When it comes to do-it-yourself bowhunting, or even firearm hunting, for trophy bucks, the main ingredients of success aretime andeffort.
You must beg, borrow, or steal all the time you can get (a lot can be accomplished over a three-day weekend), and then you must invest it in searching out hunting grounds and establishing landowner relationships.
During the average year,I spend more time scouting for hunting places, than I actually spend hunting. After all, the real key to success lies in having the place to get the job done — everything else pales in comparison.
Trophy Areas Nearby
The fact is, very few people live in a location that is over a one-day drive from accessible, trophy-class whitetail hunting ground. Even today, there is still plenty of private and public land available to those willing to ferret it out. I use every avenue available in my pursuit of good hunting access.
When traveling for work, trade shows, or pleasure, I’m constantly looking for new hunting spots. I focus on areas that have proven genetics and produce a reasonable number of older-age bucks.
Call game department biologists and/or wardens in prospective areas and courteously explain your interests. Have a well-thought-out list of questions to ask concerning your desires. Be sure to ask for information on landowners that cooperate in hunter access programs. Don’t forget to ask about public areas; some can be real “sleepers.” You always can start hunting on public ground, then work toward accessing quality, private ground in the area as you become more familiar with your surroundings.
When I arrive in a new area, my first destination is the local soil conservation office. It will supply, free of charge, a soil survey booklet that has aerial photo’s of the surrounding county. Next, I go straight to the courthouse and locate the assessor’s office.
Get A Plat Book
At the assessor’s office is where one can usually purchase a booklet commonly referred to as a “plat book.” This gold mine of information displays the current status of land ownership in the county. The assessor’s office also is the place to get a county road map. Also, if you are unsuccessful acquiring aerial photos at the soil conservation office, they can be found here. You will probably have to pay for them, but they will usually be on a much more detailed scale.
Armed with the above material, I begin to travel backroads, comparing the habitat that I’m observing with what is shown on my aerial photos. When desirable areas are located, I switch to my plat book, determine the landowner, and then ask permission to hunt.
Something as simple as offering to help with midday farm chores can lead to access and eventually to a firm friendship that will ensure a hunting future on the property for many years to come.
On the other hand, you must be willing to accept some tough times when contacting landowners, because rejection is an inherent trait of the process. With time and perseverance, however, you will eventually succeed. Oftentimes, the sheer satisfaction of “harvesting” permission from a crusty old landowner can rival that of bow-killing a big buck!
Over the past dozen years, I’ve harvested 22 Pope & Young whitetails. Six of these deer were taken on public ground, with the rest coming from private ground that I accessed through hard work and a handshake. I’ve not been guided, or hunted on managed properties. All my outings have been accomplished on a tight budget, with an average of around $600 (all-inclusive) being spent for a two-week outing.
Finally, consider this: For the price of a fully outfitted, one-week whitetail hunt in a top area, I can outfit myself with a new Mathews bow and a Bodoodle Pro-500 rest, a dozen Beman arrows tipped with Rocky Mountain broadheads, and a Badlands pack. After all that, I still have enough money left to cover the price of the gas, food, and deer tag for a two-week, out-of-state bowhunt.
In addition to this, the satisfaction of accomplishing the entire process on you own is truly what bowhunting is all about anyway, isn’t it? As I’ve found out over the years, blue-collar buckscan be a reality. However, it’s just like everything else in a blue-collar existence —if you want it, you’ve got toroll up your sleeves and work for it!
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