As much as you enjoy hunting on your lease or property, there is always an attraction to venture out of your comfort zone. The allure of encountering an exotic unknown, the challenges of hunting new territory and all the memorable outdoor adventures that await you are worthy of taking a road trip.
Just like a family vacation, it takes careful planning when traveling to an unfamiliar destination. The following ideas will help you plan a successful travel hunting trip.
Know State Hunter Education Requirements
For example, are you planning to hunt in Kansas? Anyone born on or after July 1, 1957, must hold a valid and approved hunter education card. Many a hunter get turned down for a non-resident license after forgetting to check out hunter education requirements ahead of time. Find out the regulations ahead of time by researching the state’s wildlife agency website where you plan to hunt.
Know Firearms Transportation Laws
If you are driving to your hunt, be aware of restrictions that could affect your trip home. In an effort to control chronic wasting disease, a number of states now regulate transportation of deer and elk carcasses. Plan for your entire route by checking the website of the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance at cwd-info.org.
Know Chronic Wasting Disease Laws
Many states and localities have laws governing the transportation of firearms. You must be aware of these laws and comply with legal requirements in each jurisdiction. There is no uniform state transportation procedure for firearms. When in doubt, carry firearms unloaded, locked in a case and stored in an area (such as a trunk or attached toolbox) where they are inaccessible from a vehicle’s passenger compartment and not visible from outside the vehicle. Any ammunition should be stored in a separate locked container. And if you plan to conceal and carry, check the regulations for handguns and reciprocity of your concealed carry license.
Have A COVID-19 Plan B
Do you have a hunting trip booked with an outfitter? Did you successfully draw an out-of-state big game tag? COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions and it has changed the hunting world, too. If traveling out of state, you should research any quarantine measures in place. In some states, you might be required to quarantine in place for 14 days, depending on your home and destination state. Check now, check again closer to the hunt. Regulations are ever changing. Remain diligent leading up to your hunt and stay in contact with your outfitter, if you have booked with one, to confirm you are remaining in good health and they are as well.
Flying With Your Gun: The Do’s and Don’ts
Air travel with a firearm requires a bit of extra attention on your part. Dismantling the barrel from the stock and removing the bolt is a good idea. Also make sure the magazines are clear of ammunition. Keep any and all ammunition in a separate TSA-approved container as checked baggage only to avoid major issues at the security check. Here are other TSA regulations to follow.
- Declare each firearm each time you present it for transport as checked baggage at the ticket counter. Research ahead of time or ask your airline about limitations or fees that may apply.
- Firearms and ammunition are prohibited in carry-on baggage.
- Firearms must be unloaded and locked in a hard-sided container and transported as checked baggage only.
- You may use any brand or type of lock to secure your firearm case, including TSA-recognized locks. Those can be unlocked by a TSA master key for inspection by the agent.
- Firearm parts, including magazines, clips, bolts and firing pins, are prohibited in carry-on baggage, but may be transported in checked baggage.
- Rifle scopes are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage.
Find complete guidelines at tsa.gov Transporting Firearms and Ammunition.
Are you planning to hunt out West in high altitudes? The air gets thinner at high elevations, and your lungs work overtime to keep up with your stamina. Following a regular exercise routine to avoid becoming winded as you hike in the high country is a wise idea. Walking is ideal and you can even wear your full daypack (without the rifle) as you train. Also make sure your hunting boots are broken in, if needed. Your feet will thank you later.
Make Two Lists
You know the routine for hunting at home. The packing list is short, if existent at all. It’s easy to forget important items (think big game tags) amid the excitement of packing for a road trip, though. Make a list of items to pick up upon arrival, and another for things you need to pack at home.
Where To Go?
Now for the fun part. Where do you go? If you are going the DIY route, this list is for you. We based our selection on the affordability and availability of over-the-counter tags, non-resident licenses and public land. In no particular order, here are some states worth checking out.
- Tag fee: $250
- Season: Early September—late November
- Public Land: 1.9 million acres
Archery and rifle tags are available over the counter. Don’t get your hopes up for a rifle tag, as those are tough to draw. On the good side, North Dakota has an early deer opener, and there is so much available public land that hunters can spread out. Many areas in the state are better for elk, pronghorn and mule deer hunting, all of which are part of the early season. North Dakota is gaining a quiet reputation as a top whitetail state; just don’t expect a B&C wall hanger. The scenery, wide open spaces and productivity are worth the tradeoff.
- Tag fee: $242
- Season: Early September—mid-January
- Public Land: 800,000 acres
Nebraska is nestled between hotbed deer states Iowa and Kansas, so you would expect the gene pool to be on par with its neighbors. Nebraska gives you plenty of time to find out, with an early opener and a month-long muzzleloader season as bonuses to the rifle season. Walk-in hunting programs make up for the abundance of vast public hunting areas.
- Tag fee: $150 for a nonresident license
- Season: Early September—mid-January
- Public Land: 340,000 acres
Public hunting options are nearly endless with expansive state and national forests and game and wildlife areas. Deer hunters swarm public lands, although the trip is made worthwhile by the scenery and chances of harvesting a quality buck.
- Tag fee: $300 for the base license
- Season: Early October—mid-January
- Public Land: Over 1 million acres
Mississippi sports the largest whitetail deer population in the country, based on deer per square mile, easily making it worthy of a road trip. Public land is abundant, although bottomlands cover much of it. Located in the deep South, the state is conveniently located to other popular deer hunting states, giving reason to consider a trip to one or more of them.
Prepare your ATV
Are you traveling with your ATV? Get it ready for the trip with a full maintenance check. Do the same for the overall condition of your trailer.
Make sure you check:
- wheels and bearings
- electrical connections
You can cover all the bases at your nearest Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Service Center, also at quality independent dealers where TRACKER OFF ROAD vehicles are sold and serviced. While there, you can check out the accessories needed to make the most of your ATV’s hunting capabilities.
Are you a TRACKER Off Road owner, or planning to buy an ATV or Side-by-Side? Check out offroad vehicle accessories that will work hard for you on your hunting trip.