Fall Adventure: How To Plan A Killer Multi-State Deer Hunt

The first step in my multi-state approach is choosing the right place to hunt. I will use the “satellite” views in my HuntStand app, and aerial photography found on DNR websites

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

An out-of-state DIY whitetail hunt is a challenging-but-doable adventure. Increase your odds for success by doing some important homeworkincluding wise use of the HuntStand appbefore you leave home.

MultiStateDEER1 600I have been on nearly two dozen do-it-yourself, public-land hunts over the last decade, and feel like I am still learning the secrets to consistent success on these challenging, yet rewarding endeavors. However, one aspect has become crystal clear. I know I can increase my chances for success by doing the right type of “homework.” And by homework, I mean sitting in front of my computer with a tablet, and using my smartphone to make some important calls, and access my free HuntStand app. Allow me to explain my system. 

The first step in my multi-state approach is choosing the right place to hunt. I will use the “satellite” views in my HuntStand app, and aerial photography found on DNR websites, to do some critical research that helps me choose the parcel of public hunting land that I want to analyze further. I am looking for a piece of land that has lots of good-looking deer habitat, and easily accessible food sources. A piece that has farmland on its borders instantly piques my interest. Some states have aggressive planting programs that include food plots and farm crops within tracts of public-access property. Many have agreements with farmers that allows the farmers to plant and harvest crops on the public land, in exchange for leaving some crops to over-winter. As you might guess, I get excited when I find this scenario.

MultiState 4An important part of scouting before leaving home is saving a wide variety of potential stand and game camera sites in your HuntStand app. Once on site you might find some of these spots just don’t look quite as good, yet the well-traveled author has found the majority of his “go-to” stand sites during long-distance HuntStand scouting sessions.
Once I have determined which property I want to hunt, I start making phone calls. I call local biologists, game wardens and property managers. I ask specific questions about the quality of the deer on the property, the amount of hunting pressure, and access issues. It’s surprising how often I will get very specific information about where the deer bed and feed. One day I heard this incredibly helpful statement: “I have seen some really nice bucks back in the area where those two creeks meet. It’s hard to get to, so nobody goes back in there.” Paydirt! I didn’t have to hear much more. That same fall I hiked into the exact spot—and shot a beautiful 145-inch buck. The takeaway? Never underestimate the value of first-hand information. Take the time to make those calls and you will be rewarded.

MarkCaptureThe author likes to use the large screen of his home computer to access and get a nice “overall” view of his hunting areas, then simultaneously use the HuntStand app on his smartphone to log potential stand and game cam spots that he can later check out while on site.
Internet and mobile technology has significantly changed the way I prepare for a hunt. Once I have chosen a property, I sit down at my computer with my tablet booted up and open the HuntStand app. I like to look at the “overall” view of the land on the large computer screen; then, as I find spots that look good to me, I will mark them on the HuntStand app. I will mark potential stand sites and potential trail camera sites, which might be possible bedding areas, trails along ridges, or creek crossings. It’s amazing how much time this saves me; and time is so critical when hunting more than one state.

Prep 7The author considers game cams invaluable for learning new hunting spots quickly once on site. Logging their locations in your HuntStand app makes for quick and easy reference, and easy retrieval once your hunt is complete.
Once my “boots are on the ground,” the locations saved in my HuntStand app are the first places I check. Sometimes I eliminate them by observing them in person, but often these spots become my “go-to” locations. I will continue to save locations on my HuntStand app in my phone or tablet, as I go about hanging scouting cameras and choosing stand sites.

In addition to my home state, I usually plan to hunt at least two more states per year. I typically leave home the last day or two of October, and give myself 15 to 20 days to hunt both new states. Most often, I’ll have at least one state for which I’ve drawn a coveted “limited” tag, and I will travel there first. The second state on my list will typically offer an “over-the-counter” license, allowing me to simply buy the license once I arrive. In the past, during the same year I have gotten lucky and drawn limited tags in two separate states (usually Iowa and Kansas), which puts a whole lot more pressure on me to be in the right place at the right time. I want to be in my stands as much as possible the first two weeks of November.

