The Adventure Cowboy


Planning a Backcountry Hunt 2

You've done your financial planning for a backcountry hunt and have a good idea of what your budget will be. Where do you want to go for your big adventure?

Part 2 – Choosing a Destination

You’ve done your financial planning for a backcountry hunt and have a good idea of what your budget will be. Where do you want to go for your big adventure?

Choosing a destination for a backcountry hunt is very exciting, but if you want the best bang for your buck, (sorry, I couldn’t help it), you need to do some homework. This process will be much easier if you are going by yourself, but planning for a group trip can be fun too. Group planning will just require a bit more patience. The process of selecting a destination is quite different depending on the size of your group, so I will describe both processes separately.

Adventure Planning – SOLO

This situation is much easier to plan because you only have to worry about one person’s schedule, physical condition, expectations, and attitude. You will decide the success of your hunt no matter where you go, and you won’t feel the pressure of trying to make sure everybody is happy.

• The first step in deciding where to go is to decide on some goals and write them down. If your goal is not written down, then it is only a wish. A goal must be written down. Wishes are subject to “someday” while “goals” have a definite date and a plan. What is your goal? What do you want to experience?

• I want to give you a word of caution right now. DO NOT set your goal around an animal’s antlers. If the trophy of a lifetime is your goal, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment, and you are probably not hunting for the right reasons. Instead, build your goals around the experience and the adventure. Adventure never disappoints.

I suggest looking for a hunt in some country that you have always dreamed about visiting. By planning a hunt in some wild country that you would love to explore, you will begin to get feelings of anticipation, and excitement that will only build as you get closer to going on this adventure. Be prepared to get a rush from planning like this. In the process, you begin to see why the old mountain men and pioneers loved to adventure out West. It gets in your soul.

A big advantage to planning a backcountry hunt based on geographical location is that this process automatically narrows your search parameters. For example, if you have decided that you would like to go to the backcountry of Montana, then you only need to research Montana’s hunting regulations and outfitter options.

One of the best tools available for hunters, to help them plan a backcountry hunt, is a hunting consultant. The mission of hunting consultant businesses is to assist hunters in choosing the perfect destination to accomplish their hunting goals. There are a few of these businesses that I can heartily recommend and will happily do so if you contact me. [link contact form]

Many of my clients over the years have been sent to us via hunting consultants. Since their first hunt with us, most of them have returned every year or every other year. This demonstrates the value of a properly planned hunt. To return to the same outfitter, year after year, shows that you really love the hunting adventures that they provide.

Thayer Rivers, is one of my return clients who found our outfitting business via a hunting consultant. We have had many hunting adventures together since.

Successful backcountry hunt for regular client.

If your hunting goal is based on a certain species of animal, that can narrow your search parameters quite a lot, depending on what species you choose. For example, if your goal is to hunt caribou, then you first need to decide which sub-species of caribou you want to hunt. Mountain Caribou are hunted in different country than Barren-Ground Caribou, so the geographical location of your hunt can be narrowed down tremendously by choosing the exact type of animal you want to hunt.

Choosing your hunting destination according to game species is applicable if you are looking to hunt an exotic species not found in the lower 48 states. If your goal is to hunt Rocky Mountain Elk, then your search area will cover most of the Western United States and Western Canada, so you can see that it is necessary to narrow down your search parameters as much as possible.

Regardless of the location you choose, or the outfitter you choose to book a hunt with, if you are hunting solo, there will always be room for you. The same cannot always be said for hunting as a group. Which brings me to my next point.


Some of the most enjoyable hunts I ever guided were group hunts. Most of these groups were comprised of old friends, but several of them were actually business trips. Yes, that is what I said, “Business Trips”. Many large corporations will use the atmosphere of camaraderie that is embodied in a hunting trip to build or strengthen their relationships with clients and customers.

Regardless of whether your group hunt is a bunch of old friends or corporate business partners, the moments you will spend together in the high country will be remembered for a lifetime. In the previous article, “Counting the Costs” I mentioned that group hunting trips often had the most fun. The reason for this is based completely on ATTITUDE. Suffice it to say that people who hunt in a group are focused on each other, and therefore are not usually affected as harshly by unrealistic trophy expectations.

Choosing a destination for a group is more difficult than planning a solo hunt primarily because of logistics. The logistics involved in getting the same time off work for everybody in your party, working with each member’s different budget needs, negotiating with all the spouses, or even just getting all the hunting licenses can be staggering.

Each state handles its non-resident licensing differently. Some states have a “guaranteed” tag, as well as, a “draw” tag. The guaranteed tags usually cost more, but by going this route, you can plan your adventure knowing that everyone in your party has a tag. Conversely, some states issue tags by draw only. These tags are usually less expensive, but by submitting all members of your party to a draw, you are taking the chance that some of you may not get drawn for tags.

The important thing here is to do your homework. Make sure you become familiar with the Fish & Wildlife websites in any areas you may be considering. Numerous publications contain helpful articles and tables to help sportsmen make more informed decisions. Don’t forget the value of an old-fashioned phone call to a Fish & Wildlife agency. Most of the staff in these offices are very friendly and helpful. Montana’s website can be found here:

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks website

Once your group has decided on a general area to hunt and has applied for tags, I strongly suggest that most groups use an outfitter. The value of an outfitter really shines when it comes to group hunts. As a group of hunters, it is so great to just hunt, and not have to worry about transporting gear, providing meals, providing lodging, learning new country, packing out game, packing out gear, etc. You get the picture. Outfitters do all of that for you, so all you have to do is have a good time. It is very important that you talk to the outfitter and determine whether they will have adequate lodging, horses, and guides for the size of your group.

Another type of group hunt is a family adventure. I have guided many family hunts, including father-in-law/son-in-law, father/sons, brothers, grandfather/grandson, father/daughter, and husband/wife. In every case, the hunt was very special and memorable. There is nothing like experiencing the high country with someone you love. A lot of bonding happens when you have to work together with your family and your guide to get an elk out of a nasty hole, or when you are huddled together in a winter storm at 9,000 feet just waiting for the storm to pass so that you can get back to camp safely.

Husband and wife hunters waiting for elk.

I have guided many group hunts, and been guided on group hunts. In my experience, there is nothing that builds unity within a group or family like a backcountry hunting adventure. You will recount your memories of hunting camp to each other for the rest of your lives, and like many groups, you may decide to make that adventure something you all get together and do again every couple years.

When it comes to choosing a destination for a backcountry hunting adventure, I cannot emphasize enough the value of a quality hunting consultant. Whether you want to hunt elk in Montana, deer in Texas, moose in Alaska, or gemsbok in Africa, these businesses can provide you with many options and then advise you as to which of those options would be best for you. If you would like to contact a quality hunting consultant, I can connect you with the best. [button– “Yes. I’ve Got Questions.]

Choosing the right destination for your adventure should be an exciting process. Just remember that the memories you will cherish from this adventure do not revolve around the killing of an animal. The moments that really matter are the ones where you are surrounded by friends, family, or even your outfitter/guide. The adventures in your life are always more special when you share them with good people.

Back to Part 1: Counting the Costs