When to Go On an Out of State Whitetail Hunt
Many hunters choose to hunt in states other than their own. I hunt in my home state, but also love to go on out of state hunts when the opportunity arises. After all, to kill big deer, you have to go where big deer are. It can be hard to pick a state to go to, but once you finally figure out where you want to go, you have to figure out when to go. We obviously want to be in the stand during the rut, but the rut is not the same across the country. Plus there are plenty of other things to consider when going out of state. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
Out of State Restrictions
After you do all the hard work of figuring out which state you are going to hunt in, you need to check to see if there are any restrictions for out-of-state hunters. Some states do not allow out-of-state hunters to hunt during certain periods. So if you plan on hunting in a state you need to know if these restrictions exist and not just look at the season dates for the state as a whole.
Another thing to consider is the weapon you want to use. If you are a bow hunter you will be able to hunt early in the season everywhere. Although if you want to use a rifle, there are a lot more restrictions. For example, in my home state of Georgia, rifle season is open from mid-October to Mid January. While in Michigan, where I hunt as well, rifle season is only a couple of weeks in mid-November.
These restrictions start to add up. So you need to keep track of them and see when you are actually allowed to hunt. Then you should have a handful of weeks that you can go hunting. Then you just have to consider your own availability and estimated deer activity.
You cannot hunt more days than you can get off from work, so that is the first obstacle. Assuming that you can get at least a week or 3 days off work plus a weekend, you should have plenty of time to bag a buck. Sometimes employers will only give you certain days or weeks off, so if you can not get the peak rut week off, I feel for you but you have to work.
The good news is that deer live in the woods year-round, and you can kill them any week of the season. Between knowing the out-of-state hunter restrictions, weapon season restrictions, and work restrictions, we are really just playing an elimination game.
Another thing to think about is whether or not you plan on hunting in your home state as well. You have to decide early which state you are going to be in during the rut, but an awesome fact about the rut is that it is different around the country.
If the peak rut in the state you picked to hunt is the third week of November, well maybe you can hunt in your home state (after work) during the first week of November. We all want to hunt as much as possible, so let’s take a look at when the rut is across the country and when the best time to go out of state is.
Picking a Phase to Hunt
Buckmasters.com has an awesome article about when the peak rut is for each state. I got this graphic from their article, and you can see just how popular November is in the northern half of the United States. Although when you get into the southern states, in orange, the timing of the rut starts to vary.
In Georgia, some counties have their peak rut as early as October 12, while others are as late as January 1st. It is a similar story for the other orange states. So if you really wanted to optimize your hunting season, you could hunt the midwest in November, and then in central Texas during early December, and be hunting the peak rut the entire time.
Now that takes a lot of effort and out-of-state tags are expensive, so you are likely only going to hunt one state other than your home state. Regardless, if you can look at these maps and figure out that your home state has its peak rut during a different time than the other state you want to hunt, you should take note of that and plan your trip accordingly.
Of course, we do not always have to hunt the peak rut and big deer can be killed in the early season and pre-rut. What I like to do is spend a lot of time in the early season hunting in my home state. October is a great time to harvest a buck, especially after a cold front comes in. Although those weather patterns can be hard to predict weeks or months in advance. So it is easier to hunt them close to home.
I typically hunt the days that have favorable weather patterns in my home state during the early season and pre-rut. Since I only get a week out of state, I try to hunt the peak rut. Although in Michigan that is between November 6th and the 15th, and rifle season starts on the 15th. Then it sounds like a war zone, so bow hunting gets much harder. Instead, I choose to bow hunt the week before the 15th. Getting in there before the rifle hunters is very beneficial and just one more thing to think about.
Make a Plan B
There are plenty of things that can go wrong when planning out-of-state hunts. After you figure out all the restrictions, rut dates, and your own availability, you have to plan this big trip. These trips have a lot of moving parts, which I am sure most of you already know.
Long story short, do not get too focused on a single week or set of a few days. Figure out your second choice of dates and have a backup plan. This will keep your season from being busted if plan A doesn’t work out, otherwise, those hunting dates are passing by and you have no plan for getting out in the stand.
There are quite a few things to think about when planning an out-of-state trip, most importantly is when you should go. The first thing you want to do is figure out the exact season dates, and when your preferred weapon is allowed. Then you need to find out if there are any out-of-state hunter restrictions. That should give you a handful of weeks to choose from.
Then we are going to look at the rut maps to figure out when the peak rut is supposed to be. That week will be our go-to week. Although if you can not get off that week, I would choose the week before the rut rather than after.
Written by Patrick Long of Omega Outdoors