Out-Of-State Hunting: 9 Ways To A Mind-Blowing Roadtrip

Unrestricted travel will be here soon. Here's how to get a jump on making the most of your fall hunts.

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Unrestricted travel will be here soon. Here’s how to get a jump on making the most of your fall hunts.


Hitting the road for a dream hunting trip should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even better news? It appears out-of-state travel will soon be back on track again, so those who prepare now will likely be sitting pretty come the fall hunting openers. You don’t have to be told it’s been a surreal spring, but it’s time to take a few long, deep breaths. Hunters are incredibly blessed with a range of hunting seasons and animals to pursue, but often, those adventures are simply not possible at home. Here are some tips and tricks to kick-start your plans for an adventurous, fun-packed fall.

DeerTravel 900

Ask Before You Book. I put in plenty of extra hours and work hard for my money, so I consider time spent researching the right outfitter to be an insurance policy for my investment. Ask the tough questions and make sure to get references, including a client or two who were not successful. If your goal is to shoot a trophy deer, for example, first define your personal parameters, then find an outfitter with the highest percentage for that type of success. Ted Jaycox operates Tall Tine Outfitters in Kansas, and his camp has a 150-inch minimum for whitetails. He has been on the same ground for two decades, and his archery and rifle clients continually harvest trophies by anyone’s standards. Big deer result from watching the age and herd structure, and the chance of shooting a dream buck at Ted’s operation is real.

HuntStandFeatures 900

Know Your Chosen Hunt Area Challenges. The biggest bull elk I have taken fell on public land, during Colorado’s third season. The steep country complete with lots of blowdowns made it a great spot to find elk, but without the use of a motorized vehicle, it also required being in good shape. Wherever I’m hunting I use the HuntStand app to help identify out-of-the-way sweet spots that could hold unpressured game. The app offers maps showing public lands, terrain, topography, and hybrid options to identify helpful access roads and trails. Make no mistake, doing some preseason scouting on HuntStand, from your home, can pay big rewards later—in venison and heavy antlers. Once you’re versed in map reading there are really very few questions the HuntStand app can’t help answer; if steep hiking country is a worry, for example, using the contour map feature can help you target flatter, less-demanding areas.

MountainTravel 900

Pack Light, Pack Smart. Being fortunate to have completed several fly-in hunts, I know packing is a critical consideration. Before leaving home, check the three- and five-day forecasts and charts for the area intended to hunt. The HuntStand app makes it easy to see what to expect, which in turn helps make critical gear and clothing choices.

DallTravel 900

On a recent Dall sheep hunt, I was severely limited in what I could pack—and would eventually carry on my back. There are two things I never leave home without: Top-shelf long underwear and a good premium rain suit. Dealing with the heat is one thing, but being cold and wet is dangerous and can cut an adventure short. I hiked the first full day of the hunt in a steady downpour, but it did not dampen spirits because my carefully selected gear worked as expected. Other components of my personal “survival gear” include a space blanket and a favorite Browning packable down jacket that includes a handy stuff sack; it weighs next to nothing. That jacket has been my saving grace on more than one occasion. Always take your smartphone (and a couple portable chargers), as it is the lightest camera with video capability, and of course, it can also transport the downloaded, cached maps of your hunt area via your HuntStand app. Do not leave things to memory—download and cache your maps well ahead of time.

Elk&GuideTravel 900

Listen To The Experts. Assuming you’ve chosen your outfitter for the right reasons, pay close attention to any advice they offer. Bring your best “student attitude” to any interaction you have with your outfitter; take detailed notes and be sure to perform all recommended pre-hunt physical conditioning. Practice shooting at specific distances, and follow any recommended gear list closely when packing. If you have questions, ask well ahead of time. And once in the field, don’t second-guess or debate the outfitter on hunt strategy or other critical issues. If you did your homework, there should be no surprises. On your hunt, it’s time to trust, listen and learn. With few exceptions, your “all-in” cooperation, backed by a positive attitude, are your best shots at a successful outfitted adventure.

ShootingTravel 900

Check, Check, Double Check. Once in camp check and recheck your rifle, and ensure the scope is dead-on accurate. Any travel can be hard on gear, especially flying. Elevation and temperature can also steal confidence, but instead of wondering what could have gone wrong with your scope, shoot it, and make any adjustments required. Never assume your rifle or scope arrived in pristine condition. Feel the scope and mounts to ensure nothing is loose or has a wiggle. When there is time (and an appropriate place to shoot), check the rifle a second time.

