Planning an Out-of-State Hunt

Much like anything in life, preparation plays a big role in your hunting success. Often, our time afield can be limited, and planning an out-of-state hunt can be somewhat of a headache. Simplifying the process by breaking things down into a solid plan can help a tremendous amount. Time can be a friend or enemy, and preparing for next year’s out-of-state hunt now, rather than later, might be the difference between success or failure.

Pre-Hunt Scouting

Oddly enough, the pre-hunt phase of preparation for me begins right after my normal hunting season. If I’m planning an out-of-state public land hunt, my goal is to gather as much information as possible on the lands I want to hunt. I do this as soon as hunt season ends and while there is still fresh sign on the ground. Come January and February, while some states may have snow, I try relentlessly to get my boots on the ground to look at the literal wildlife canvas of animal sign left behind from the recent hunting season.

In any given hunting season, I will hunt no less than four states. I do not own any of my own property in Pennsylvania, so I do what I can afford by finding parcels of land that show the best potential, both in state and out of state. To find the ground that interests me most, I use the onX Hunt App and have an Elite Membership. Being an Elite Member lets me find public land in any state in the country (Elite Members get all Layers and maps for all 50 states, exclusive discounts on top hunting brands, and some of the best application tools available from Huntin’ Fool, TopRut, and HuntReminder). With my Membership, I see the boundaries of public land, along with neighboring private parcel boundaries and their ownership info in case I want to seek permission to hunt there.

Find Land Ownership Info with onX Hunt
onX Hunt allows you to see private land boundaries and landowner information for your next out-of-state hunt.

As I begin my search, I’m looking for both large and small tracts of land that offer diversity. Anything that appears to be the farthest away from highways or main roads usually grabs my attention first, as well as properties that border agricultural land that may offer extended forage for whitetails during the harsh winter months. If I can see a possible haven from a bird’s-eye view, I save it and prepare for my boots-on-the-ground scouting immediately after my hunting season ends in order to be prepared for the next season.

Plotting Deer Sign

When I arrive at these locations, I’ve come prepared by having already marked several locations with Waypoints to home in on when I get there. Sometimes, the bird’s-eye view doesn’t reveal everything there is to know about these places, so getting boots on the ground is very important. As I walk the property, deer tracks and heavily used deer trails are marked as I use the Tracker feature of the Hunt App. As I move about the property, I’ll also look for bedding areas and low-level browse with deer droppings. I’ll mark producing fruit trees and oaks. Most importantly, however, I’m looking for rubs. Scrapes are important and I love them for gathering intel using trail cameras, but when I find an area that is torn up with buck rubs, I know a mature buck frequents that area and often beds nearby. Scrapes are usually made by more mature bucks, 2.5-years-old and older, and although rubs are made by all bucks, when I find a spot that appears to have several, maybe more than 10 sizable rubs, in a very small area this indicates to me that a good buck may actually be bedded nearby. If he isn’t bedded close, I know he at least frequents the area and the odds begin to stack in my favor for the next season.

buck scrapes

Out-Of-State Hunting Licenses

Whether or not I was able to get boots on the ground in these out-of-state locations the year before, I always need to ensure I know and understand the state and local laws concerning hunting in these areas. I highly recommend taking the time to learn the rules and regulations for each state you plan to hunt, and, if at any time you have a question, call directly to the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Social media is a great place to share and ask questions to ensure you are doing things correctly. However, obtaining a regulations handbook and having a phone number or email available will be much more reassuring for your trip. Additionally, onX Hunt Elite Members get access to TopRut, Huntin’ Fool, and HuntReminder to ensure that you always have the best information and the tools you need to draw the tags you want year after year.

In conjunction with knowing and understanding the rules and regulations, I always triple check to make sure I have all the necessary licenses and tags to complete my hunt. Several times in the past, I have traveled, thinking I had what was required, but ended up not being able to hunt because I didn’t have the correct tag or having to purchase additional stamps or tags to complete my hunting trip. Get familiar with the state’s rules and regulations, as this could be the difference in an enjoyable hunt or no hunt at all. After getting licensing squared away, I start thinking about clothes for the trip.

Pack for Extreme Weather Changes

If you are anything like me and live a busy lifestyle, you’ll find yourself packing for your trips roughly 12 hours before you leave. If you have what you need ahead of time, though, it’s a big stress reducer. If I’m flying, I’m limited on what I can bring, so I pack for three extremes: very cold, very wet, and very warm, regardless of what state I am hunting. I always pack my regular clothes in a smaller carry-on and my hunting clothes usually in my largest Scent Crusher bag, which doubles as my mobile clothes washer to keep as clean and as scent-free as possible. If you prepare for mild hunting conditions or solely based on the forecast, I can assure you it will change. If you prepare for the extremes, there is a good chance you may not use all of what you packed but you will thank yourself if you have what you need.

Hunting and Gathering

My goal overall is to increase my odds and minimize my time hunting. To do this successfully, I’ve found that I need to spend more time scouting and analyzing data than I do hunting. So once I’m on location to hunt, and to increase my percentage of scouting time, I am constantly scouting even while I am hunting. One of the best scouting tools is my phone, and I take lots of pictures of deer sign. One of the most helpful features of the Hunt App is saving the actual pictures of buck sign I find as customized Waypoints. Using onX Hunt at base camp, home, or in the field, I can visualize the data that I have saved along the way and organize it using onX Hunt’s Folder feature. These Folders are organized into pre-season scouting, during-the-hunt data collection, and if I return after the hunting season for postseason scouting. This allows me to hide information in a folder or select to see it all at the same time. While hunting and adding current intel, I can begin to visualize an area over time that has consistent patterns of deer sign or realize the sign I found was only done by one buck and the area wasn’t as productive as I may have initially thought. It’s also highly motivating in the late season, when I get a little tired, to go back and look through pics of those concentrations of big rubs and possibly trail cam pictures of mature deer I’ve added along the way. This may be the push I need to get out there one more time—at the right time and in the right place.

No matter if you plan on hunting in one of your bordering states or hop on a plane and fly across the country, there is no worse feeling than being unprepared. Understanding the state’s rules and regulations is critically important, especially in lottery and draw tag states. Additionally, knowing the properties you will be hunting, their borders, and bordering private landowners are of equal importance. Overall, your success will pivot on two things, luck and preparation. Those who are lucky can have a fun trip and make out well. For those who are prepared, you’ll be more consistently prepared and ready for whatever comes your way as you travel out-of-state to hunt. I prefer the latter. Good luck out there!

Plan your Next Hunt with onx Hunt
Traveling to another state to hunt? Use onX Hunt to help get the lay of the land.
Dustin Prievo

Dustin Prievo

Dustin Prievo is a true deer hunter’s writer. A ‘no fluff’ learn-by-trial-and-error kind of hunter, he is the founder of Mid-Atlantic Whitetail Solutions which develops solutions to balancing deer herds across suburban and rural properties in the mid-Atlantic region. His company allows him to have access to more than 3,000 acres of private land that hold some giant whitetails, yet he still travels across several states to hunt public land just to challenge himself to be the best overall deer and turkey hunter he can possibly be.