Article and Photos by: Clint Casper
“Oh shit, now what?!”
My mind was racing while frantically searching the grid columns on the division of wildlife website to find if I had drawn a tag! All I could think about was giant velvet bucks, in neon green basins, and myself perched above them on opening morning planning my attack for the day, as I sat behind my spotting scope. I could feel the cool morning air hitting me in the face and as I meticulously picked apart the basins around me I couldn't help but smile.
“Why can't I find my name?!”, I mustered under my breath. There's no way I couldn't have drawn! Quickly I opened my email account and looked for an email saying I had drawn, but nothing was there. “Maybe my name was forgotten somehow? I better just call!” And so I did, but was not welcomed with the answer I had hoped to hear. No tag! Now what?! Where will I go?! At this point in the game there are two roads you can go down.
Road #1- no tag, so no hunt I guess! Maybe next year.
Road #2 - I'll find another tag and make it happen. As I'm sure you've all guessed I've always chosen road #2 and here's why and how I do it!
Why Choose Road #2
For me, it's quite simple why I've chosen this road and why I'd always choose this road- I live to bowhunt and NOT having a tag isn't an option. With that being said, my mind immediately turns to, “where can I get a tag?” And this is why option #2 is always the road I take.
From here I will flood myself with numerous questions and thoughts. Things like what states should I look at now? What tags woukd make the most sense for me at this point? How long do I need for a hunt in a new area? Etc. These questions are all equally important and will lead me to my new state with a tag. A tag in my pocket makes me a happy man and that's what I'm always looking for no matter what!
From a bowhunters standpoint at this time in the game, we need to erase our original plan, since it didn't workout and now focus on the new task at hand. Road #2 and what it'll take to go down it the correct way. Planning ahead of time and having multiple options are always the best bet, but what happens when that's not the case? Just like myself this year, numerous guys will have to scramble after learning they didn't draw that dream tag and figure out a new plan to success! Here's where the rubber hits the road and let's go through how to get it!
The New Plan
Our focus must be on our new plan and how to execute this plan as quickly and efficiently as possible. Scouting online will play a huge role in this new plan because for most of us, like myself, a week long scouting trip to a new state probably just won't happen. So we have to rely on resources like the OnX Hunt app, Eastman's MRS sections, and Google Earth to do our scouting for us.
These resources will give us valuable information like in the Eastman's MRS sections, which are in the back of every magazine, you'll find state by state statistics on success rates, animal numbers, hunter statistics per unit and so much more. These are so valuable to a out of state hunter because it gives us a chance to find a good unit to hunt without actually being there to scout.
Speaking of scouting let's talk about our strategy to scout and how we'll find places to hunt. OnX Hunt has drastically changed the way I hunt today. This app let's you look at states and the game management units within them by using state of the art imagery and the newest technology. You can look at public vs. private ground, visually see the boundaries, and scout from this app! There is so much to this app that I honestly could write a whole article on it's features! Just take my word for it and get it! You'll be happy you did.
Good ol' Google Earth has been my friend for years now from turkey hunts on public ground in Kansas to chasing muleys in Colorado. I use this software religiously and for good reason, it works! Google Earth will allow you to find worthy looking spots from your couch while you sip on a “Busch Latte” after a long days work. Good ridges, spines, basins, drainages and much more can easily be spotted and marked for a later date as places that need scouted and hunted once you actually get there. Honestly, you really can't beat this scouting system IF using your own two feet isn't an option. Combine this with OnX and the MRS section in Eastman's and you'll be well on your way to some good spots to start looking for game.
We've now found our state, picked out our spots and have formulated some gameplans according to how we want our hunt to go. So what's left to do? Mentally prepare for the endeavor you're about to embark on! In my opinion all of the good public land, backcountry/wilderness hunters all posses the same KEY feature in the fact that they are extremely mentally tough! What I mean by that is that these guys/girls are prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best and nothing is allowed to enter there mind that can take them away from their end goal. They are mentally tough enough to handle anything thrown their way and because of this mentality they're almost always successful!
This is a new place, a new hunt and a whole new adventure that we are planning on going on. That can all be very stressful. Combine that with the “unknown” factor that lurks within hunting deep, backcountry on public land and you've found where the fear, anxiety and sometimes “doubt” can come from. BUT we must remember this is OUR hunt and it's all going to boil down to what WE make of it. So, are you choosing road #1 or road #2 and if YOU do choose road #2 how's it going to go? Are you going to just slough through it and rely on luck? Or will YOU bust your ass, mentally prepare and do everything possible to make it happen in a new place with a new gameplan? That's right, YOU will get it done, so GO MAKE IT HAPPEN! Catch ya on the mountain.
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Check out Clint's article on "Doing It Solo" here.