If you live in the Midwest, chances are a western hunt is on your bucket list. The problem is most midwest hunters believe a western hunt is out of their price range. That may be true if you go on a fully guided hunt, but if you are willing to go on a semi-guided or unguided hunt, an elk hunt, mule deer hunt or antelope hunt is probably within your price range. Over the last 18 years, I have hunted all over the West. I have had the good fortune to interview many well-known western hunters. One thing they all of us have in common is the fact that we have tagged numerous animals without spending a lot of money.
PUT IN FOR LIMITED DRAW HUNTS
Some of my fondest memories are from hunts that took place deep in the backcountry when I drew a tag in a limited draw unit. Many states including Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and others have draw systems in place. The drawing process intimidates many eastern hunters, but learning how to play the drawing game can greatly increase your odds of success. Cody Nelson from the Outdoorsmans, a Western optics and hunting gear store based in Phoenix, Arizona says putting in for limited draw hunts is one of the ways an average person without deep pockets can find success. “There are many big bulls and bucks in limited draw units out here,” said Nelson. “I recently killed a nice bull elk on a limited draw hunt. Many hunters believe killing a mature bull is only going to happen if a person spends a lot of money. That is not the case. Some of the best tags require a person to apply for years before they draw, but a good tag is worth the wait.”
OVER THE COUNTER TAGS
Hunting in an-over-the-counter unit where you can walk into a Walmart and buy a tag is also an option. There are more hunters in over-the-counter units, so bucks and bulls are often harder to find near the road. This will require you to put plenty of miles between you and the road but if you are willing to work hard, you can fill a tag in over the counter units. The experience alone is worth the effort if you have never hunted out west.
I have killed elk, mule deer and antelope with my bow and I can tell you if money was limited and I really wanted to fill a tag, I would hunt antelope. The success rate on antelope is fairly high especially if you do a trespass fee hunt. This is a hunt where a landowner charges you to hunt on their land. They don’t babysit you, they don’t hunt with you, or take care of anything. They often show you where to hunt and that is it. The HuntWise app comes in handy because you can find the landowner boundaries quickly so you know exactly where you can hunt. A few years ago, I tagged a Pope & Young antelope in Colorado and hunted with Trujillo Creek Outfitters. This trespass hunt didn’t cost much money and I tagged out on opening day. Paying to hunt on private land is worth it.
KNOCK ON DOORS
I have also killed game out west by knocking on doors. I once killed a small mule deer buck that I saw feeding in an apple orchard. The land owner gave me permission to hunt and after a few days of hunting, I succeeded. I had less than $1,000 in that hunt.
The key to success if you want to go on an unguided hunt is doing a lot of research on the areas you plan to hunt and being in shape for the hunt. We Midwestern hunters don’t hike mountains often, so getting in shape before you are hunting at 8,000 feet is necessary. If you are going on a backcountry hunt, check out the Atlas Trainer from the Outdoorsmans. This pack frame allows you to attach Olympic weight plates to the frame so you can quickly and easily can train with weight on your back without throwing sand bags into your pack. This system is quick and easy to use. Learn more at https://outdoorsmans.com/collections/weight-carrier/products/weight-frame-system.
By thinking outside the box and doing your research, you can check a Western hunt off your bucket list without breaking the bank. I wrote a book on the subject titled, “Big Game On a Budget.” Check it out at www.tracybreen.com.
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