Playing the Western big-game hunting game
If you live in the world of whitetails and they are your primary quarry, then hunt planning isn’t difficult. Even if you travel out of state, figuring out which tags you can purchase as a nonresident is usually pretty cut and dry. When it comes to Western states and big-game opportunities, this is often not the case.
For example, I’m sitting on 10 elk points in Wyoming. When I cash them in, I want to have a pile of confidence that the unit I’m hunting offers a quality experience. So not only am I researching units and time frames, but also the process of drawing a tag and understanding the regulations. This might seem straightforward, but if you spend a little time digging into Wyoming as a newcomer, it’s a nightmarish morass of general and draw units with multiple types of tags available for each offering different options.
Other states like Colorado or Idaho can be easier to navigate, but still require plenty of planning. This is true if you intend to go with an over-the-counter tag, but especially important if you decide to play the points game in any state. And if you do, understand that in many states, the point system is not your friend, although it seems like a straightforward way to eventually buy yourself into a killer hunt.
For some species, if you start now and are young, you may never, ever draw a tag because of the volume of people ahead of you. That means you could dump serious money into points for an entire lifetime with no chance of ever drawing a tag. In other instances, you might be looking at a two-decade wait, so plan accordingly.
With that stark reality out of the way, I’ll say this: If you want to hunt out west, do it. Now. You might say it’s too expensive today, but that will be true forever because the price isn’t going down. There is also very little chance that any one state will experience a huge explosion in elk or mule deer populations.
Western game represents a finite resource, which is a cash cow for the states when it comes to nonresidents. You’ll pay to play now, but it’s almost always worth it because there’s nothing quite like hunting in the mountains. And if you don’t do it now, you’ll pay more to play later, trust me.