Why wait to make your dream hunt a reality? Get ready for wild adventure—right now—with this proven blueprint to success.

DreamHuntLEAD 600Is it time to turn your dreams of a “do-it-yourself” western hunt into reality? Time to finally undertake that wild adventure you have etched in your mind, the one that’s spurred on by delving into exciting stories and videos of elk, deer, bear and pronghorn hunts posted on https://www.huntstand.com/huntstand-app/ If this sounds like you take heart: No matter where you live in North America, there is a state or province that offers either a prime over-the-counter, or low-odds-draw tag. And at least one of them has your name on it!

For me, this year, that hunt will be a remote, wilderness mixed-bag bowhunt in Northern British Columbia, set to unfold early this fall. Come along as I begin preparations for what I hope will be a truly epic adventure; in this two-part series I will share how I go about turning my ideas for a DIY hunt into reality—and give myself every chance for success.

BodyLEAD 600Options For Everyone! Elk, pronghorn, deer, bears, moose—the options are nearly endless when looking at all of the tags and hunts available for adventurous hunters willing to travel. States like Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and even Alaska are all excellent places to consider for your dream hunt. Of course, depending on which state or province you choose, some species will require you to apply for tag draws. If you missed the many recent 2016 deadlines don’t worry; you still have a chance to grab up some of the “left-over” tags that were not drawn. Just be sure when doing your research, that you first verify your ability to hunt as a non-resident, without a guide. This was one of my biggest mistakes when I initially tried to wrap my head around all of the different regulations—and an especially important one if you’re looking to hunt out of country. Don’t forget to use your HuntStand App (especially the Satellite/Terrain/Road views) to check out the terrain and general layout of any potential hunt areas/units, so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

DreamHunt 3 600Tent Or Comfy Bed? Now that your interest has been piqued, it’s time to make some of the initial decisions that will help lay out your hunt. The biggest one, is what kind of hunting are you interested in? Is 10 days of living out of a backpack while bouncing from valley to valley in search of screaming bulls appealing to you? Or maybe you’d like to come back to the comfort of a hotel or trailer each night and enjoy a hot shower? (Pronghorn tags are great for this). Either way, this decision will affect not only where you hunt, but also what tags will be available. Taking into consideration that I love to get away from the crowds, this year I have opted to go the backcountry hunting route—a two- to three-week backpack hunting adventure targeting multiple species.

Which weapon 600Choose Your Weapon Wisely. With many opportunities for both bow and rifle hunters alike, if you’re willing to hunt during a “weapon-specific” season (or tag), you might have better options for prime locations, or even easier draw odds. A perfect example of this is Montana’s multi-region, archery-only, antelope license. Not only does it allow you to hunt a much greater area because you’re using archery equipment, it is also easier to obtain than the same license that’s required to hunt in some of the same zones, while using a firearm. Primitive weapons can not only add to the challenge of the hunt, but give you better odds at a trophy animal.

Trophy? 600Define Your Goals Before You Go. Now that you’ve narrowed down how you’re going to hunt, there is one last consideration when choosing the right state/province and tag for you. Are you looking for the utmost opportunity to fill your tag and your freezer, or are you looking for that trophy buck or bull? If you’re looking to simply fill your freezer, Colorado has some great options for over-the-counter, either-sex or antlerless elk and deer tags. This is not to say that you won’t find mature animals in these areas, but if a trophy animal is really what you have your sights on, it’s best to do a little more research. Trophy hunters should target the zones where the record books show these animals are most common.

Partner 600Choose Hunting Partners Carefully. Do you have a favorite hunting buddy that you travel with regularly? Or maybe you like to hunt solo? Since these hunts take a lot of time, money and effort to pull off, you want to ensure it will be with someone who is “on the same page.” Not only can hunting the backcountry be miserable when you’re butting heads with your companion, but it can also lower your odds of filling a tag if you can’t work effectively together. When I started planning my upcoming fall hunt, there was no question who I would invite. My long-time hunting partner Mike, has been through it all with me. Long and difficult stalks, success, failure, misery, horrible weather, injury—just about everything. This is the kind of partner I like for western DIY hunts. In the end, you want to share your adventure with someone you know you can rely on no matter what the circumstances, and it certainly helps if that person is constantly packing a positive attitude. It’s likely those traits will be tested.

