Planning out of state hunts can be great for building anticipation, but even though it seems far off, this time of year is ideal for finding what you are looking for.
As most hunt seasons across the U.S. and Canada are either closed now or about to wrap up for another year and it seems like next season is a long way off, now is the time to start planning next season’s hunts.
Many States require you to apply in advance for limited-quota hunting licences, tags or permits, usually during the winter or early spring. In fact, the deadline for many western States is fast approaching. For example, Wyoming’s elk permit application period ends on January 31, with moose, goat and sheep running through February. If you want to hunt elk or pronghorn in Arizona, you’d better have your application in by mid-February, and the same story for certain limited entry hunts in Utah. Spring black bear tag application deadlines are generally in February as well. Even if you don’t intend to hunt a particular species in a particular jurisdiction in 2014, there will be a deadline to obtain a preference point under the lottery system used by many States, which will increase your chances of being drawn in a late year. Obviously these dates vary greatly by jurisdiction, so make sure you check the website of the game and fish department where you want to hunt to make sure you don’t miss their deadline.
Now is also the time to look for an outfitted hunt by attending one of the huge annual hunting shows. These shows are great places to meet and speak with countless outfitters and guides, all under one roof. Just about every reputable outfitter has a good website these days, but the problem is that most of the bad ones do as well. Even speaking to someone over the phone may not tell you all you need to know about the person before committing to plunking down your hard-earned cash for a big dollar hunt. But actually meeting them face to face and looking them right in the eye beforehand can be invaluable when it comes to finding just the right outfit to trust with your “dream hunt”. Some of these outfitters will even offer “show specials” that could save you big money. Here’s a rundown of these shows:
Dallas Safari Club Convention in Dallas, January 9-12, 2014 – It is expected that more than 40,000 outdoorsmen and women will attend this four-day event, to bid in silent and live auctions for the world’s finest wilderness experiences and sporting equipment, and to visit the booths of hundreds of exhibitors from many popular hunting destinations.
The Wild Sheep Foundation’s Sheep Show in Reno, January 22-25, 2014 – If you are sheep hunter, this is your show. This is the Foundation’s marquee event, where more money is raised for wildlife conservation than at any other event of its kind, and 100% of the dollars raised through the auctioning of special permits are directed to state, provincial, tribal and Wild Sheep Foundation conservation initiatives to help “Put and Keep Sheep on the Mountain.”
Grand Slam Club/Ovis Hunter and Outfitter Convention in Reno, January 29 – February 1, 2014 – The number and variety of hunting trips available by auction alone is truly impressive, with emphasis on global sheep hunting opportunities.
Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, February 1-9, 2014 – If you live in the East and don’t want to travel to Nevada or Texas to attend a big show, this is the one for you. This nine-day event features nearly 1,000 exhibitors covering 650,000 square feet of exhibit hall space.
Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas, February 5-8, 2014 – This is one of the biggest shows, with over 650,000 square feet of exhibit space, and outfitters from six continents all under one roof.
If you’re like me, when you’re not hunting, you’re thinking about hunting. Although applying for tags and attending shows isn’t as much fun as actually hunting, it does help make a long, cold winter go by just a bit quicker.