tips for hunters—planning ahead for a successful hunt
Dr. James Earl Kennamer, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s senior vice
president of conservation programs plans his upcoming hunting season each
year, he takes his planning to a level of detail that many hunters wouldn’t
even begin to consider. It’s not just that he’s a stickler for detail,
which he is, but also the fact that Kennamer travels throughout the year
on both business and hunting trips that take him around the country.
abroad to hunt often means extra effort and planning before the hunt, but
it doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience. In fact, traveling can
open up a whole new world of opportunity and lead to the hunt of a lifetime—if
you take the time to plan ahead for success.
in places that are new to me really adds to the hunt experience,” said
Kennamer. “Part of the excitement is in planning the hunt, getting my gear
ready and thinking about what I’ll get to experience. By the time I leave,
I know I’m doing something really special and I’m as excited as a kid at
isn’t alone. Thousands of hunters travel each season to pursue wild turkeys,
deer, elk and dozens of other game species from Alaska to Florida.
fact, hunters contribute more than 1.8 billion to the U.S. economy every
year traveling to hunt around the country. If you’re not getting out and
seeing some new country every once in a while you should because you’re
missing out on some great hunting opportunities.
before you catch your flight or get in the truck headed to your new, exotic
hunting destination, there are some considerations you need to keep in
wouldn’t jump in the car and head out on a family vacation without any
planning, and you shouldn’t take a hunting trip lightly either. Traveling
can be expensive, certainly more so than driving to your neighbor’s place
on the other side of town. So take the time to make sure you are getting
what you really want out of the hunt.
the first decision you need to make, once you’ve decided on the species
you want to hunt and the general location you want to go, is to determine
whether or not you’re going to hire a guide/outfitter or go it alone.
main considerations here are budget and personal hunting style. Hunting
guides and outfitter services cost more, generally, than hunting on your
own. But they typically know the land and wildlife better that you would,
and they can often put you on game faster than you could find on your own.
They also can provide amenities and services like heated or air-conditioned
lodging with meals and showers, access to private or restricted-access
land, special license and permit opportunities, four-wheel drive vehicles
or horses, butchering and taxidermy services and other perks that can be
awfully nice when the other option is hunting on your own from a tent,
with none of those amenities and services, in an area that you hope has
abundant game, but aren’t sure.
where personal style comes in. If you like to rough it and hunt with a
real “do it yourself” sense of accomplishment, go it alone. If you want
a generally better chance of success, nicer accommodations and some support
from a professional staff, hire an outfitter.
your homework before hiring an outfitter. Use web sites, brochures and
word-of-mouth recommendations for general information on the outfitter,
but make sure you have a good discussion with them to iron out the details
of what you can really expect. Don’t skimp on questions. You have the right
to know exactly what you are paying for. Also, ask for—and take the time
to call—a few references who can tell you about their experience with a
particular outfitter. In general, more questions at this stage will make
for a better experience when you arrive to hunt.
smart, pack light
you’ve determined where you’re going and how you’ll be hunting, you need
to start gearing up. Careful planning here as well will make for a better
experience both on the way there and during the hunt. Think three things:
pack light and compactly, pack for the terrain and weather and pack efficiently
light is the rule when assembling your gear, so make a prioritized list
of what you really need to take and what you would like to take. The big
considerations here are that lighter bags will be much easier to carry
and store. Plus, airlines will charge you for overweight bags, sometimes
a lot. In addition, keep space considerations in mind if you’re traveling
and hunting with others. All of your bags might pass muster at home or
the airport, but will all those bags fit in your buddy’s SUV or the rental
van that four of you are going to have to share for days? Work out the
details ahead of time on who gets to bring what—and how much.
your list as detailed as possible. Did you remember your toothbrush? You
put down camera on your list, but did you add film and batteries? Then,
when packing your clothes, think about what the weather will be like at
your destination, and use that as your guide. Generally, pack using a layering
system that will accommodate a wide range of weather conditions from hot
to cold, and dry to wet. For instance, if you’re going on a Merriam’s hunt
in the mountainous southwest in late April, you could encounter anything
from dry, hot and sunny to cloudy, cold and wet snow flurries.
you pack in layers (base layer of mid-weight long underwear and socks,
mid-layer of cotton, wool and/or fleece pants, shirts and light jackets,
and outer layer of waterproof, breathable pants and jacket), you’ll be
prepared for all conditions without overpacking with big, bulky insulated
coats or other items you probably won’t need. This is also the time to
weed out any unnecessary items from your turkey vest, backpack or jacket
pockets. Keep only the necessities, things that you absolutely will use
during the hunt (calls, gloves, small flashlight, etc..) as well as the
emergency items you need to remain self-sufficient and safe (first-aid
kit, water bottle or purifier, energy bars, compass and GPS, etc..) Remember,
those little items really take up valuable space and can add an amazing
amount of weight to your luggage. Call someone locally, like an outfitter
or chamber of commerce office in the area, for help with what to pack.
efficient and know the rules
make sure you pack your gear efficiently and in accordance with the law.
