As the summer begins to fade and we move into the fall and colder months, some are gearing up to spend the winter inside. However, both beginner and professional hunters alike are just getting started on their season. Some plan to hunt close to home, while others have big western trips planned to fulfill their Wild West hunting dreams.
These western hunting trips, although fun and potentially greatly successful, are a massive time and money investment. If you are planning one of these trips, you may find yourself wondering, how much time do I really need to spend preparing and planning, as well as out in the field? Here are our top five considerations to have when planning a big western hunt. With these in mind, we suggest you start making your preparations now if you haven’t already.
One of the biggest things to consider when hunting anywhere is the time you are going to need to spend scouting the area you plan to hunt in. This can become even more difficult when you don’t live in the area, and you’ll only be hunting there for a shorter period of time. This is when technology becomes your best friend.
Applications like Google Earth can save you a lot of time when scouting because you’ll be able to pick out your top focus areas like water resources, wallows, and ridgelines. Mark these areas on your map so when you arrive at your western destination, you already have a few places in mind and can use your scouting time efficiently.
Account For Travel Days
As much as we would all like it to be, hunting is not our full time job and you’re probably going to need to request some time off for your trip. When planning a hunting trip, it’s important to account for the days you will be traveling as well as the days you plan to spend hunting. A good rule of thumb is to add two travel days to the amount of days you want to spend hunting. So, if you plan to hunt for 8 days, your trip will be 10 days long.
Your comfort level, and that of those in your hunting party if you have one, is an extremely important consideration and should not be taken lightly. You are going to be hunting in a different area, possibly one you’ve never been to before. You need to strongly consider how comfortable you are with both your hunting skills and your survival skills when planning a hunting trip.
It might sound exciting to plan for a massive 10-12 day trip, but there is also nothing wrong with taking a smaller, 4-5 day hunting trip as well. A smaller trip means less equipment to bring and less preparations to make. Be honest with yourself here and make the best decision for you so you aren’t distracted when it comes time to hunt.
Control Your Expectations
There are hundreds of stories of hunters going out west on massive trips and bagging once-in-a-lifetime game. However, hunting in the west is the same as hunting anywhere else — there is always a little luck involved.
It’s great to have high expectations and goals, but you should consider controlling them to a reasonable level. Don’t begin your trip thinking you will return with the biggest trophy buck. Hunting trips always sound more glamorous than they actually are. As exciting as hunting in the west can be, be prepared to also do a lot of sitting, waiting, and hoping.
Backpack Hunting Takes Even Longer
Backpack hunting can be some of the most productive western hunting you do. You’ll be in more remote areas that are harder to reach for those hunters who stay in trailers. However, you need to account for the extra time it takes to backpack hunt. That means, planning extra time to hike into your spot which, depending on where you’re going, can add an extra 1-2 days to your trip.
You’ll also need to consider packing out. If you are lucky enough to bag a big mule deer or buck elk, you’ll need to pack that meat out somehow. This process becomes a lot easier when you’re with a hunting party and there are several of you to pack meat. However, if you’re solo, you’ll likely be spending a few days just packing out meat.