It can happen, but it shouldn’t. I’m talking about answering a question with: “I didn’t draw anything.” Don’t let yourself come into a hunting season with no tags in your pocket. In this article we’ll look at ways to make sure you always have some opportunities to get out and hunt every year.
Get familiar With Your Home State:
The cheapest place to hunt is usually your home state. States also allocate the most tags to residents of their state, so your best and most economical options are going to be close to home. Be familiar with what happens in your state. Many states have over-the-counter opportunities where you can simply purchase a tag; some will only have a limited number of tags so be first to the counter or to the website to purchase them. Other states may not have much for OTC opportunities, so be familiar with the lottery systems of your state and don’t miss application deadlines.
There are many advantages to hunting close to home. Pre-season scouting is easier, travel is less expensive, and sometimes you can sleep in your own bed and still hunt. Know your home state, and those areas close to your home to make sure you have a chance to hunt it.
Buck taken on an OTC tag.
A Plan and a Budget:
Having an application strategy and plan in place will help you pull the trigger on certain tags when you know you probably won’t draw anything else. Your plan doesn’t have to be 5 years out, but that’s how I plan my hunts. I keep a simple spreadsheet that keeps my point totals, units I’m trying to draw, and how many points I expect it to take to draw that unit. It’s fairly easy to forecast draws in some states with preference point systems, so you can plan accordingly and fill in your gaps with something in your home state, or an OTC hunt somewhere else.
A budget is also important when planning hunts. You can figure how much you’ll pay in applications, OTC tags, and even those big trips that you have to save up for. Set aside some money and you’ll be surprised how soon you can afford some of those hunts you thought you’d never do!
Alaska black bear hunts are a great example of a hunt that doesn’t break the bank! Budget and go on out of state hunts!
OTC Hunting Opportunities:
There are tons of OTC opportunities out there for hunters – many of which have ample public land to play on. You can pick up OTC tags for most species, especially if you’re willing to travel. This can add some cost, but by planning your seasons in advance will help you reach your longer term hunting goals.
Sometimes OTC hunts can be a little crowded, and it can take a few years to really dial in specific areas that you like to hunt or find success. The great thing about a lot of OTC areas is you can scout them and if you don’t like what you see, you don’t have to pay for a tag. Other areas, like migration or rut hunts, it may just take a year or two of hunting to find out about certain areas. Or reach out to someone who has hunted it before or use a hunting consultation service to get an idea about a unit before you go there. Many of these services provide good overall information and will help you narrow down units that will meet your expectations.
Pay To Play:
There are a lot of opportunities out there where you can purchase tags, and access with a bit of cash. These hunts will vary from a few hundred dollars up to as much as you want to spend. Look at landowner tags in states that allow landowners to sell tags like Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, etc. Some states allocate tags to outfitters and you can purchase them directly from them. Other hunts, like some in Canada and Alaska are readily available, but you’ll need to pay for transportation, access or an outfitter to hunt them. All of these tags are typically readily available, but the logistics will need to be planned in advance.
Don’t sit at home next fall without a hunt to go on! Many of these hunts are great, and you can find some good quality, even on crowded and hard to hunt areas. Get familiar with the opportunities around you and you’ll be surprised at what’s available!