The New Year is here and hunting season is wrapping up. If you read our New Year’s Resolution post you hopefully have a few ideas to get your adventures started this year. With the hunting season winding down, and a year’s worth of outdoor adventures to plan, now is the time to act.
Fishing trips are typically the easiest ones to start planning. Whether it’s a charter boat trip out in the ocean or a fly fishing trip on a famous trout river, there isn’t much planning except to decide when and where you want to fish. Head over to Fin & Field, find an operator and book a trip; pretty simple. The most difficult part will be deciding which bucket list fish you want to go after.
With hunting, it’s not that easy. Sure, you have your bucket list animals you want to hunt next year. But it’s not always as easy as finding a guide and going out to hunt. Many other hunters have those same animals on their lists as well, and because there is such high demand for elk, moose, sheep, bison and nearly every other big game animal there are limited opportunities available to hunt them. Many of these animals require the hunter to enter into a drawing in order to obtain a chance at their dream hunt. There’s no better time than now to start applying for your dream hunt. Below is a brief overview of the upcoming deadlines to enter the draws for many of the popular Western states. This list is not exhaustive and is subject to change (last year Kentucky had a computer malfunction that resulted in them extending the elk draw deadline by a few days, which allowed my son to do this!). Be sure to do your own homework before you apply in any state to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
Arizona is one of the premier states for record book animals. They have two different application periods depending on the animal you want to hunt. The application deadline for most species (deer, bison, javelin and sheep) is on June 13th, 2018. If you do manage to draw a tag in Arizona check out some of the operators below who can get you on that trophy animal you’ve always wanted! If you didn’t draw a tag do not worry, Arizona has a bonus points system you will be entered in so that you have better odds applying next year.
Colorado is a hunter’s paradise. While it doesn’t always hold lots of trophy sized animals in all of its units there is the potential for greatness. There is also the potential to just walk up and buy an over-the-counter tag, depending on the unit, season, and species. Colorado is one of those states which you can plan to hunt even if you don’t get drawn which is why it’s so attractive to hunters. The application deadline is this coming April. But don’t sweat it, if you aren’t drawn for that trophy unit you can always buy an OTC tag for another unit or season. Once you have your tag check out some of the outfitters below to get you started on your journey. Just like Arizona if you don’t draw that tag for your trophy unit Colorado has preference points which you can continue to build each year you don’t draw so that someday in the future you can get access to that prime unit.
Idaho is the land of OTC tags. It’s pretty easy to just walk up and buy a tag and hunt public land or even private if your hire a guide who can get you access. However, they do have select draws for certain species and certain seasons. If you are not drawn you can typically purchase your OTC tags and hunt a different unit or season. Unlike Arizona and Colorado, Idaho does not issue and preference or bonus points if you are unsuccessful in your draw attempts. If you plan to apply for the sheep, moose or goat draw you have until April 30th, 2018. If you want to roll the dice for the deer, elk or antelope draw you have until June. To start planning your Idaho hunt check out the outfitters below who can put you on the game.
Big sky country is also big game country. Like other states, Montana has a draw system for their big game species. Some of their prime units take years to draw. But other units do not even have enough demand to fill all the tags with draw applicants. This you can buy OTC tags for some draw units, depending on the amounts of applicants. If you are unsuccessful in drawing a prime unit, Montana awards bonus/preference points. Montana elk and deer draw deadline in March 15, 2018. The sheep, moose goat and bison draw deadline is May, quickly followed by the antelope deadline in June. If you don’t want to hunt Montana this year, but want to increase your chances in future years, you can also purchase preference points before the September 30 deadline ends. If you are looking for a true Western hunting experience filled with Rocky Mountains and open sky hit up some of the outfitters below to start planning your Montana hunt today.
New Mexico is known for big bull elk and if you manage to get drawn, you will definitely see some trophy animals. New Mexico is sort of the Holy Grail for Western elk hunting because they consistently have huge bulls harvested each year. They have long odds at drawing prime units like Valle Vidal and offer no bonus/preference points. But when you do hit the lottery, you can be rest assured that your chance at a once-in-a-lifetime bull is within reach. The deadline for the New Mexico draw is March 21st, 2018. Remember you have got to play if you want to win. If you do win, we’ve got you covered with some outstanding outfitters below.
Antelope is the name of the game in Wyoming where they have the largest heard in the West. Their elk and mule deer herds are pretty healthy as well. Wyoming is a popular destination, along with Colorado, because of its proximity to the Eastern half of the U.S. along with how easy and affordable (relative to other states) it is to hunt. As of the writing of this article, the non-resident elk draw deadline will have passed (January 31st), but that doesn’t mean you can’t hunt Wyoming. If you are looking to hunt sheep, moose, goat, or bison you have until February 28th to apply. The deer and antelope deadline is May 31st, 2018. But if you want to get a leg up on next year’s hunt, you can purchase preference points until October 31st. If you plan on hunting Wyoming, we have operators standing by to take your calls!
Guest Blogger Shawn McCardell
About Fin & Field
Fin & Field is changing the way sportsmen find, compare, book and share their fishing and hunting adventures. We’ve consolidated the hunting and fishing industry into a powerful marketplace that connects sportsmen and operators (charter boats, fishing guides, hunting guides, lodges, marinas, outfitters, outdoor brands, and more). We’re using technology to drive more meaningful, fun, and efficient communication that’s making it easier for sportsmen to get the information they need to do what they love.
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