Plan Your Best Fall Hunting Season: Four Factors for Success

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Hunting seasons have long passed, the temperatures are brisk, and our imaginations run wild with the possibilities of next fall. While most would consider this the off-season, it’s far from it. It’s really the pre-season, otherwise known as application season. What you do now sets you up for success some six months from now.

A hunter looking through binoculars with an onX Hunt hat on

With that said, there are a lot of moving parts to setting up a fulfilling fall hunting season, especially if you’re thinking of venturing out of state. Things like budget, time allocation, and scouting are just a few things that need to be considered. So, while I’m a firm believer in there being way more than one way to skin a cat, I’m going to lay out what I believe are some key factors to pay attention to that will help pave the way for you to set up your best fall season yet.

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Route, plan, and navigate with private and public land boundaries, 3D satellite and topographic Basemaps, Offline Maps, and hunt-specific layers such as historic wildfires, possible access, GMUs, and much more.

Time Allocation

Time allocation from one person to the next is going to be different. Some folks will be able to dedicate a whole month or even more to a hunt, and others will only have a week. This is the first thing you need to hash out before planning.

More goes into a trip than just hunt days. There could be multiple travel days on each end. A seven-day trip might only be five days of hunting. You might consider flying versus driving to save some time. Another thing to keep in mind is that there may be a mandatory check-in depending on the state and species. Make sure to leave time for that.

A hunter packing out from a hunt

Also, if you are hunting big critters like elk or moose, this is going to take multiple trips of packing if you’re solo. That’s time and then even more time if you’re backpack hunting. Because of that, you’ll either have to be prepared to possibly stay an extra day to pack or set a rule to not shoot an animal past a certain day.

Obviously, the more time you can get the better. Just because you might be limited on time though, doesn’t mean you can’t have a good fall. You’ve just got to be a bit more savvy.

Budget

What you’ll need to line out here for budget—no matter the size of your wallet—is tag, gas/travel, food, gear, and possibly taxidermy. Tag prices are set in stone, so you can see exactly what that’s going to be right off the rip. If money is tight, look into black bear and whitetail deer tags. And while gas prices fluctuate, you can get a ballpark for pricing throughout your route ahead of time. Average that out per mile to get a rough idea. In terms of gear, there’s a difference between what you need and what you may want, so keep that in mind. Lastly, we all want to be successful, so we should plan for that by having a plan for taxidermy. Research what different mounts/tanned hides cost and know that going into your hunt.

A mounted skull from a past hunt

When I really started trying to fill up my fall with as many hunts as possible, I had a pretty tight budget. I remember setting aside $100 a month for a whole year to pay for my first out-of-state elk hunt. To do it, I cut out other things in my life like eating out. I’d also do little side jobs here and there making as little as $50 to help pay for gas. As for gear, borrow, rent, and hit the classifieds. Aside from that elk hunt, I hunted a ton locally to fill up my fall too. Sometimes that meant getting to a trailhead at midnight so I could hunt the whole next day. It can be done. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Definite Hunts vs. Maybe Hunts

A key strategy I’ve always used to plan my fall seasons is knowing the hunts I’m going steady with vs. the ones that may not call me back. And really what that comes down to is OTC/0 point hunts vs. draw tags that are not guaranteed. All of this can be organized and made visible via the onX Hunt Research Tools. You’ll get a breakdown of what hunts are aces in the hole and that you can plan 100% on, as well as how many points will be needed to draw those more coveted tags.

Close up shot of antlers

Both OTC and draw options offer a hunter the ability to plan a fulfilling fall hunting season. OTC hunts offer fantastic opportunities to not only get in the field regularly but also to learn certain areas year after year. And then adding those draw tags into the mix will help spice things up and break up the monotony. Schedule and e-scout for your definite OTC hunts now and plan for your draw tags based on the points game for later.

E-Scouting

We’ve talked about time allocation towards our hunting seasons. That time didn’t account for any scouting. Unless you’re hunting in your home state and have easier access to your hunting areas, going out of state just to scout is simply not an option for many people. That’s where the power of e-scouting comes in.

Hunter using onX Hunt in the field

I fall under the group that cannot go out of state to scout for hunts. Because of that, e-scouting has become a regular strategy of mine year after year. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there, spent in onX Hunt marking areas of interest, access points, private land boundaries, mapping out hikes, where the roads are/where they’re not, and just getting a general lay of the land will go a long way.

Something that I’ve found incredibly helpful in getting the most accurate data out of my e-scouting is truly learning about the animal I’m hunting. Read biology reports, and books on the species, and watch videos going over their day-to-day habits throughout the year. Knowing this information helps me narrow down where to look and where to not given the time of year I plan on hunting.

If you’re starting from absolute scratch, I highly suggest utilizing the Wildlife Layers Feature within onX Hunt. It’ll give you insight into things like general species distribution and Boone and Crockett entries per species per area.

Closing Remarks

Hunter with a downed deer

Looking at a fall hunting season as a whole can get quite overwhelming. Between the huge span of time, diving into regulations, and sifting through all of the possibilities, it’s really easy to get discouraged. Here’s the thing though: A person only has so many fall hunting seasons in their life. Do the work now and reap the benefits down the road.

Josh Kirchner

Josh Kirchner is the author of the book Becoming a Backpack Hunter, as well as the voice behind the brand Dialed in Hunter. Through informative articles and eye-catching/uplifting films, he hopes to inspire other hunters to chase and achieve their goals. Josh is a passionate hunter who has been hunting with his family since he was a small boy. When he is not chasing elk, deer, bear, and javelina through the diverse Arizona terrain, he is spending time with his wife, daughter, herding dog, and mischievous cat.