Starting out- advice welcome

TWT

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Jan 26, 2016
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Oklahoma
I am 26 and about to graduate from veterinary school, finally in a position to start applying for hunts and points. I was wondering if any of you have words of wisdom about the draws, what you would do if you could go back, etc. I realize the long odds for some hunts and the possibility of never drawing, but someone has to draw every year.

Also, how would you go about accumulating gear if you could start from the beginning. I'm a fan of things that last. I've currently been watching for really good deals on things. Figure in a few years I'll have shortened the list of things I need when I finally get to go on a western hunt. Got a pair of 10x42 Vortex Diamondbacks last week for $80.

In Oklahoma born and raised. Hunt whitetails, turkey, hogs, waterfowl, upland, and small game in OK and Texas. Appreciate any responses.
 

Gerald Martin

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Jul 3, 2009
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First of all identify what species you want to hunt the most. Then decide which states interest you. I'm assuming your budget for drawing tags is not unlimited so you will need to decide what you want to hunt.

There is a wealth of information available in this forum about the specifics of each states drawings. Once you make your decisions about what to hunt, where to hunt, the how to get it done is easily accomplished by searching prior threads or asking specific questions. I can't imagine there is any specific question about the draws of any state that someone on here can't answer.

My biggest word of wisdom is at the age of 26 do not get so hung up on the idea that you must have a premium tag to have a great hunt. Start hunting every year in states that offer OTC tags or very easy draws. Montana, Colorado, and Idaho immediately come to mind as places you can have a quality hunt for elk every year. Your chance of shooting a big bull by hunting every year in average areas is much better than waiting for a good tag and hunting once with no experience in a good area. Plus, you will be learning to elk hunt, and by the time you have enough points to draw good tags, you will have the necessary experience to make the most of a premium tag.

You might even find during the process that your preferred species to hunt changes and adapt your drawing strategy to reflect that.
 

mtmuley

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Jan 11, 2009
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montana
Congrats on finishing vet school. Was my dream, but I didn't follow through. Gerald gave solid advice. Good luck. mtmuley
 

Colberjs

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Sep 3, 2013
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Eastern, OK
Hello. Fellow Okie here. What part of Ok are you from? I live in Easterm OK near Eufaula dam.

Randy made a handy guide book to understanding the draws and certain point systems of certain states with lots of good advice on the application process. Not sure where to find it online but I think inhale it as a PDF on my iPad. If you want to PM me your email address I'll try to send it to you tomorrow.
 

nrpate05

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Jan 5, 2015
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I'm not very knowledgeable on the draw systems of different states, but there is a bunch of info on this site about that. Also, check out Randy's youtube channel. He lays it out pretty clearly. I would definitely do an OTC hunt as soon as you can swing it. They tend to be tougher hunts than special draw but its a good way to gain knowledge that can only come from being in the field. That will help you immensely when you do draw a tag you really want. As far as gear, you can get by with good hiking/backpacking clothing and gear. Figure out what you really need and what you can get by with. Bino's are a great place to start. Think about good boots and a sturdy pack next. Those are things you definitely don't want to skimp on.
 

TWT

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Jan 26, 2016
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Location
Oklahoma
I appreciate the advice. I'll be talking to some buddies about getting an OTC hunt together asap.
 

kansasdad

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Jul 30, 2011
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Wichita
TWT one thing to remember is that sometimes its not what you know, but WHO you know. As the son of a veterinarian, I watched my dad work the system for info and sometimes access onto hunting and fishing properties. At first you will know your classmates and more or less have only OSU contacts. Stretch your horizons as you go to Vet Meetings and CE. I'm guessing that various online Vet forums will almost certainly have sportsmen's threads (I know my dental forums do at least)
 

TWT

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Jan 26, 2016
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Oklahoma
Read my mind kansasdad. I am going to NE Colorado for the second year in a row this May to AI some heifers for a guy. Sterling area. No elk there but they have mulies.
 