Screenshot 600Start Your Serious Scouting With HuntStand. So you’ve got the state, species, type of hunt, and your hunting partner all figured out. All that’s left is buying the tag and heading out, right? Wrong! If you want to be successful on a DIY hunt, the work is just beginning. For me, this is where the HuntStand app and https://www.huntstand.com/huntstand-app/ really shine. Not only are these great tools to use during the hunt, they’re ideal for scouting as well. By using the ScoutMap feature to find your hunting area, you’re able to switch between “Satellite,” “Terrain,” and “Road” views, which I use to find the best access, water sources, and land features/contours where animals are likely to be hanging out. Not only that, but you can save exact locations you think will be productive, so you can quickly access them once you’re in the field hunting, using your smartphone and the HuntStand app.

Calendar600A Serious Commitment. Since DIY hunts out west are not typically one- or two-day ordeals, making the commitment to stay long enough to give yourself a serious shot at success is a crucial step. This is what takes your adventure from the trip you’ve talked about for years, and makes it reality. Is your wife okay with you leaving for this length of time? Do you have enough vacation time accrued at work? Getting every aspect of your life on board with the fact that you will be making this trip is key. Surprisingly, this was one of my biggest hurdles to date, since I began planning my BC hunt several months ago. Along the way, remind yourself that every little detail you take care of well in advance is one less focus-robbing hurdle to deal with when you’re looking to head off on your hunt this fall.

Jogging600Never Too Late For Fitness. Although extreme fitness seems to be the craze these days in the hunting world, and many see the topic as beaten to death, this nevertheless remains a critical aspect to any western, DIY hunt. All of us can benefit from increased strength and endurance when packing numerous loads of meat off the mountain, and they also don’t hurt when the goal is moving quickly across the rolling, deep-draw-laden prairie in order to cut off a herd of pronghorns. Regardless of your hunt goals, being in the best physical condition possible should be a priority. You need not hit the gym daily, but several times per week you should be making light runs, and/or hiking with a heavy pack. Biking is also good hunt prep; mixing things up can greatly enhance enthusiasm and reduce feelings of tedious boredom, for the half-hour of physical activity you should be looking to fit into your schedule daily.

Supplements600What About Supplements? Since I am reminded on just about every western hunt that I need to be in better shape, this year I am “kicking it up a notch” to get ready. Not only am I exercising regularly, but I have begun using Wilderness Athlete supplements to help with my results. Now I know many people don’t like the idea of supplements—I was one of them—but I can tell you first-hand that since I began using them, my weight-loss results, as well as my workout healing/recovery time, have been impressive.

If you’ve got a hankering to make your DIY dream hunt a reality this fall, the information in this article help you get that ball rolling. But the info herein is just a start. Look for Part Two of this article on HuntStand soon, when I will address important dream hunt gear requirements and considerations, as well as the final, critical preparations for your hunt.

This adrenaline-pumping spring hunt is surprisingly in reach—especially for those packing a hotspot-finding HuntStand app, and zeal for wild adventure.

SpringBears1Bow-bagging a deer, turkey, or maybe even a bear over bait, are all great accomplishments. But what should be your next step? For me the logical choice was easy: A challenging and exciting, do-it-yourself, spot-and-stalk bear hunt. With opportunities available both spring and fall across North America, there is nothing that should hold you back from sneaking up to a black bear at eye level. For me, this is the one hunt that I am not willing to miss each year—especially come spring. I consider this annual adventure a near-perfect transition between winter predator hunting and summer scouting.

SpringBear2 600Last year, as the snow started to melt, I was getting the itch to once again hit the woods in search of a bruin with my bow. The season had not yet opened, but that didn’t matter—I was spending hours on my HuntStand app, and on https://www.huntstand.com/huntstand-app/ , scouring maps, looking for areas that had the right contour and clearings, that would help them be among the first to experience “green-up.” Many late nights were spent pin-pointing where to go, as well as prime access roads, and following the weather patterns and wind direction to plan a perfect ambush. Soon I was set. All I had to do, was wait for April 1st—opening day.

