Ready to book your next hunting trip? Now's the prime time, and here's why.
There's a lot to consider when you're gearing up for a hunting trip, especially when you'll be using the services of guides or outfitters who excel at the game you've set your proverbial scope on.
But here's the catch: if you want to stand any chance to book a reputable operator, plan for travel and expenses, and secure the necessary licenses and tags, waiting until the week before the season starts is the biggest mistake you can make.
Not only is summer the best time to schedule and lock in a hunting trip, but in many ways it's the only time. Here's why that's true:
The majority of the sought-after big game species can't be hunted by just anyone with a license. With specific quotas in place and geographic zones mapped out, there is usually a limit to the number of tags sold in any given state.
As most know, that limit translates to a lottery, or draw, to determine who gets the rights to hunt for something like pronghorn in the Arizona mountains or elk in a prime Montana location. If you apply for a tag in a state lottery and aren't drawn, you'll typically get your money back and be issued a "point," improving your odds of being drawn the following year. Deadlines for these applications happen in the late spring and early summer, so look ahead to give yourself the chance to go after a specific game animal in the first place.
Ideally, you're going to want to have a good grasp of the terrain, weather conditions, game animal signals and seasonal patterns for any area you're hunting. Scouting is commonplace amongst successful hunters for a reason. Give yourself time to learn the area you'll hunt, and you'll see how well it pays off once the season begins.
If you're planning to hunt far away from your home, early season scouting is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do in person. Have no fear, modern technology makes it doable in more ways than one.
Sophisticated topographic maps are available through most state wildlife department websites, and even Google maps can produce a pretty great visual picture of where you'll hunt. Weather patterns, though unpredictable, can be narrowed down with a little basic online research.
Also, keep in close contact with your outfitter or guide leading up to the trip, and tap that on-the-ground info as much as possible.
Good outfitters get booked early
Of course, you can't check in on the local elk herd until you've lined up your hunting guide services, which brings us to our next important (but obvious) point. Outfitters and guide operations serve a growing population of hunters, and there's real competition for the best. Waiting until September to try and book a trip with a highly-touted guide service will leave you high and dry, and either leave you with someone who isn't as qualified, or end your trip before it even begins.
It's not unreasonable to plan even further in advance than the preceding summer for a truly spectacular (and therefore popular) operator. If you really want to hunt with the best, just about the time hunting seasons wrap up would be a good time to begin inquiring.
For these reasons and more, the long, hot days of hunting's offseason should be viewed as one of the most exciting of the year for any sportsman. Maybe you can't grab your gun and head out to fill a tag during the summer, but you can use the time to wisely book your fall or winter trip, and be all the more prepared as a result.