LopeHunter

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May 31, 2007
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2,842
Location
MO-->CA-->NW-->AZ&NW
The points game is expensive and frustrating. What are your goals? Free-range organic meat in the freezer? One of each big game species in the West? Record books? A pile of critters each fall?

I have a goal to hunt a bighorn ram on a tag drawn in the West. In some states, if I am buying a hunting license in order to apply for a ram tag then the cost to also apply for other species is nominal. An example is Nevada. I am at a point in life where have discretionary funds and apply in most of the Western states for most species.

In the past 20 years, have spent around $30,000 in the draw process. That does not count tags I draw or gasoline to get to hunts, etc. I have drawn about 40 tags with most of those after the first 8 years of applying. I could have drawn a lot more tags but I focus on hunts where few tags, ample public land and high success rates on mature animals.

I got "lucky" to be in the first year of Wyoming implementing a NR point system for pronghorn/deer/elk and drew a very good pronghorn tag in Year 1, very good elk tag in Year 2 and very good deer tag in Year 9.

Have drawn elk in OR, WA, WY and AZ. Have drawn deer in NV, OR, ID, AZ, KS, WY, CO and NM. I have drawn pronghorn in NV, OR, WY, UT, MT, TX and NM. I have drawn 2 mountain goat tags and a ewe bighorn tag. Have drawn alligator and aoudad ram in TX for a change of pace. No bighorn ram, no moose and no bison tags drawn yet.

Have bought a landowner deer in CO and OTC deer in MO. Hunted feral goats in HI. Hunted alligators in FL on leftover pubic tag.

I view the WY tags as a fluke and everyone even just 1 year behind me is part of the screw job train ride.

So $30,000/20 years is $1500 could have banked then every few years bought a very nice landowner tag for deer or elk then hunted leftover pronghorn in WY and leftover Coues in AZ the other years.

The cost goes up every year on the points game and the pool of tags for NR shrinks as states change the rules for NR or cut allocations so takes a leap of faith to aggressively join the points game.

Would I get in the game if could go back 20 years if know what I know now? Yep. I am a sucker for a bighorn ram tag so would be in the game though would most likely focus on rams, pronghorn and Coues.

Will I stay in the points game? Probably will do so until I have trouble hiking with a 20 pound day pack for 5 miles a day. Might draw that ram tag this year....
 

TWT

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Jan 26, 2016
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Location
Oklahoma
LopeHunter that's how I want to do it. Would like to be putting in for the OIL tags longterm while hunting as large a variety as I can in the short.

Not hung up on record books either. While I would love to complete the North American 29, one handed, with all Booners, I am more than happy shooting mature representative animals.

Currently putting in for every category in TX and OK. I think ID and CO are next as far as points building. I realize the long odds for the big ones, but I'll be kicking myself when I'm 60 if I don't try.

Do you DIY it most of the time? Would really like to hunt on my own as much as possible.

Thanks for the replies.
 

idi1796

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Nov 23, 2015
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Bend, OR
This year I turned 30 and am in the same boat as you. I am now in a position where I could start building out of state points if I wanted to. But with all of the different research I have done I believe I am coming to the conclusion that it is not worth it, at least for me. Living in Oregon I can hunt elk every year which I have fallen in love with. Chasin them with a bow is a new love for me. I figured that I could put the money I would spend on putting in for points each year into a fund and when I get enough, go on a nice hunting trip somewhere special. At this point, with point creep and super high max points numbers I just don't see getting into the game worth it for me. If I feel like an out of state hunt like Idaho for examples, I'd rather just buy a OTC tag and go experience a new adventure in a new area and have fun doing it. But again, this is just the conclusion I have come to. Get a subscription to GoHunt. It will put tons of info at your fingertips. I'm glad I did. Have fun with all the research.
 

Gerald Martin

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Jul 3, 2009
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5,636
Applying for points in states that have bonus points like MT, or no points like Idaho is the best choice for someone starting out with no points to get into the game. You can still do OTC hunts while you wait for a better tag.
 

