For most, the hunting seasons are over and the “off season” is finally here. If you are like most hunters this is the time when you begin to plan your next hunting or fishing adventure.
Why is it so important to begin your planning early? There are several reasons. Many western states have application periods for purchasing tags that are in full swing. There is a limited window of opportunity for you to determine where you want to go this year, and you need to act before it’s too late. Plus, if you decide to use an outfitter, the best locations and dates book up quickly.
You have spent hours dreaming about the giant 6X6 bull elk bugling and answering your every call. You have watched the Outdoor Channel enough times that you are prepared for every move the elk may take.
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The questions you should ask yourself are: What will it take for you to call your hunt a success? What are your expectations? Will you be satisfied with a small rag horned bull, or are you looking for a 300-plus trophy? How much time do you have to invest, and what is your budget for the hunt of a lifetime?
Now is the time to make a few key decisions. Are you going to work with an outfitter, or are you going to head into the mountains alone with your backpack and sleeping bag and hope for the best?
Don’t get me wrong, hunting on your own can be very successful and satisfying. If you study the harvest information from the State Fish and Game or Natural Resources agency, learn where the public land is located, get local information on where the best spots are located and plan to arrive a few days early to scout before the season arrives, it can be a great experience.
Just remember that many of the so-called honey holes are not always secrets, and when daylight arrives in many public management areas, there might be more hunters than elk and your hunt can end in disappointment.
There are many advantages to working with a booking agency, and there is usually no extra charge for their help. Booking agencies get paid by the outfitter and represent you in your efforts to locate a qualified outfitter. They will help you make decisions on what states to hunt, and help determine what areas within each state will give you the best chance for success. They will know when to apply for your tags and keep you up to date with the most current regulations and deadlines.
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Here are a few of the advantages and disadvantages for your consideration:
1. Do it yourself hunts most often take place on public lands that have more hunting pressure and less quality of available animals.
2. Do it yourself hunts require extensive scouting, preparation and equipment to find the best spots, and if time is an issue, this could be challenging to have a successful hunt.
3. When you choose a guided hunt, you’re working with people familiar with the land, its boundaries, and the best areas to hunt or fish.
4. All states have different license purchasing programs and can be very complicated to navigate. When you choose an outfitted hunt, this help is provided to you for little or no cost.
5. Trophy quality and success are typically higher on guided hunts. The outfitter will be able to share with you what you should expect to see and harvest.
6. You may look at the cost of a guided hunt as a negative, but when you consider the cost of a license, tags, equipment, food, horses, and your time, you may see that your money was well spent.
If this is your first big game hunt or even your first hunt out of your state, I would strongly recommend using a hunting consultant and outfitter to help ensure a trip you will always remember.