This time of the year we are inundated with important dates. For some, February 14th is one not to forget. For all of us, April 15th is a must-remember . While those are certainly important, my most important date (ok, second most important after my anniversary) is the March 15th application deadline for non-resident hunters wishing to hunt the Big Sky Country of Montana.
Every year on Christmas night, when everyone is tucked in bed, I begin my annual preparation for my western hunting trips in the coming fall. You see I am partial to the DIY hunt, meaning where I do all the homework from finding promising ground, contacting landowners and then doing all my own scouting. These DIY hunt keep the costs down immensely and add a degree of challenge to the hunt. Luckily I have a solid Wyoming Ranch that I’ve hunted now twice so scratch finding land off the list. But it is the rest of the details that will keep me busy for most of the coming year, until hopefully I’m bringing home a good representative buck of that area back to New York. Read on in the next few paragraphs if you are up for the challenge.
First, picking a game animal. We all dream of harvesting a bugling elk someday, but if you’ve never hunted elk before, consider making your first western hunt a deer hunt. You probably already own all the gear you need, and transporting a deer out of the field solo is quite manageable when compared to an elk. Depending on where you hunt, you may be dealing with conditions and altitude that are quite different to what you’re accustomed to back home. A western deer hunt is a great way to get acclimated to unfamiliar terrain, make your first DIY hunt a good memory, and prepare you for a future elk adventure.
Next, figure out where to hunt. Will you hunt public or private land? And what state will you hunt? I recommend Montana or Wyoming for first time DIY hunt. They have abundant tags thru a lottery and both have acres of public land which you can look up online at the respective state’s Game and Fish website. I’ve hunted both public and private dirt, and these day I prefer private land. Sure it will raise cost of hunt, but you won’t risk the chance of another hunter spoiling or interrupting your hunt as can happen on public land. Public land (federal, state) is accessible for everyone, so other hunters have just as much as a right to be there as you. On this issue I’m greedy I’ll gladly pay a reasonable fee and have some private land to myself.
You are saying sure but how do I find access private land? Keep reading on!
1) When you pick region/area to hunt, also pick small town in it. Look up the town clerk online, (usually a clerk who’s been doing it for many years) and she or he will know of ranchers that allow out of state hunters for a fee.
2) Check with Dude ranches Once Labor Day has passed, kids are back in school and these little 1 or 2 room cabins sit vacant till next summer. Many dude ranches are usually working cattle ranches that will always entertain bringing in more money to their pocket book. A dude ranch can give you the benefit of access to private ground and a place to stay after the hunt.
I hope this helps you consider a DIY hunt out west. And who knows, we might run into each other. Safe Travels!