Six by five

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Jan 12, 2020
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Congrats on the graduation! A couple things that you may find helpful:

- Antelope is a great first Western hunt. Higher success rates than deer or elk

- When considering an elk hunt don't rule out a cow hunt. Almost always easier to draw and you get to learn the area

- In regards to points, if you pick a unit you can draw every couple years you can learn it and go back more often

Good luck and Have fun!
 

Zim

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Dec 4, 2011
Messages
752
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LaPorte, IN
I’m glad I started back when I did 1996. So much has changed. NR opportunities have shriveled, outfitter welfare expanded, publications & applicant numbers boomed. Used all paper applications in 96. The odds now on some of the early tags I drew are virtually zero. Guys getting in on the ground floor today got a whole different game. Forget about NV where thousands of squared point holders are light years ahead of you, and UT where auction tags stolen from the regular draw killed odds. Must focus on NM & ID no point draws and mediocre to lower tier units in the draw states to avoid just sending donations. After applying for 24 years I’ve learned there are a lot of over-rated and under-rated draw hunts.

One good bonus you got is your age. At 60 I got new wheels fallin off every year. At 26 focus on backpack wilderness type units to reduce your competition. You have no control over draw systems and impossible odds. But what you can control is your body. Take care of it, especially your back. Don’t lift weights that compress your spine. Don’t move stuff for people that won’t be there to pay the medical bills for chiropractic work when you are 60 like me. Guaranteed they won’t be there. Ruined my back carrying lumber & playing basketball. Don’t ever do those things. Save your back for backpack hunting. Most of the wilderness I used to backpack into was not that tough to hike in when I was 35-55. But now I can’t even risk putting the 60# pack on my back and walking flat terrain. I could end up in bed for two weeks or worse. If you focus on the more physically demanding hunts you may be very surprised by the improved quality.
 
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Bluffgruff

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Jun 23, 2019
Messages
526
I was in a similar boat a short time ago. I keep adding states, species, and hunts. Be happy to share where things are now and where I see them going. PM me if you want.
 

wllm1313

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Dec 9, 2015
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Manetheren
Honestly, if you really want to hunt MSG do as @Gerald Martin said and put in for states that have bonus point systems meaning that every year you actually have a chance to draw as opposed to states like CO where you have no chance.

That said you have a way better chance to go one one of these hunts by saving your money and hunting Alaska. Alaska is either expensive and logistically easy or relatively cheap or logistically difficult and relatively cheap.

As far as mule deer, elk, bears, and pronghorn. I'm not sure I would even start the point game. I've never drawn a tag for any of these species that required points, and I've had some phenomenal hunts.

Biggest thing I've learned over the last few years... draw tags aren't all that they are cracked up to be, don't think that just because a unit takes tons of points it's a 100% chance at a huge animal. Many draw units are draw because they are marginal habitat, or small, mostly private, or some other fact that means the landscape can't support a lot of hunters hence managers need to limit the amount of pressure they get. These factors can lead to their being older animals on the landscape, but they are just as likely to mean your quarry is few and far between and that in order to be successful you have to put in a lot of time and have a great deal of skill.

Go hunting I guess is the bottom line.
 

morley.tyler

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Jul 28, 2015
Messages
340
Location
North Idaho, Living in PDX
TWT-
Everyone is giving you points and species strategies. That's great. I'll only say that a few years ago I started buying points in WY for deer/elk/antelope, with the plan of building points for each and then drawing one per year and repeating the cycle. i.e. build 3 points for each species, draw antelope with 3 points, the next year draw deer w/ 4, the next year draw elk w/ 5, all the while starting w/ new points after the year I drew a tag... Make sense?

