The lower 48 states offer an incredible amount of opportunities to us as bowhunters. Hundreds of thousands of hunters expand their horizons each fall as they venture out West to chase species they can't hunt at home. It may seem early, but now is the time to start planning your hunts for the Fall of 2010 or 2011. Hopefully some of you are planning a trip somewhere in the Western US and there are some things to keep in mind during your planning.
What do you want to hunt? It sounds so simple, but honestly… it's probably the toughest decision for me to make, obviously, it sets the stage for the rest of the planning. There are so many options… From Antelope in New Mexico to Elk in Idaho or Montana. Personally, anyone that hasn't been on an Elk hunt during the rut needs to cut loose, it's truly incredible.
Application Deadlines First of all, it's important to be aware of the application deadlines if you plan to hunt something that requires you to draw a tag. The earliest due date that I'm personally aware of is a 1/31 deadline for a Wyoming Elk tag. These dates should be easy to find on the individual states websites, but the Cabela's TAGS system is an excellent source of information. Another great source of information is called the MRS (Member's Research Supplement) in the subscription edition of Eastman's Hunting Journal magazine. I highly recommend this magazine for anyone planning a Western hunt.
Make the most of your vacation time If you're like me (or any other worker for that matter) you have a limited amount of time to be away from the daily grind. I would say that the majority of the Western states allow the opportunity to hunt multiple species in one area. For example, a Pronghorn/Mule Deer or an Elk/Mule Deer hunt are viable options in many places. If you can swing it, it's often times cheaper to do a combo hunt than to make two separate trips. At the very least you should be familiar with the leftover tags in the area you are hunting. Even shooting a doe to supplement your main hunt can be worth the economical tag. I understand that's not always an option, but it's something to think about at the very least.
Both the antelope and mule deer doe were killed with leftover tags.
Physical Conditioning We've all heard of the toll the Rocky Mountains can take on the lungs of a flatlander. I'll attest to that. Starting now gives you ample time to make sure your body is ready for the demands of a back country Elk hunt. The last thing that you want to do is spend thousands of dollars on gear, licenses, transportation and whatever else, only to get there and not be able to breathe for the first 3 days. There is no substitute for cardiovascular fitness to prepare.
Gear Planning early also gives you the opportunity to start saving money to purchase the gear that you'll need for the trip (or ask Santa Clause) as it may be slightly different than anything you've needed in the whitetail woods. Packs, boots, lightweight outer layers… I could go on for days. The good part is that the majority of those necessary items for a great price right here at the Bowhunting.com store.