We are headed South bound to Alabama-home sweet home!! We had a good time in Kansas, touched with a bit of heartache, but still a good time. This, by far, was a hunt that I have worked the hardest for. I turned out the light every evening wore out physically and mentally.
Hunts like this second Kansas trip leave you with a feeling that you have truly experienced all that hunting has to offer. From exhaustive scouting in an already sleep deprived state from the trip, brain bending decisions on which property to chose to hunt, the physical exertion of toting two complete stands and gear down a slick three inch deep mud bogged road, the sweat and hard work of putting up two complete stands while physically exhausted from scouting in high gear, juggling the decisions of using a decoy or other hunting aids, the element of surprise when an awesome shooter buck walks into range in the first daylight hour of our first hunt, the excitement of the shot, the agonizing hour plus wait before getting down to search for the buck, the extensive blood trailing for more than 3 hours expanding over a mile, the disappointment of not retrieving a harvest, the displeasure of knowing that a wounded buck has been left behind, the letdown and regret of not getting the shot or buck in the frame while videotaping, having two more hunts where nothing bothered to come into the hunting area….all the highs and lows all wrapped up in one trip.
All of these experiences make for special memories and make hunting worth every ounce of work put into it. And being able to experience this with a spouse adds ten-fold to the whole experience. A well honed team where words are not necessary to know the next move your hunting partner is going to make. A partnership where both feel the excitement and disappointments of the hunt as one. This is what great hunts are made of in my life.
We are already making plans to stay two weeks next year; one week will be concentrated on hunting private land followed up by a week of hunting state designated Walk-In Hunting Areas. There is a massive amount of land in many states that is dedicated as public hunting land. With some planning, pre-trip preparation and hard work you can experience some of the best hunting possible on public land. I would encourage anyone that is interested in getting away from their home state to plan a DIY public land hunt. These types of hunts are usually pretty affordable and quite successful if you are willing to put in the hard work to pull it off.
I have had several people that have inquired about these do-it-yourself hunts over the last few months. Usually I get questions like “how do you find the land?”, “What is the first step?” or usually “How much does it cost?” These hunts are gratifying but before deciding to actually plan for one, you need to make certain that you are willing to put the effort and all the foot work into the hunt.
Choosing a state that you want to hunt is the first step, followed by reviewing their hunting rules and regulations and applying for any draws or whatever type application is necessary in that state. Request map books from the wildlife agency of that state that has the state public hunting land shown or find out what website you can review those maps on. In some states you will need to know in advance what section or unit you will be hunting in before applying for a draw or license.
The more time and research you do with the maps and a service like GoogleEarth for areas that are indicative of good hunting land, the more chance of success you will have on the hunt. A GPS is just about necessary when hunting land you are not familiar with and will not have a guide that knows the land. Obtain the coordinates for input on a handheld GPS and print out the GoogleEarth maps. I always take the laptop with the info loaded on it for reviewing after we have actually scouted the subject property. These efforts will save so much time and will keep you from spending time on unnecessary scouting. Once you know you are licensed and with a tag, if applicable, to hunt in that state for the area you chose—you will need to decide what dates you plan to take the trip.
Securing lodging within close proximity of the land you will be scouting is necessary; preferably one with a kitchenette or at minimum a refrigerator and microwave. Always look for hotels or motels where a first floor, non-smoking room is possible. Most chain hotels are not as hunter friendly as the mom-and-pop privately owned motels or older motels. If you have extra gear or stands that you need to stow while there, it is usually easier to do that at a drive up hotel than an enclosed hall hotel. I always bring my own linens, towels and wash rags that have been washed in scent destroying detergent and I usually let the front desk know that beforehand—some hotels will actually give you a discount for this. WiFi or Internet access is a must even if it is just available in the lobby or office area.
Before you ever leave your home state, research the town you will be staying in for Laundromats, grocery store, deer processors, and if your hotel does not have internet or WiFi, find out if the local library offers free WiFi and obtain the code if applicable—sometimes you can just pull up in the parking lot after hours to use the service. Just about all towns have a website; I have stayed in towns where the population was as little as 218 people and was able to find a website about the town. Print out a town map if you think it might be necessary.
Other tips that I think are crucial to a safe and successful hunt: You will always want to have a hunting partner for safety and a way to communicate. Cell phones are wonderful…when you have a signal. A back up such as two-way hand radios are a must. Game cameras can save you from sitting in uneventful stands so use them as much as possible. Scout as much as possible–taking an entire day to scout by most hunters seems like a day of hunting wasted when in reality it is a day invested into the hunt. Take a pole saw, ratchet clippers and hand saw with you in the truck when headed out to scout. Take cable locks or locks for any gear you plan to use and leave in the field such as lock-on stands, climbers, ladder stands or game cameras. ALWAYS take some tools on the trip and keep them in your truck. Keep abreast of the weather through a weather radio, the local news, Internet weather sites, or an NOAA radio device which is built into most two-way hand radios now days. Obtain a telephone number and contact information of the local game warden in case you have an emergency or need assistance, or you may even have a simple question you need an answer to; that is their job so utilize them if need be.
Always know the state game laws and regulations of the state you are hunting in. For example, if hand radios can be used in the aid of hunting game in that state, if baiting is legal to draw deer to stands or camera set ups, what type of stands can be erected or left overnight on public land, if electronic calls can be used, is hunter orange required, if the property is pedestrian traffic only or are 4 wheelers or motorized vehicles can enter the property, or even if there is a size requirement on harvested bucks on public land. Most importantly, respect all rules and regulations to the fullest extent–if in doubt, ask.
You will find that planning and hunting a DIY hunt on public property requires some preparation and it will require some fast paced scouting and hard work in placing stands, marking trails, or clearing shooting lanes but the gratification in hunting and even harvesting game on these hunts are beyond measure. I hope you will take the opportunity to try a DIY hunt or to participate in similar hunts….step out of the box, expand your horizons, and reap all that you harvest to the fullest extent. Good luck in planning and preparation and good luck in the ultimate harvest.
© Nancy Jo Adams 2009