I’ve always kept the perspective that any moderately expensive, out-of-state hunting trip that requires a good deal of forethought, planning, and preparation would be many peoples’ once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a schedule which allows me considerable flexibility and just enough extra & supplementary income to justify taking my “once-in-a-lifetime” trip every year or two – oh yea, and a very understanding wife!! As I’ve written many times, a good portion of a trip’s enjoyment is embedded in the gear planning, honing of strategies, pouring over maps, and day dreaming of the trip’s unfolding. Oftentimes the trip itself is more misery and hard work than pure enjoyment, but the memories any trip – tags filled or unfilled – are almost always sweet.
Having a long-term focus to my hunt planning affords me several benefits. First and foremost, it lets me plan. This is straight-forward but I can look ahead on academic calendars to see when fall breaks coincide with season openers, have tentative hunt schedules in mind when the brainstorm of the next family vacation or trip arises, and always have a goal in front of me. As superficial as it sounds, knowing I have an upcoming hunt penciled into the calendar can erase a bad morning at work and provide an extra boost of motivation when needed. Planning ahead also helps to manage a growing inventory of preference points for different species in different states.
Recently, I broke my hunt planning into 2 discrete segments…my near-term 3 year plan and mid-term plan (the 4-6 years out range). Anything I don’t have scribbled into the near- or mid-term plan but for which I am accumulating preference points would fall into the someday down the road in the faraway long-term.
(I have my likely hunting partners listed in the graphic’s parentheses).
Wyoming Region G Mule Deer – This will be an ultra-physical hunt in some big and brutal country. Some of the biggest mule deer in the world call this region home and wilderness doesn’t impose undue restrictions on unguided non-residents like myself. Many of the skill sets we’ve employed in our Colorado elk hunts will be appropriate to apply on this one. In short, it’s a dream come true. With an early rifle season up in alpine habitats, this will be one for the memory books. Realistically, this is a hunt that could produce the biggest mule deer buck of my lifetime, and I’ve contemplated taking a few days this summer or next to hike into some basins to scout some bucks, glassing spots, camping locations, and water sources.
Kansas Whitetails – It’s been too long since my dad and I have chased bucks in the Sunflower State. We’ve done 2 muzzleloader hunts and 1 archery hunt in the past and we’re long overdue in chasing the big river bottom bucks that Kansas does such a good job of growing. Unsure of weapon/season choice at this point, but this is an easy one to plan so not too worried about the details at this point.
Black Bear in Montana – There is no better way to knock the dust off 5 months of winter and early spring than to visit one of the most beautiful corners of the Lower 48 with a bear tag in pocket and watch the magic of spring unfold. For a long time I said that I only ever wanted to take one bear, but after doing so in 2014, there’s good reason to believe that bear will not be my last. The adventure level on this hunt is through the roof, there is game all over, and taking a no-baiting/no hounds bear in the Montana mountains is an utmost and worthy challenge.
Elk in Colorado – Dad is closing in on having enough preference points to cash out on a muzzleloader tag for the unit where we chase OTC archery elk. It’s an 8 day, middle-of-September season and I know exactly where we’ll be camped out for the duration. I’ll likely not buy an elk tag for me (maybe a fall bear tag?), but concentrate instead on getting dad on a bull with the smokepole. I’ve no doubt that if the altitude doesn’t kill him and if he can put the sabot where he wants it, dad will get one or more opportunities to take his first ever elk.
Kodiak Island – More details forthcoming. Yep, I typed it and you read it correctly – Kodiak.