Prep 4Public hunting lands that have sharecropping agreements with local farmers attract and hold a lot of deer; during early home-based scouting sessions it’s always wise to use your HuntStand app and it’s “satellite view” to look for obvious signs of crop fields within, or near, public lands.
I have traveled to hunt three states in one year a couple times, but that’s normally when I include an “early season” hunt such as those available in Montana, North Dakota or Kentucky. These states offer early September opening days, and a chance to catch a buck totally unaware and still in his summer feeding pattern.

During my hunting travels I’ve found there are plenty of ways to rack up a fairly large bill fairly quickly, so I’ve learned several smart ways to minimize expenses. Some states allow you to camp at specific public hunting areas, so I have the option of pulling a travel trailer that eliminates motels from my budget. However, most often I will look around for a “budget-rate” motel and try to negotiate a deal. Most “Mom and Pop” motels will be willing to work with you on price. If I walk in and make an offer for seven days of lodging, it’s hard for them to turn it down.

Despite their convenience, I do not often eat at restaurants. I hunt hard all day and spend evenings preparing for the following day, so time is limited. One of my favorite cost- and time-saving tips is to bring along a bunch of frozen meals; I’ll simply drop one in a crock pot when I leave for the day. When I return to the motel after dark, after a long hard day, waiting for me is a hot meal of roast beef, pork chops, ribs or stew. As a bonus, eating well helps keep my motivation high.

MultiState2 600Ground blinds paired with decoys are often the best setup in areas where trees are not conducive to using a treestand; make sure you carry a variety of stands, and at least one ground blind to adapt to varying conditions found while hunting unfamiliar territory.
I learned the hard way that some stands and equipment don’t work in some areas. The first time I traveled to North Dakota, I discovered that all the trees are crooked and small. I left my climber and hang-on stands in the truck for the whole trip. Fortunately, I also brought a ladder stand and a ground blind; they were all I used. In Montana, I found that every tree I wanted to use was a 200-year-old cottonwood with a huge diameter; to make them work I had to drive 30 miles to town to buy a bunch of ratchet straps to safely anchor my stands. Getting this type of information before you go can be critical; it comes by asking the right questions of the right people.

Other things you will need on your multi-state travels include spares of critical items such as a release, bowstring, broadheads, etc. And of course, make sure you have rain gear and clothing for any weather conditions. Also, how are you going to get your deer out? A sled, cart or tarp can make this potentially back-breaking job a lot easier.

Prep 8Making the most of a multi-state whitetail trip means maximizing your hunting efficiency at every turn. When you’re on the road, hunting and scouting hard and otherwise fending for yourself, every minute counts, and nothing helps you streamline your approach like the HuntStand app.
One of the key things to plan for well before your trip, is a successful hunt. Be sure you have a solid plan to care for a deer carcass, if you are successful during any phase of your trip. For example, if you shoot a deer on the first leg of a two-state trip, you need a place to store it. I have used several options; one is to drop a deer at a commercial processor when my route home allows me to cross back through the area. I have also butchered my deer on the road, stowing it in a small chest freezer I tote along in the back of my pickup, or in my travel trailer. Then the challenge is keeping the freezer plugged in as much as possible.

A deer I shoot on the second leg of a trip is much easier to deal with. Typically, after shooting a buck, I need a few hours the next day to get all my stands and gear out of the woods before heading home. To ensure my deer remains in the best condition possible, I will throw a few bags of ice inside the buck’s body cavity, and roll the carcass tightly inside a tarp I will stow in the back of my pickup. During normal cool to cold fall temps, I’ve found a deer treated like this will keep for 25 to 30 hours. During hot weather, it’s best to skin and quarter a deer immediately and ice it down in coolers.

Multi-State3Although it happens more and more, the author is always pleasantly surprised how often he ends up hanging a stand in an area first discovered online at Barringer also says it doesn’t get much better than using your smartphone and HuntStand app, to walk right to one of your specific saved locations shortly after arriving.
The aforementioned are the “quick and dirty” basics of the multi-state deer hunting system I have developed over the past decade or so, a plan that has lead me to many great encounters, and some very nice bucks. Newcomers to this game should find some of my hard-won tips quite useful; others might consider them rough guidelines to blend with systems of their own. Through it all, remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the ride. Do-it-yourself success doesn’t come easy, but when it does the rewards are great. Each year I learn and add more to my own hunt system, because every trip seems to produce its own unique twists and adventures. And those are just a few of the many reasons to plan a multi-state whitetail hunt of your own.



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