Every year when October would roll around, my younger self would start getting excited for another deer hunt with my dad. It was something I’d look forward to every year. From the cold feet, food on the fire and deer sightings, of course; these were experiences that I couldn’t get enough of. Once it was gone, it was gone though. It left me daydreaming about visions of our next hunting trip the following year. As the Octobers ticked by, I just wanted more. More time in the field to chase my passion and immerse myself in wild places. Through that desire, I soon realized that hunting season was not as small as it seemed. There were, indeed, other opportunities to get out and hunt this whole time. I just didn’t know they were there. You won’t see what you aren’t looking for, right? Fast forward to present day and hunting has now become a year-round thing for me. No longer is it confined to the month of October. With a little homework, you can stretch your hunts throughout the whole year as well.
One of the first concerns that seems to get brought up about extending hunting season throughout the entirety of the year is cost. As someone who hunts all year long, I can confidently tell you that doing this doesn’t take a truck load of cash. I live what I consider a fantastic, but simple life, in a modest home with a modest income. My money doesn’t fly out of my hand in the direction of new clothes on the regular, fancy restaurants or lavish vehicles. It goes towards supporting myself, my family and my passion, which is hunting. Hunting trips are more important to me than an $80,000 truck or designer jeans. It’s experiences I thrive on. Not materialistic items. What I’m getting at here is that most people can afford to go on these blue collar hunting trips; they might just have to control their spending to make it happen.
Part of the reasoning behind my thinking as a youngster was due to the fact that we’d only go on hunts that we drew. These tags were acquired through us playing our luck through a lottery system. I remember hoping early in the year that we’d get drawn and get to go hunting again that coming season. It wasn’t until I got older when I realized the magic of over-the-counter (OTC) tags.
OTC tags really offer a person the ability to plan hunts out. They are your ringers in terms of opportunity. Hunts that you can count on to get you out in the field. I personally look at OTC tags as my main hunting opportunities, and anything the draw gods bless me with is a bonus. These are by no means bad hunts either. There is much speculation about OTC hunts across the West being a stress test with too many people in the field and not enough animals, giving the impression that they are less of a tag. I just don’t believe that though and it hasn’t been my experience. Some of the best hunts I get to go on each year are with OTC tags. They are gems and OTC tags are gold to someone looking for opportunity. The hunt is what you make it. Of course, I’ll still play the lottery systems, but these OTC tags are where most of my attention goes. They let me know I’m going hunting, instead of leaving me hoping I’m going to go hunting.
I mentioned that this annual hunt with my dad was a deer hunt and that’s about as far as that went. Hunting big game for us always meant going deer hunting. We never really ventured outside of deer too much. Just like my revolutionary discovery with OTC tags, opening my eyes to the different big game species that my state had to offer had opportunity written all over it. In fact, by doing this, my calendar was starting to fill up quite a bit throughout the year.
Aside from hunting deer in the fall, opening up to other species will open up opportunity throughout different times of the year. For instance, spring time means turkey and bear hunting just like fall means deer and elk hunting. And, to break it down farther, each species usually has several dedicated hunting seasons. There is both a spring and fall season for turkey and the same for bear. For deer, a person can choose to hunt them early season in velvet, the rut or even late season in the bitter cold. Elk hunting offers early seasons during the rut, cow hunts afterwards and, then, late hunts when the temperatures drop. We could go on and on here with each big game species. But between elk, antelope, black bear, mule deer, whitetail deer, blacktail deer, Coues deer, javelina, turkey, etc., along with the seasons dedicated to each of them, there are no shortage of hunting opportunities. GOHUNT's Filtering 2.0 is your key to finding these opportunity-type hunts.
On top of looking into the different species there are to hunt, another thing to open your eyes to are the different weapons. The three main weapons that folks are hunting with are rifle, bow and muzzleloader. There are seasons for each of them, usually for each species; seasons that you could very well be a part of if you choose to. By doing a little bit of homework on when these particular hunts take place, it’ll enable a person to fill in those “huntless” gaps better throughout the year. It also really allows you to mold your season how you want it. For instance, I’m mainly a bowhunter, but recognize that there are certain hunts that I could take advantage of by picking up a rifle here and there. So, I fill most of my year with archery hunts but sprinkle one or two rifle hunts in just to get out in the field more. At the end of the day, you need to hunt the way that you truly want to hunt. If that means only with a bow or only with a rifle, then that is fine. You’ll just have to do some more digging to fill in your year. Bowhunting is much easier to do this with than with a rifle or muzzleloader by the way. There’s just much more regulations surrounding gun hunting, which translates into fewer opportunities.
The willingness to head out-of-state in the name of hunting wasn’t something that hit me immediately. My home state has plenty of opportunities to hunt, but, for elk, we are definitely limited here in Arizona. That was the driving factor that caused me to want to look elsewhere. Once I did, my maps seemed to look much smaller than they once did. States didn’t look that far away anymore. For the price of gas and a long drive, I could experience many more hunts — hunts that I simply couldn’t experience regularly in the confines of my home state.
For those really looking to go the distance and take advantage of as much hunting opportunity as they can, heading out-of-state is a no brainer. Not only does it give you the chance at even more tags, but also the chance to experience different parts of the country. There are some truly amazing places out there that will steal your breath away by their sheer beauty. And once you experience them, suddenly your world gets a little bigger. No longer are you chained to one state and bound by their draw odds. Heck, draw odds aside, a person could plan all OTC hunts and have a blast out there. By going this route, you’ll know well in advance when and where you’ll be hunting, which means more time for research and map work.
Whether you live in a state that has a big game season every month of the year like Arizona or one that offers very little, spanning hunts across the whole year is very doable. For me, I’ll hunt deer and javelina in January, possibly join in on a February javelina hunt, spring bear in late March through July, fall bear and deer through August, elk in September, fall bear in October, whitetails and elk in November and, then, possibly, deer again in December. All of these are OTC tags or very easy-to-draw tags throughout the West/Midwest. I’m also happily married, a father and not a trust fund baby. Passion is what drives all of these pursuits. Some people are passionate about football or working on cars. My passion is hunting. It’s my thing. Hunting year-round just comes down to how much drive someone has to make it happen. Bottom line: if you want to hunt more, then you will.