your hard work and preparation had paid off, and trust me when I say the reward of a DIY hunt will supersede any guided hunt.

-Blake Mallory
Rogue N Rugged Country LLC