With another hunting season quickly approaching there is much preparation involved in getting everything ready for that opening day. There is even more preparation if the hunt takes place out of state. I’ve been fortunate to hunt the big whitetails of Saskatchewan and a do it yourself mule deer hunt in the high country of Colorado. Both were totally different experiences.
In Saskatchewan all non-residents have to hunt with an outfitter and guide. The guide picks you up bright and early and drops you off at your stand or blind to spend the entire day. When darkness falls the guide returns to pick you up. I remember hearing wolves and coyotes howling in the distance as I waited for the first rays of light to shine through the deep dark forest.
That hunt was more of a mental experience sitting in one spot for 11 to 12 hours a day. On day 4 a big 10 point stepped out and I wasted no time pulling the trigger tagging one of the biggest bucks of my life. It was 11:11 when it all happened and something I’ll never forget. The thing that kept you on your toes was knowing a huge buck or even the next world record could step out at any moment.
The guide did all the work scouting and picking stand locations. Add the price of a plane ticket and taxidermy bill to the mix is the reason it was a once in a lifetime hunt for me. The only preparation involved in that particular hunt was packing enough clothes to stay warm in the sub artic temperatures. There was also some paper work that had to be filled out claiming the firearm I used. I thought transporting and flying with a firearm would be a pain but it really wasn’t that bad other than the paper work.
My trip to the high mountains of Colorado was a whole other adventure. There is a lot more preparation involved in planning and getting in shape for tromping through the Rocky Mountains. It was definitely a more physical hunt than sitting in one spot all day.
If you’ve ever wanted to go on an out west trip you have to do your homework. Most of the western states work off of a preference point system. The National Forest is broken into several areas or units. Certain units require a certain number of preference points. For instance, in Colorado the units I hunted required 3 preference points.
In order to gain preference points you have to apply every year and select the preference point option. There is a fee involved each year and in return you earn a preference point. So for the Colorado hunt it took 3 years of planning and putting in for the preference points required.
I currently have preference points for Elk in Colorado and hope to draw for a trophy unit in the near future. Once you gain enough preference points the chances of getting issued a license increases. The next step is hitting the treadmill or trails to get in shape. The mule deer we hunted were hanging out between 10,000 and 13,000 feet feeding on the abundant willow bushes. The air is thin up there and you want to be in the best physical condition possible.
Next comes the packing part. We camped so tents, sleeping bags, and all other camping supplies have to be stuffed into the vehicle. I drew a muzzleloader tag for mule deer so all of my muzzleloading gear had to come along. Hunting clothes and a good spotting scope is a must.
Spot and stalk is the way you hunt out west. It’s critical to have a good spotting scope because you want to know if the animal you’re looking at is worth the effort to make a stalk on. You don’t want to waste time and energy walking a long ways only to find out it was a doe instead of a buck.
If you’re lucky enough to fill your tag the fun part of packing the animal out is the last step. Needless to say there’s a lot involved in going on a do it yourself hunt but it’s so more rewarding when the pieces of the puzzle come together. You can always go with an outfitter but you’ll pay a lot more for it.
As I sit here and type this, my bags and gear are packed ready for an early morning departure. I’ve gone through all of the steps and drew another muzzleloader tag for mule deer. We’ll be hunting the same unit as last time. I’m praying for a safe hunt and hopefully I’ll have a nice mule deer buck to tell y’all about. If not, I’m sure I’ll have a good story or two as that’s what hunting is all about. Wish me luck!