Hunting Back Up Plans

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As I detailed in some of my drawing strategy articles earlier in the year, we built in a lot of different “what if” type scenarios into our applications.  Just as importantly, since most of our choices would not be guaranteed, we needed to properly plan the draws so that we did not end up with conflicting tags.  We’re now in the middle of the drawing periods, where I know of everything but my Wyoming results and the Colorado antelope draw.

I’ll get into some of our draw results here in a minute, but the real impetus for writing this article is a reminder that Wyoming allows you to alter your deer and antelope applications up until June 3rd.  Unfortunately, I needed to do this because two of my California friends just called to say they weren’t going to be able to make it out to Wyoming this fall.  I understand the finite nature of time and money, and while disappointing, I’m glad they called now, instead of in two months. Thankfully, they called in time for me to modify my apps. 

I spent several trips scouting the prospective deer and antelope units this past winter in Wyoming, and decided to leave my first choice deer application alone.  I’d love to deer hunt that unit, I’ve already sent in the money, so why not give it a whirl.  If I draw, I’ll be hunting it by myself in all likelihood, which won’t be the first or last time I do that.  But I did alter my second choice, which was for the neighboring region general license.  I was a lot less excited about hunting a general unit, but figured it would be fun to do with my friends if they drew.  To me, that license isn’t nearly as valuable without having friends along.

I also modified my antelope application to my usual units, which I will be able to hunt with other friends.  I was looking forward to trying out some new country with even greater antelope density and more public land.  But, there’s always next year. 

It’s Memorial Day weekend, when I’d normally like to get even more serious about my scouting, but we had a few special events come up, which is precluding me from getting out and snooping around my new units.  Thankfully, we got a full weekend of scouting in alongside a turkey hunt two weeks ago, and I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go back to my 3rd season unit.  As I mentioned in the “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is “article, we needed a unit that would was OTC for elk, and could be drawn with 0 points for deer.  We probably saw 200 deer and a handful of elk while turkey hunting there, but no turkeys.  We ended up moving the operation as soon as we finished our scouting, and actually managed to kill a turkey through a little luck and a little skill.

The Utah and Nevada draws are now done too, and I am licenseless for those states, which is going to allow me more time to focus on getting my girlfriend a deer and possibly bull elk.  She drew a 2nd season deer tag and a 4th season cow elk tag.  This opens up the chance of her adding an OTC bull tag to that deer hunt, or if her schedule opens up a little more, she might be able to OTC bull hunt with me in 3rd season.  She will not be able to add a bull elk tag or any sort of deer tag for her 4th season cow elk hunt.  Personally, I’d rather she doubled up on tags for 2nd season, so I can focus on helping her, rather than trying to get her an elk while I’m deer or elk hunting.  Because I did not draw the muzzleloader bull tag that I was hoping for, I have the option of adding an OTC bull tag for her deer and maybe-elk hunt, then focusing solely on deer during 3rd season.

 I’m not a big fan of 2nd season deer hunting, nor am I excited about the pressure in that unit, but I am excited about the prospects of getting her into some high density deer and elk country.  This is going to take some serious scouting to really narrow down our spots, as I’ve already got a long list of places I’d like to hunt.  We also need to prioritize as some places are elkier than deer flavored. 

There is quite a lot of variety available for this hunt, from low altitude pinyon-juniper country to high altitude mesas pushing 11,000 feet.  There are no classic mountain peaks and very little heavy timber, even on the north and east facing slopes.  Additionally, there is no federally designated wilderness.  Just as importantly, I need to see how hard she’s willing to hunt and which kind of country she’d like to focus on. 

Her priorities are to get an elk, but her best chance won’t happen until 4th season, which means she will still be elkless on the 2nd season opener.  I will be taking her antelope hunting in Wyoming, so there’s a good chance she will have some meat in the freezer already.  As she has less interest in deer, she says she’d rather hold out for a good buck while continuing to elk hunt instead of shoot a young buck. We’ll see when or if the moment of truth arrives if she’s able to hold off of the trigger.

