These aren’t hunts for the rich, but obviously a big part of pulling these adventures off will depend upon your income, the amount of vacation time you have, your skill level, the amount of “try” you’ve got in the tank, and prior planning to apply in other states before their deadlines. Let’s get after it.
We’re through the first week of December already! Just the fact that I’m typing that out has my mind spinning. Hunting season was just here!
Literally, for me, it was just here. I just returned from a midwestern whitetail hunt a few days ago. I was able to hunt big game from the middle of August all the way until now, with very few breaks in between. If you’re thinking to yourself “how did he do that!”, feel free to pull up a chair. I’m going to spell out exactly how to maximize your time afield next fall.
AN EARLY START
Archery pronghorn antelope is the “biggy,” and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. These hunts start in August with most of them either opening August 1st or August 15th. To the vast majority of the western population, antelope are an afterthought. Personally, I’m glad they are as it’s become a “more for me” mentality! Antelope hunting can be as hard or as easy as you want to make it. Most antelope hunts are depicted as driving around two track roads and deciding which one you want to pull the trigger on.
While that certainly can be the case, you can make it a whole lot more fun than that. If you want a challenge, you can hunt antelope EVERY SINGLE YEAR.
I personally hunt Wyoming speedgoats every year on second or third choice tags if I don’t draw my first choice. By the way, I haven’t drawn my first choice in 8 years now. Knowing how the Wyoming draw system works is obviously very beneficial to those wanting to play this game, but that’s an article for another day. If you don’t know how Wyoming works or where to start, contact me and I’d be happy to steer you in the right direction.
These tags are not highly sought after and thus it’s not easy to be successful, especially carrying around a stick and string. The archery hunt is better for seeing game in my opinion, but success rates plummet. In the units I’ve tried, they’re not conducive for sitting water holes, as there are stock tanks everywhere for grazing cattle. That adds another challenge but it just means you get to have more fun by spotting and stalking these keen eyed critters. For those looking to have a higher odds hunt every few years, the going rate is about 4 preference points to get you tag with decent public access and trophy potential.
Montana’s archery antelope season is one that is quickly gaining popularity. The “900-20” series tag lets you hunt most of the state with nothing but archery equipment. The season date is from August 15th all the way until November 9th! For the hunter wanting opportunity and challenge, it gets no better. Find some goats and have yourself a time!
Other states worth mentioning are Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. You’d be hard pressed to find a way to hunt these states every year, but I suppose for residents it is possible. However, a tag in these states could very well lead you to the antelope of your dreams.
A trip north for migrating caribou is your other main option for an early season quest. In Canada, you need a guide to hunt big game, causing that avenue to be more expensive. In Alaska you don’t need anyone to hold your hand making that the choice for me.
Your options are literally endless on the type of hunt you can customize for yourself, but the two most popular are the “haul road hunt” or the DIY fly in style. The haul road hunt will be the cheapest as it requires no extras besides renting or finding a vehicle to use. Getting to and from Alaska, as well as your tag price(s) are your big expenses. The fly in option will vary in price with what you want. But for somebody looking for a true adventure this is a great choice and something I’ll be doing in 2018 if everything falls into place.
Most people I know are aware of some late season opportunities but are usually lost beyond cow elk tags or doe whitetail tags. There are TONS of opportunities to extend your season with a little bit of planning.
Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming all have deer seasons that extend to the end of November. There’s something special about being able to hunt rutting deer if you’ve only had the opportunity to hunt them in September and October all your life.
Montana’s general deer season ran from October 21st to November 26th this year. Most Hunt Districts (HDs) in the state allow you to kill either a whitetail or Mule deer. You can even add an elk tag when applying for licenses if you want (General Big Game Combo). Draw odds are over 90% for the “Deer Combo Tag” and 100% for both the “General Big Game Combo” or the “Elk Combo” . However, don’t count on buying any “leftover tags” after the draw anymore, as there’s just not many of them.
Wyoming really gets confusing when trying to configure each “deer area” within each region. I feel like Region A (which consists of deer areas 1,2,3,4,5 and 6) offers the average guy more public land to hunt than the other late season deer areas in the eastern part of the state. Every “area” within region A gives you November 1st through the 20th to hunt, with some extending the season to November 30th. In some of the units it’s only for whitetail, and in others it’s for any deer. Read the regulations closely when planning your hunt. The odds of drawing are 83% with no points.
North Idaho’s whitetail seasons are structured close to the same with most deer units giving you all of November to hunt and even most of October. From what I’ve heard this hunt can be extremely tough since you’re hunting such thick timber. If God graces you with a little snow, however, you could walk out of there with a North woods giant! These whitetail only tags can be picked up until their quota is met. Easy huh!? This year they had tags available for purchase into November but I would still plan ahead.
Whitetails across the rest of the country have seasons from September into February. Maybe later than that if I were to really dig. Some take years of preference points (Kansas and Iowa archery tags during the rut for instance) while others, it’s as simple as a road trip and a quick stop at a sporting goods store to pick up the required licenses. Figure out how and where you want to hunt and start putting forth a little bit of research.
The only other hunt I will mention and that I WILL do one day soon is to head south for javelina. Arizona reigns king here with their non-permit (don’t have to draw) tags in the central portion of the state. The hunt is archery only and it runs the entire month of January. What better way to beat winter in the Rockies than to head south and bow hunt? I can think of none.
CLEAR AS MUD?
As you can see there’s plenty of opportunity to extend your hunting season next year. As I mentioned, some of these hunts do require a little bit of planning and research so be prepared as application season approaches. Get with a couple buddies and start checking hunts off that bucket list. Just don’t be surprised if that bucket list hunt turns into something you have to do every year!