Guidebook to Your Next Out-of-State DIY Whitetail Bowhunt

An out-of-state DIY whitetail bowhunt might mean a lot of work, but the rewards can be great.

Guidebook to Your Next Out-of-State DIY Whitetail Bowhunt

Although some of life’s experiences barely linger in my mind, hunting memories flash as clearly as if they happened yesterday. My first out-of-state DIY archery hunt with a whitetail mindset occurred in Montana. The hunt teamed me with a friend, so logistics were primarily his responsibility, but I do recall anxious, personal moments of planning as my mental gears ground steadily to ensure this first out-of-state adventure.

Do you have ambitions of bowhunting whitetails beyond your zip code? Whether you hunger for a trophy whitetail, a change of scenery, or merely hunting with a friend from afar, dedicated planning is a must.

Make a Plan Now

Much of the planning revolves around whether your trip is purely for enjoyment, trophy expectations, hunting camp comradery or another personal reason. Give your reason a prominent role in planning and then move on to your next big decision. Will this hunt be a DIY or outfitted endeavor? That decision has implications for the time required to plan, especially late evening hours, budgetary constraints and how others involved handle these same quandaries.

Do the math and appraise the time you have available to plan, and hunt. Time is money. When you add in the expenses of a DIY trip, including lodging, meals, possible trespass fees and other doodads, you could be within striking distance of an outfitted trip where you get catered to like a Royal.   

After you determine your grit for planning or spending, choose a state while zooming in on a region. Undoubtedly you have a particular state in mind due to its trophy expectations, public land opportunities, family nearby or an abundant whitetail population. Reach for the stars, but keep your goals within a reasonable reality. I’ve hunted many trophy whitetail locations and despite their marketing hype, you do not find a Booner whitetail behind every tree.

Don’t Forget the License

In unison with picking a hunting state, location and unit, be thinking seriously about landing a hunting license. They do not hand them out like Halloween candy as in the good old days. Your dreams might already be dead if you hanker a hunt in Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota and others that use lottery applications. Some require a few years of preference point accumulation to draw, while Iowa archery tags may require 4 or more years.

If the state you planned on hunting has a lottery system in place, begin accumulating points now. You may even wish to team up with a hunting consulting service to help you. I use Worldwide Trophy Adventures ( for my deer, elk, sheep and moose aspirations in drawing a license. I pay them to do some of the more difficult and laborious applications while I do a few I have handled for years.

Fortunately, many states still harbor an abundance of whitetails, and with archery success lower than firearm success, they don’t limit archery permits. Nebraska, South Dakota, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin among others currently fall into that category. Kentucky, a whitetail standout, also allows you to purchase a license online or over the counter without applying. The only Kentucky areas that require you to apply are state parks and some wildlife management areas. The licensing hurdles may put you a few years behind on your top destination, but luckily backups exist for your out-of-state consideration.


Land Some Hunting Land

As you choose a state and region, you need to consider landing some land. Outfitted hunters have the luxury of bypassing this assignment, but the DIY crowd needs to jump on the responsibility as soon as licensing is secured. You have options available.

First, peruse your contact list of family, college associates, service member friends and work contacts. One or more may be in your target area. They could own land you can hunt or have connections to someone who does. They may also have experience in hunting the public lands in the area, giving you a jumpstart over the other public land junkies.

Perhaps you have top-notch hunting opportunities in your backyard that you could swap for access to whitetail property elsewhere. I swap elk hunting assistance to several friends to get on whitetail land in the Midwest. Place a trade ad on a forum and explore the prospects. A Craigslist ad to swap hunting opportunities or even pay a trespass fee for whitetail access could also pay off in gate-opening dividends.

Online scouting of public hunting options available should be a main concern if you don’t have an easy offramp to someone’s private land. National forests, state forests, wildlife management areas and any state properties allowing hunting should be investigated. Even more importantly, dig into a state’s programs where they lease private land and open it to public hunting. Some even have lottery access to limit the hunting pressure and it may require early signup.

Other federal entities to consider include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land, Bureau of Reclamation lands on various water project sites, plus National Wildlife Refuges. Many military bases also hold hunts to help manage wildlife with public opportunities.

Fortunately, while planning an out-of-state hunt you can do much of the work from home with online assistance.
Fortunately, while planning an out-of-state hunt you can do much of the work from home with online assistance.

Scout and Set Up

A high-quality hunting app gives you the advantage of doing much of your scouting from home. If you pay for upgraded services, they also list landowner names. That comes in handy if you need to knock on doors or see how far a public parcel extends from a county road. Ownership information aside, use your hunting app to scout from home.

Using HuntStand ( as my main scouting partner, I can virtually fly over a property noting all funnels, edges, water sources and what lies across the fence on adjoining properties. With tailored marking tools on your app, you can create a roadmap to stand placement from home. That doesn’t mean you should skip a visit. If your destination is a day’s drive, consider a 3-day weekend to set some preliminary stands, drag in a fall food plot and place some cellular cameras to send updates while you return to work. Using HuntStand’s Pro Whitetail feature, you can even zero in on the best dates to hunt a specific location.

Finally, that real-world visit divulges any specific gear you may need later for the hunt. Trees could require saddles or perform better with a climbing stand. You may see more prospective options for ground blinds over treestands, and you might need hip boots to navigate a wetland setup on the far side of a slough.

Hunting out of your comfort zone across state lines doesn’t equal a huge learning curve if you devise a blueprint that covers everything from your objective to setting that first stand. Even if you skip straight to an outfitted hunt, formulate a strategy when you border jump to achieve lifetime hunting memory longevity.


Photos by Mark Kayser


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