You also asked about gear. I'll try to focus on that... buy good gear and suck up the pain of the cost. It hurts, but only for a minute. If you're still single, buy a ton of it before marriage and kids, this cannot be emphasized enough. Life changes when you have responsibility for others and you're forced to make compromises in budgets and activities.
Camo is not important (Yes, I said it, flame away) shop REI, shop mountain brands, shop Camofire if you love Sitka, fashion is less important than function in the west.
Buy the best glass available. It cost WAY TOO much. So what? Bino's last a lifetime. Scopes last a lifetime. They are worth their weight and you'll never be sorry that you bought Leupold/Swaro/Zeiss.
You do not need to keep up w/ the Jones' when it comes to bows and rifles. Buy a great one and hunt it. Forever if you want. I go on many hunts w/ rifles that are 20-30 and 50 years old.
Have fun and tell your stories. Be a good ambassador for the sport. Don't post [email protected] pictures on [email protected]
 

wllm1313

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Dec 9, 2015
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Manetheren
Also, how would you go about accumulating gear if you could start from the beginning. I'm a fan of things that last. I've currently been watching for really good deals on things. Figure in a few years I'll have shortened the list of things I need when I finally get to go on a western hunt. Got a pair of 10x42 Vortex Diamondbacks last week for $80.

As I could afford it, one piece at a time, use what you have on hand until you can afford something good. Some of these will depend on you style of hunting, if you prefer hotels or car camp you might want different items.

My personal opinions YMMV
Optics: $500 is the sweet spot. There are some great underrated brands I think Steiner are very underrated.
Boots: If you get a quality pair of leather boots, with regular care can last you 5+ years., get good wool socks and gaiters
Pack: Kifaru or Stone glacier
Bag: Rei Magma is a great bag
Pad: Big agnes Q-Core
Clothes: gortex rain gear and a good puffy will get you through almost anything, merino base layers are worth it.

I agree with @morely.tyler camo is not important, brown/green/gray will get the job done. Buy either highend hunting gear like Stone glacier, First lite, Sitka, Kuiu, etc or just get mountaineering gear. Most of the stuff you find in cabelas/bass pro is total garbage, even for the money.
 

BraidenR

Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2018
Messages
72
Location
Utah
Also, how would you go about accumulating gear if you could start from the beginning. I'm a fan of things that last. I've currently been watching for really good deals on things. Figure in a few years I'll have shortened the list of things I need when I finally get to go on a western hunt.

Right now is a pretty good time of year. I tend to see a lot of things on sale trying to get rid of last years models. Also there are a few really good sights if you are patient that may help. Sites like camofire, or Mountain archery has highly discounted stuff. It helps if you are not a large which seems to always be sold out, but you can find good deals. Patience waiting for good deals is my own personal struggle, but they do come up. You just need to know what your looking for and be ready to act when you see it.

Good luck
 

Flatrock

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Dec 1, 2010
Messages
1,531
Location
Bismarck, ND
Gerald said it VERY well about not getting hung up on trophy units.

I'd say for the vast majority of people, they could have all the hunts they could handle by building points in Wyoming and Colorado and then throwing in some easy to get tags in MT. Like others mentioned, you could also apply in NM and ID for some random tags but those are mostly tough tags to draw.

Unless you're a bowhunter, I'd SERIOUSLY consider passing on Nevada. I have 9 points there and feel like I should just burn them and dump the state. Problem is, my draw odds are still mediocre with 9 points for most rifle hunts. Yes it has some awesome hunting but even mid-tier deer rifle tags take some time to draw and elk is very possibly a once in a lifetime tag with how long it takes to draw, then to go through the wait period and start over again on points. Yea somebody has to draw but it just isn't realistic to expect to draw a bunch of 1% tags. Of course I have a friend who that's happened to but that's been just absolutely off-the-charts unbelievably lucky.

I'd probably pass on Utah. Kind of the same thing with Nevada in that soooooooooo many of the tags take forever to draw. Even mid-tier units.

AZ might be worth it to you. Just depends on what types of hunts you're looking for.
 

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