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HUNTING OUT OF STATE

By on September 1, 2019

Plan Well in Advance & Do Your Research

By BRIDGET FABEL, Roadking Outdoors Contributor

“Where should I hunt, and how can I get a tag?”
That’s one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. The truth is that deer hunting rules and regulations vary significantly across all 50 states. All of them monitor and control how their lands are hunted, and how much it will cost. Over the years, I’ve developed considerable knowledge about where and what to hunt out of state. To have a chance at success on your out-of-state hunt, it’s important to plan well in advance, and do your research with mapping tools and imagery.

When Should You Start Planning?

Most states that require you to apply for a deer tag open up their entries during a short window (usually less than a month) between January and May. To be prepared, it’s important to have your desired units and tags identified so you don’t miss your chance. I recommend you start planning your 2020 hunts now. This provides adequate time to coordinate with friends, research units, become familiar with game species, size and numbers, and lastly to be aware of the state’s rules and application dates. 

East Coast Options

New Jersey

Many people forget that the East Coast has some amazing hunting opportunities. I grew up in New Jersey and was spoiled by thinking that all other states’ hunting tags were “over the counter.” This means that you simply roll up to your local sporting goods store, buy a tag for a cheap fee, and get right out to your tree stand on the same day. Hunting whitetail deer in New Jersey is often overlooked. Many people have a skewed image of New Jersey and aren’t aware of the state’s natural beauty. Northern New Jersey is filled with lush public lands, the Appalachian Trail and rolling green mountains. New Jersey’s public lands provide easy access for all types of hunters, whether you’re local or out of state. Hunters are required to purchase a hunting license and tag for the animal species they’ll be hunting. Buck and doe limits depend on the “zone” being hunted, but all together, most out-of-state hunters can score a license as well as a buck and doe tag for under $300.

North Carolina

The Tar Heel State offers great over-the-counter (OTC) hunting opportunities for deer and bear. In 1900, before the state was well hunted, there were 10,000 white-tailed deer in North Carolina. Today, there are over one million! How’s that for a great “hunting for conservation” success story? Out of staters can purchase a license for around $100, and tags are very affordable as well. North Carolina offers a lot of public land in the western part of the state. If you want to harvest a picture-perfect, trophy whitetail, this may be the ideal place for you to hunt.

Pennsylvania

The Keystone State has an infamous hunting law: no hunting on Sundays. This is a very “old school” hunting tradition that is still the law in a few other states as well. Pennsylvania has millions of acres of public land, which yield endless opportunities for hunting trophy whitetail. Hunters can buy OTC tags and licenses for approximately $300 for deer and bear. Hunters can harvest antlerless animals in most units as well. I love filling the freezer with a big doe shot from my tree stand with a bow. After that, hunters can relax knowing they have meat for the year and hold out for a big, mature buck.

Midwest Options

Ohio

The Buckeye State is known for having amazing whitetail. Ohio has great public land opportunities and affordable tags. Nonresident hunting licenses will run just over $140. On top of that, hunters need to buy buck or doe tags that are extremely reasonable. Everything together will cost hunters just under $200. Ohio has a lot of public and private lands that are available for hunting. Something cool about hunting in Ohio is that travelers can buy a “tourist” hunting pass that allows them to hunt for three days at the very low cost of $40.

Kansas

In the Sunflower State, most places require you to apply through a lottery drawing. Some places take one to five years to draw for an out-of-stater. Hunters have outstanding opportunities for trophy whitetail. Most Kansas hunters hunt in thick terrain from tree stands and over piles of corn. It’s important to look into baiting laws before visiting a state. If corn and/or salt are allowed, it can act as a great tool to attract big deer. If not, calling techniques and sitting on popular game trails can be extremely effective.

Texas

The Lone Star State is one of the most unique destinations to hunt in the United States. Texas offers a lot of “exotic” hunting for axis deer, blackbucks, wild boars and more. For all of those animals, only a hunting license is required. They have no tags, no limits, and very few rules on these animals. This means that these species are not native to Texas and can be hunted 24/7/365. Axis deer in Texas offer some tasty meat for the freezer. Their spotted coat is iconic and very appealing to the eye. Besides exotics, Texas has some great in-season whitetail hunting. Since Texas has mostly private land, it’s very important that you line up a place to hunt before heading there. I recommend looking for hunting land to lease or places with easy access for out-of-staters. Hunting mostly from tree stands and over deer feeders is common across the entire state.

Western Options

Utah

Although I love to hunt in Utah, you should know it’s not the easiest state to hunt. “Good” elk tags often take 10-20 years to draw. Hunters gain points each year they put in for a hunt and do not draw a tag. After 10 years and 10 points, odds go up for trophy deer and elk units. General season deer tags often take one to four years to draw, depending on the unit. Hunters can grab OTC elk tags in tough units for a couple hundred dollars. The hunting conditions are harsh, but with some commitment and hard work, anything is possible.

Idaho

The Gem State has a very unique approach. Every tag is based on a lottery system. Everyone has the same chance at a tag, every year. If a hunter does not draw, no points are received. If you are a lucky person, I recommend registering for Idaho hunts. There are some trophy units for mule deer and elk that would provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Idaho also has some epic OTC opportunities for elk and deer. Depending on the unit, you can buy OTC archery or rifle tags. Idaho has some unusual, old-school hunting rules, so I recommend looking into them before you hunt!

Colorado

The Centennial State offers some great opportunities for all different sorts of hunting. Putting in for certain deer units can yield results in one to five years. You can earn points in Colorado to help your draw status in future years. There are many trophy elk and deer units throughout the state. Colorado also has some great OTC archery elk options. Tags and licenses will run you roughly $600-$1,000, which is reasonable for an out-of-state, western elk hunt during the rut.

Wyoming

Something I love about the Equality State is that you’re not required to purchase a hunting license. To hunt in Wyoming, you have to be a legal hunter, but you never need a license, just a tag. Out-of-state deer tags range from $300-$700, and your odds of drawing one are very high in some units. For “special deer” units, you can pay a little extra to have higher draw rates. If you can afford that, I recommend it. Nothing worse than being unsuccessful in drawing a tag! Wyoming also has some amazing antelope hunting options. Some say Wyoming has more antelope than people. Antelope tags can be obtained fairly easily for around $300. Wyoming is a beautiful state with tons of public land, and I highly recommend exploring it.

Western Hunting Tips

I recommend purchasing a mapping app, such as Scout to Hunt (STH), before your trip. STH is the only mapping app that supplies drawing odds, public land percentages, and drone-fly-over footage for the western states. This information is provided to help out-of-state hunters make decisions before planning and paying for their hunts. You can mark locations, see fire data, spring data, trails, topography, and more through the STH map interface. If you plan on hunting out west, I highly recommend purchasing a yearly membership.

Guided or DIY?

Based on your age, hunting knowledge, funds and abilities, you may want to consider hiring a guide. If you can afford a guide, you’ll likely gain more local knowledge and help in tagging out. Personally, I’ve never used a hunting guide, even though hunting out of state is extremely difficult. Last year, I hunted approximately 20 days in Idaho seeking a bull elk with my bow. It was a hot year with little to no rut action, and I did not succeed. On the other hand, I did get a nice mule deer buck in Colorado with a rifle on the third day of the hunt. The point is out-of-state hunts can be difficult, but are totally doable for those who are well prepared. Do your research beforehand and scout during the summer if you have the time. Set up some trail cameras, glass for animals at first light, and get to know the area. I hope that everyone can utilize this knowledge to help you and your friends experience new hunting areas, this season or next. Happy Hunting! 


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