More than likely, I will still be elkless by the time 2nd season rolls around too, as what I feared is coming true for my muzzleloader hunt.  I did not draw the bull tag, and neither did anyone else.  So, this is going to be an expensive, high effort, low probability meat hunt.  Should still be a ton of fun doing this backcountry hunt and getting in close to rutting bulls, but I need the prospect of antlers for someone in the party to keep my motivation high.  As another alternative, I could return my cow muzzleloader tag in favor of an archery bull tag.  I’m not excited about that prospect either, but, it would allow me a month of hunting, and I could still do that muzzleloader trip, just armed with an inferior weapon.  And since, I’m no fan of combo hunts, it would allow me to focus my efforts on getting that buck in 3rd season.  If I was to exchange my muzzleloader cow tag in favor of an archery bull tag, that would also open up an opportunity for a late season cow tag in leftovers, which I’m always in favor of.

So there you have it, my “what if” and backup plan scenarios for 2011.  The draw is supposed to help us decide on our options, and while I certainly feel like there are fewer options than I had back in the spring, I also feel like we should be committed to a few hunts by now.  I’ll keep you updated as we scout this year and narrow down our decisions.  


groovy mike's picture

I totally believe in having a plan, a back up plan, and another!

WesternHunter – good luck to you and your girlfriend (and everybody else) in your multi-state drawing strategies and applications.  I totally believe in having a plan, a back up plan, and a back up – back up plan in hunting and in everything else.  I think that the rule of one is none, two is one, and three is just right applies to most everything important enough to plan for.   That said I take what seems to be the reverse approach to my planning over yours.  It seems that your plans are far the possible tags you might draw and back up plans of getting other limited draw tags. My plan is always to hunt close to home with over the counter tags and HOPE that I have to change them when I draw something through an application processes.  I will plan to (God willing) hunt turkey, geese, and white tail deer in New York State this fall.  I’ll also chase mule deer with an over the counter tag in the state of Washington.  But should I be fortunate enough to draw a moose tag in the state of Maine or in the state of New Hampshire, then everything else goes on hold and works around moose season.  A moose tag has priority, but the liklihood of actually drawing one is so small that I can not plan on it.  It is more of a contingency plan than a front line plan even though drawing a tag catapults hunting in those states to top priority if and when a tag is actually drawn.  So I think of the over the counter tags as my primary plan and the moose hunts as a secondary / contingency option.  Ironically this is a time when the back up plan is what I hope for!

Cobble's picture

My "Main Plan" and "Back Up"

My "Main Plan" and "Back Up" plan have both failed, (2 Mtn. states)... still  working on my 2nd Back-Up: or CO "Contingency plan"... while waiting on 2 states'- what I'm calling "Shoot the Moon" plan. (Asian Elk/ Sambar Deer in FL, & NR TN hunt in Cumberland WMA)... Good Luck to everyone, I hope you are doiong better than I am.

hunter25's picture

Your back up plans are far

Your back up plans are far more well thought out than mine are for sure. I do plan to make sure I don't overlap hunts at all if possible but do a little on occasion. It has never been a problem yet though as I rarely draw the good stuff unless I know for sure I have the points going in to get the tag. I have never not drawn my buck tag in my home unit and have not really branched out from there yet. Even in Wyoming after researching the draw odds we have gotten buck antelope tags every year in the earliest season but not always in units with a lot of public, just enough to get by though. Other than that my back up plan is to run to another state for something like hogs or now the last couple of years deer hunting in Texas. Not drawing some tags is what got me to book an aoudad hunt for next March down there as well.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

As always I had a back up

As always I had a back up planned out this year when I went theu al the application processes, I was just hoping I would not have to fall back on them for the second year in a row.  I may have to venture out and find me another spot that does not take any points to draw as I am saving mine, but still hold a good number of elk to give me a fighting chance at taking a nice cow....I like the cows more they just taste better and I have to get into the trophy huntng...maybe someday.