How to Plan and Hunt DIY Whitetails Out of State
By Alex Comstock
Do you want to chase big mature bucks, but are limited where you live? Maybe you’re looking for a new adventure to embark on, or simply want the chance to harvest a buck, besides what you can shoot in your state. Either way, all of these scenarios can lead to you choosing to want to pursue whitetails out of state. Here is how you can effectively plan, scout, and hunt DIY whitetails out of state.
Decide on a State
While you’re deciding on a state to hunt, you first have to ask yourself a few questions. How far do you want to travel? Do you want to focus on public land or try and get permission on private ground? Do you know if you can get OTC tags or is there a draw system for a particular state?
A couple things that I do first when thinking of a state to hunt is check connections within your family and friends. You might get lucky and know somebody that owns acreage somewhere that you didn’t know of previously. This happened to me a couple of years ago. I was talking to my dad about wanting to bowhunt Nebraska, and he clued me in on some family friends that owned land. Before I knew it, I had access to over 1,000 acres of land to hunt on with zero hunting pressure. Check all of your resources before coming to a conclusion on what state you want to hunt.
Pick an Area
So, you’ve decided what state you want to chase whitetails in, the next step is to pick an area within that state. You can pick an area based on a couple factors. If you do some research, you can find out what counties within a state produce the most P&Y and/or B&C bucks and figure out where the quality of bucks are. It’s not hard to do some browsing across social media, and find out where people are putting big bucks down either, relative to the northern, southern, etc. part of a state.
The next step to picking an area is knowing what you want to hunt pertaining to private land, or public land. For those of you who want to focus on private land, I would recommend making a list of 10-20 properties that you like and would like to ask permission for. If you type into Google “(county which your hunting) GIS maps”, you usually can find an interactive map that has property borders overlaying Google Maps and get landowner information.
What I would recommend doing, especially if you’re going on a DIY hunt in a new area, is to focus on public property. That way you know you will have a place to hunt, and in most cases if you work hard and find tough to access areas, hunting pressure will be at a minimum. With most states, you can go to their game and fish website (it might be game and parks or fish and wildlife, different for different states) and find information on where there is public land, what it’s set aside for, etc. If you are looking for a high quality of mature bucks, you can cross reference where the most P&Y bucks are taken with where there is public land, and ultimately decide where you want to hunt.
Narrow Down Your Location
After deciding on a property that you want to hunt, it is critical to scout the area with aerial maps and get an idea of exactly where you want to hunt before you show up to the property. If you are going to hunt in this area during the rut, scout out some funnels and pinch points, and areas that you think might be doe bedding areas. By obtaining a bit of information like this, and having an idea of where you want to hunt, you will be ahead of the curve when you arrive and get boots on the ground, instead of going into a piece of ground absolutely blind.
The first thing I like to do when I first arrive to a designated hunting location out of state is to do a quick scout on the areas I scouted from a computer. If it’s an early season hunt, this means going for a night drive or sitting in an observation stand. If it’s during the rut, doing your quick scout with a stand on your back can be your best bet. Head to those pre-determined locations and once you locate some hot sign, set up and hunt. If you are going to be at a location for more than a few days, consider putting up a trail camera in a spot you won’t be hunting right away, as that could benefit your hunting efforts in the back half of a trip.
Adaptation and Aggressiveness
One of the most important factors to a successful out of state hunt is the ability to adapt. Odds are you will be hunting different terrain features and habitat, and you will have to hunt in a different style than what you are used to. Having the ability to realize this and adjust your game plan if need be can be extremely important to being able to put down a mature buck.
Hunting in an aggressive style can be hard for some people, especially ones who are similar to me and always tend to hunt with a conservative nature. But when it comes to a short amount of time out of state, turn your mindset to hunting aggressive, there is a lot less on the line and the payoff can be worth it. Hunt hot sign, and don’t be afraid to infiltrate a bedding area. You may not have time to play it safe.
When it comes to doing a DIY hunt out of state, you just have to do it. It might be expensive, there could be a lot of travel involved, but the experiences you will garner will be well worth the trip whether you ultimately end up with a buck on the wall or not.
– Alex Comstock of WhitetailDNA.com.