Keep your maps, licenses, tickets, contact information, directions and
other stuff you’ll need during the trip easily accessible in a separate
small bag you can carry on with you when flying or keep in the front of
the vehicle within easy reach. This bag is also a good place to put irreplaceable
things like medications, eyeglasses, camera gear or other small, expensive
or fragile items.
with firearms and ammunition, whether flying or on the road, presents another
unique set of challenges. According to Sgt. Don Reese of the South Carolina
Highway Patrol, safety should be the first thought when carrying a firearm
in your vehicle.
most important thing to remember is to keep your firearm unloaded for safety
reasons above all else,” Reese said. “We would recommend you carry your
shotgun in your trunk. If you have a truck, behind the seat or in the bed
is best. If you have a case, we would recommend you carry your shotgun
in a case.”Since laws are different in most states, it is important to
contact the authorities in the state in which you plan to travel.
states have different laws regarding firearms in vehicles,” Reese said.
“It’s not a bad idea to check with the highway patrol just to be safe.”
some cases, the car just won’t get you there fast enough and catching a
plane is in order. Airlines will allow you to travel with a firearm, but
there are a few important items to keep in mind when traveling by plane:
or archery equipment must be stored, unloaded, in a lockable, hard-sided
arrival at the airport for check-in, you must inform the ticket agent that
you have a firearm. You will need to open the case to show that it is unloaded
and complete a short firearms declaration form that you sign and store
with the firearm during transport. If you must enter a security checkpoint
prior to check-in, be sure to inform security personnel that you have a
single gun-case with a maximum of two shotguns inside will count as one
bag of the total of three checked bags or two checked bags and a carry-on.
Additional shotguns or rifles will be assessed an excess baggage charge.
or cartridges must be stored in their original packaging or securely packed
in fiber, wood or metal boxes and transported in a checked bag. Whenever
possible, use the original packaging. No more than 11 pounds of ammunition
will be accepted.
that can be considered as explosives, weapons or cutting instruments, such
as lighters, knives, razors, etc… must also be stored and secured in checked
good measure, it is suggested to get to the airport at least two hours
early for domestic flights—even longer for international flights. Also,
be prepared to pick your gun up from airport personnel in their baggage
claim office after you reach your destination. For security reasons, many
airlines won’t put gun cases on the baggage carousel with regular baggage
after a flight arrives. Always remember that each airline may have different
firearms restrictions—and keep in mind that regulations can, and do, change.
Always call ahead or check your airline’s Web site for their latest regulations
before packing for your hunting trip.
you know what you’re going to face and plan ahead accordingly for fun and
success, a hunting trip becomes what it should be—an adventure. Planning
ahead means no surprises and will leave you with more time to hunt and
relax. Have a safe and successful season.
out the NWTF’s Turkey Call magazine for more tips on hot spots for turkeys.
Call (800) THE-NWTF or visit www.nwtf.org
to join the NWTF and receive one of NWTF’s great magazines.
National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) is a great resource for turkey
hunting tips and other wild turkey information. Visit the NWTF’s website
at www.nwtf.org for information or call
(800) THE-NWTF to become a NWTF member and receive one of our great magazines
filled with turkey hunting tips and stories.
About the NWTF: In 1973 when
the National Wild Turkey Federation was founded, there were an estimated
1.3 million wild turkeys and 1.5 million turkey hunters. Thanks to the
work of state wildlife agencies and the NWTF's many volunteers and partners,
today there are an estimated 5.4 million wild turkeys and approximately
2.6 million turkey hunters. Since 1985, more than
$135 million NWTF and cooperator
dollars have been spent on over 15,000 projects benefiting wild turkeys
throughout North America.
The NWTF is a 390,000-member
grassroots, nonprofit organization with members in 50 states, Canada and
11 foreign countries. It supports scientific wildlife management on public,
private and corporate lands as well as wild turkey hunting as a traditional
North American sport.