SpringBears3 600On our first morning out, it did not take long to run into our first snag. Although we had our travel routes figured out ahead of time with help from HuntStand, there was nothing that could have prepared us for the vast amount of blowdowns that were blocking access into our carefully chosen, remote area. Spring hunters everywhere should take note; blowdowns are a common occurrence when you’ll be the first ones accessing an area after winter comes to an end. Thankfully we had planned for the “worst-case” scenario and had packed a chainsaw, so we slowly cut our way deeper and deeper into the backcountry.

SpringBears4 600Finally arriving at our destination, there was no question on the game plan. For spot-and-stalk black bears in the early spring before the rut starts, the equation is quite simple: If you find the food, you’ll find the bears. Since we were able to get to a high vantage point that overlooked an old pipeline, as well as several nearby clear-cuts, we knew we’d found a good area. Although our first attempts at glassing the area proved fruitless, our confidence remained high. From the start it was obvious we had been able to locate the only area within miles that had “greened up,” and we found the area literally covered in dandelions. Discovering this fact would turn out to be every bit as valuable as spotting a big-bellied bear.

SpringBears5 600The rest of the day was spent working over to the freshest growth, and exploring for any bruin sign. Upon arrival, it didn’t take long to cut fresh tracks and scat. With limited daylight leaving no time to investigate another area, we stayed put in hopes that a bear would show itself, but nothing emerged from the dense forest. Still with high hopes, but knowing that my hunting partner had to work, I opted to return solo the next morning. I had one of those gut feelings—helped along of course by the prime, isolated “new growth” location. I figured it was simply a matter of waiting Mr. Bruin out.

SpringBears6 600Anxiously heading out that following morning, it did not take long after arrival to locate a bear with my Nikon optics. My suspicions had been right and sure enough, there he was, feeding on dandelions in the middle of the pipeline. Eager to make it happen, I made a quick, aggressive stalk and within minutes found myself within 50 yards. I edged closer, inch by inch, in hopes of getting within 20 yards. Suddenly, it was “go time.” As I crawled closer, I looked up to gauge my progress—and saw the bear charging aggressively, right for me! Instinctively I came to full draw; as soon as my pins landed on black hair, I let the arrow fly. I hadn’t realized that the wind had begun lightly swirling; the bear must have caught my scent. Needless to say, I am thankful I looked up when I did!

SpringBears7 600As the arrow buried into the bruin’s chest, he spun and darted back across the pipeline and into the bush. My experience with “head-on” shots has proven to be either extremely good or very bad, so I decided to sit back, calm my nerves, and call my hunting buddy to skip out on work and join the blood trailing. After all, I did not have a backup weapon, and it never hurts to have someone over your shoulder with a gun, when you’re on hands and knees looking for tiny drops of bear blood.

SpringBear8 600Upon my bud’s arrival, we wasted no time getting on the bear’s trail. Sadly, it was not looking promising—the arrow had fallen out just a few yards into the brush, and there was virtually no sign of blood. Gridding back and forth for close to an hour, we finally found the first sign of blood roughly 100 yards from where the arrow had fallen out. At first, it was just a drop or two—then a steady trail. Following the blood trail for close to 500 yards, we were feeling quite skeptical. Suddenly my hunting partner caught movement 100 yards ahead. There the bruin sat, still alive, with his beady eyes staring right at us. Stumbling to nock another arrow before the bruin’s next move, I somehow managed to get to full draw and follow up with a vital shot—finishing the bear promptly.

SpringBear10 600Prior to this hunt I had never even hunted this province, let alone the specific area. Here I was just a few days into the season, sitting next to my first British Columbia, DIY black bear. The feeling of accomplishment on a spot-and-stalk, DIY hunt is like none other—especially for a large predator like this one. It is almost a surreal feeling when all of your scouring of hunting regulations, pouring over maps, and many phone calls to local fish and game offices all comes together—especially early in the season!

SpringBear9 600Regardless of where you’re located in North America, there are DIY black bear options available for spot-and-stalk hunters willing to travel. For US citizens, Idaho and Alaska are two of the most-popular destinations. Here, you’ll find great bear densities and even multiple tag opportunities in many state areas. For Canadians, Saskatchewan is without doubt a prime target for a DIY bear hunt. This is not to say that these select locations are the only areas to look into, but are good starting points if you’re looking to go it alone. Wherever your search takes you, you won’t regret it if you end up with an adrenaline-pumping hunt like the one I was fortunate enough to experience last spring. Are you ready for the DIY, spot-and-stalk challenge?