BuckTravel 900

A pet peeve about hunting away from home is flying early in the morning, drinking way more coffee than usual, and getting to camp tired and vibrating from caffeine. Travel can leave a person in the worst condition for sighting a gun—and testing true marksmanship. The answer? Shoot on the second day as a confirmation. The same holds for archers. Traveling with a vertical or horizontal bow, checking and rechecking is just smart, and provides winning confidence.

ElkTravel 900

Confidence For All. Another hard-won travel tip is to make sure the outfitter, and especially the person who will be your guide, get to see you shoot. Of course, stacking bullets or arrows on the ‘X’ builds personal confidence that you can make the shot if presented with an opportunity. But even more important is to provide the outfitter and guide with confidence in your general shooting ability, which can lead to unexpected opportunities. Let me explain.

While hunting elk with Oberly Outfitting in Montana, we climbed a steep butte in the early morning light and managed to cut off a herd of elk. When the animals finally started to trickle across a thin ledge, they came into view. However, they were still more than 300 yards away, and at a steep uphill angle. The ground we were on was also incredibly steep, making it difficult to stay prone for a solid shot. When the biggest bull finally appeared, I put a Barnes bullet through the bull’s engine room, and he slid down the ridge and out of sight.

Charles, the guide and outfitter, said he let me shoot the bull because he had the confidence I could make the shot. If Oberly had harbored any concerns about me wounding the bull, he would not have allowed the shot. Sharing and building confidence often creates new opportunities, and that elk was a prime example. As part of a “thank you” for an outstanding outfitted experience, a nice play is to gift an ultra-high-resolution, large-format printed map (offered by HuntStand) of your outfitter’s area. The detailed maps make an ideal gift for the person who helped fulfill your dreams.

MuleDeerTravel 900

Why Setting Pre-Hunt Goals Helps. Having done the research, and saved the dollars, be sure to set a well-defined goal, or goals, for your next out-of-state hunt before traveling. The reason? Being mentally prepared, complete with packing a detailed definition of success, allows you to react quicker and make smarter split-second decisions when time is of the essence. On most hunts, things happen fast.

My first-ever guided elk hunt unraveled just outside of Yellowstone Park. My research confirmed the area consistently produced big bulls, and I wanted one. Having previously shot several elk, my dream for the hunt was a mature six-point bull that would score more than 300 Boone and Crockett points.

The hunt did not disappoint, and we saw hundreds of elk—passing more four- and five-point bulls than we could count. Holding firm to the goal, we finally ran into a big bull moving between basins high on a mountain. Harvesting that beautiful bull was a highlight, one I’ll never forget.

There were other hunters in camp from Pennsylvania who had never hunted elk. Their goal was to harvest any legal bull, and that they did. The crew of five used the entire week to fill their tags with bulls sporting a wide range of antler sizes—and each and every member of the PA crew was thrilled beyond description. Setting a goal of successfully harvesting an animal made the crew’s trip a wild, undisputed success.

MooseTravel 900

Staying Focused Pays. My latest moose hunt was more of an endurance test than the laid-back experience often associated with calling moose. The first couple of days looked and sounded promising, but then the local moose fell silent, and soon even the cows stopped moving. We saw a shooter bull and cow the first morning but didn’t have a shot opportunity. We then hunted every daylight hour for the next six days, and finally called a bull to 25 yards. There was no way I was going to spend any time in camp if my moose tag was still in my pocket, and we put in more than 100 grueling hours before harvesting a bull. Faith and determination won that hunt, including that fateful seventh day. Getting discouraged, or believing a particular hunt will simply not produce an opportunity, will defeat a person faster than anything. It may be difficult, but the answer is to treat each and every day of your next out-of-state hunt like it is the first.

SteepBullTravel 900

Dream Big And Make It Happen! Life is a gift, so use it wisely. If there are hunts you would like to experience, find a way to make them happen. The biggest fear of those harboring adventurous dreams should be procrastination. A good friend of mine is the perfect example of someone who dreams big. Robin Roth lives in a small Nebraska town and has worked in a tire shop for decades. Robin loves hunting black bears, and lives his dreams without impacting the family budget. For extra cash he cuts grass all summer, and shovels snow all winter. Roth says it helps keep him in shape, but more importantly, he earns enough to go on an outfitted bear hunt every spring. Hunters with dreams and desires need to be like Robin. Most of us who take the time to dream big can also summon the will—and the energy and wherewithal—to make them come true. Who’s ready for a new adventure?



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