Big Country and Big Opportunities | September Hunting
The West isn’t just wild country, it’s big country. Not to mention, a place many big game hunters’ dreams are made of. Whether looking ahead to an annual trek with family and friends, or longing to finally be pulled from a lottery they’ve faithfully entered year after year, outdoorsmen are drawn by the terrain, the quarry, and the challenge this area of the country has to offer. Thankfully, September hunting opportunities abound in the West.
But if you aren’t one of the lucky ones who call somewhere West of the Mississippi home, planning and pulling off a hunting trip to a far-off state can be downright daunting. Even if you’re determined to make the trip happen, it’s tough to know where to start. Lucky for you, the Brotherhood has planned a hunting trip or two out of state, and we’ve got a few suggestions that might make it a bit easier for you to get the ball rolling, regardless of where you’re headed.
Mapping Apps for September Hunting
Today’s technology lends a helpful hand to out-of-state hunters, especially those planning DIY hunts, rather than working with an established outfitter. No matter what, if you’re from outside the area (or another state entirely), showing up with basic knowledge of your location and a game plan for taking it on is a must. Sure, it helps with getting your tag punched, but it’s also necessary for your own safety and the safety of anyone else you’re hunting with.
- Google Maps is a great place to start planning your trip from afar. Not only is it free, it’s easy to navigate and manipulate, letting you locate bodies of water, roadways, and varying topography – from mountains to forests. The system lets you adjust your zoom as needed and even provides directions to best reach any points of interest you identify.
- Scouting Apps like BaseMap offer mapping software that can be used on your computer, smartphone, tablet, and some handheld GPS units as well. These apps define what land is private and what’s public, provide landowner names and contact information, identify property boundaries, show thousands of miles of trails, roads and two-tracks, and even come with options for different layers to be added, which show everything from access points to game check stations. Plus, you can mark and save waypoints to be reviewed later – even if you’re offline or without service – and mark them with easy-to-identify graphics.
- Make Contact – landowners and area outfitters, namely. Even if you’re not planning to ask about permission to hunt private ground, these folks know the area, the land, the people and the animals better than anyone and can be invaluable resources while you work on getting your bearings. Use your hunting apps and Google Maps to find property owners that share boundaries with public land you’ll be hunting, then reach out to ask questions about weather, terrain, water sources, herd movements and locations, and whatever else might be helpful as you continue the planning process
- Conservation Officers and Game and Parks Departments are other great resources we recommend exploring in advance. These organizations and their staff are dedicated to driving conservation efforts and enforcing wildlife laws, which makes them fantastic resources. Officers are often assigned specific areas within a state to work and are experts not only on rules and regulations, but also on game populations, locations, and other recommendations when it comes to hunters looking to not only fill tags, but to do so while making an effort to uphold all local conservation efforts and stipulations as well.
- Hunting Guides and Planners are often specific to hunting seasons or outdoor pursuits (think big game guide, fishing guide, etc.), and possess information about season dates, species identification tips, bag limits, and more. These publications are often available online through the Game and Parks Department and printed versions are often available to be mailed upon request. The Department of Agriculture and state tourism websites are another valuable resource for those needing information on outfitters, lodging, and more.
September Hunting Destinations
As expected, regulations and processes for obtaining various tags and embarking on a hunt – especially a DIY endeavor – as an out-of-state hunter are different everywhere you look. While some states open their big game lotteries up to non-residents, others allocate a total of zero tags outside of those reserved for folks living there year-round, and for a usual minimum time of 6 months, to boot. Here are a few western states with prime September hunting opportunities, and what it typically takes to get a tag in your hand:
Primarily a draw state for big game hunters, Colorado is rich in game, flush with outfitters willing to guide you on your hunt, and packed year-round with people – residents and visitors – who enjoy being outdoors. Deer, elk, moose, bear, and antelope drawings are held annually and, as a sweet little bonus, all non-resident big game licenses, when drawn, also include an annual fishing license.
A great September hunting location, non-resident hunters can buy most big game tags over the counter – including deer, elk and black bear – for use during the appropriate season. Tags go on sale on specified dates and remain available until sold out and the tag quota/limits are reached. Mountain lion, sage grouse, and sandhill crane tags are also offered, for those after something a step beyond the usual selection.
The definition of rugged and wild, Montana is probably best known for the opportunities it offers at hunting elk and having run-ins with grizzly bears. Non-residents are welcome to apply for one of the state’s combination licenses for a shot at a mixed bag of September hunting opportunities, including elk, deer, upland birds, and even a fishing license.
In Nebraska, most seasons are open to non-resident hunters, either via lottery drawing or over-the-counter purchase of a tag. The state also offers some pretty unique once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like the multi-species super tag and combo lotteries, in which, if drawn, hunters have the opportunity to take one elk, antelope, and deer of either sex, as well as two turkeys (super tag) within two years’ time; or one antelope and deer of either sex and two turkeys (combo), also good for two years.
- New Mexico
Here too, many tags are available over the counter for both residents and non-residents. Trophy elk units tend to be the big draw to New Mexico for non-residents, but deer, antelope, javelina, and exotics like Barbary sheep and ibex, also call it home – thanks to the state having some of the flattest land and some of the most impressive mountains in the United States.
Wyoming is home to more resident antelope than people, and is attractive to out-of-state outdoorsmen for that very reason – there’s a lot of game, a lot of country, and a minimal amount of human beings to bump into. The state offers antelope, elk, and deer lotteries for various units across the state and is home to a large number of outfitters as well, making it a tough one to stay away from. Not ready to put your name in the hat for a lottery with a $600-plus entry fee? No problem. In draw states like this, your best shot at drawing comes from racking up points – preference and bonus points – which go on sale once a year and are much more affordable. The more points you’ve accumulated by the time you’re ready to enter a draw, the better shot you have of drawing that trophy tag.
One thing’s for sure when it comes to an out-of-state DIY hunt, there’s a whole lot of planning (and painstaking packing, budgeting, saving, shopping, preparation) involved. But believe us when we tell you that after your first September hunting experience out West, you’ll be hooked for life – whether your tag ends up notched or not. This big country breeds big opportunity for hunters, major excitement for non-residents, and offers fun, challenges, and adventure like nowhere else on Earth.