Hunt The West Every Year! - Eastmans’ TagHub
By Scott Reekers
Every hunter I know wants to have more than one tag in their pocket every year. The question then becomes how does a western hunter accomplish that goal on a consistent basis? The trick is to understand the draw in each of the states you plan to apply in and use the best tools at your disposal to track down what hunts fit your needs. In our world that means working through all the data and expert analysis in Eastmans’ TagHub! Your western hunting seasons start here.
- Build a four-year and four-state minimum plan; resident or non-resident, it doesn’t matter as long the planning is done to be in on a minimum of four state’s draw systems. Many years ago Mike Eastman detailed the four-state plan in the journals and in his book “Hunting High Country Mule Deer.” In the days when that book was written, applying in four states, especially where two of them would have been considered high odds, was a sure opportunity to hunt the West every year.
Since then there have been many changes made to state’s systems and I would say that to have a chance to hunt every year a wise applicant needs to be invested in the system in four states at a minimum with a foreseeable hunt once every four years in each.
TagHub helps with your planning process providing detailed strategy articles written by authors from all over the West who know little details about each state. This makes it possible to find the type of hunt you want and then build a strategy. Start with your home state as your bread and butter and then build from there if you live in the West. Colorado, Idaho(General tags are sold first come, first serve), Montana, and Wyoming for the most part manage for opportunity, make sure a minimum of two of those states are in your plans, this is even more important if you aren’t a resident. Finally, have at least one random draw state in your quiver. Nevada and New Mexico are the great wild cards that you can only win by making sure you are applying every year or acquiring the points in Nevada to up the odds with every point. Having 2-3 of the high odds states in your plan, one random and then a state that takes much more planning through point acquisition builds a solid four-year plan to hunt regularly. Add in a few more hard to draw states for points only and a savvy hunter will have a great plan and understand every system thanks to the Expert Analysis in TagHub.
Be willing to take lesser tags in lesser states to constantly build experience. TagHub shows the tried and true Blue, Green and Yellow-Chip system that Guy Eastman developed for the MRS in the print journals. That system has been an integral part of what we built with Eastmans’ TagHub and gives a clear visual picture across every state on what hunts have the best outlooks. However, when you see that blue color it is pretty easy to also see that the points required to hunt there are also high. With that in mind I can cheerfully say that there are big bucks and bulls in most states in every unit. Many Blue-Chips are that way because they are managed tightly and have really strong public access. A savvy hunter will use TagHub to look for better odds and partner that research with in depth mapping tool use to find areas to hike into that are much harder to access.
- Use antlerless tags to gain experience in the premium hunts that you expect to draw. The hunter’s who know an area the best are the ones who kill the biggest bucks and bulls every year. Antlerless tags, in particular cow elk tags, are a great way to get to know an area and come home with some high-quality table fare.
One caveat to this strategy is that winter can crush the grandest plans in big ways. Many of you reading this saw the cuts that Wyoming is proposing for their antlerless hunts across the state and across many species. Those tag numbers will likely come back but bear in mind that this strategy is a long play option to understand and know the hunt areas long before you ever have a trophy quality antlered tag in your pocket. Here is where TagHub comes in.
We have done the research on antlerless elk tags for you, now we don’t have a formula for a “trophy cow”, but success and access scores are clearly shown. This isn’t limited to species either, a cow elk tag in a trophy mule deer late-season area is a great tool for scouting a unit while actually hunting. In fact, that’s exactly how our Managing Editor Todd Helms knew where to look for his trophy mulie buck last November when he got lucky and drew a very limited tag. Hunting a unit every chance you get will make a once-in-a-lifetime coveted tag much more fruitful and enjoyable.
- The outfitted hunt option… For many people the research portion of the hunt is very hard to make happen. Sometimes it just makes sense to have the help of an outfitter but many times the research that goes into finding a trusted outfitter can be daunting as well.
If you have a hunt you would like to go on or have points burning a hole in your pocket shoot us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to help you find the hunt you are looking for. From there you can look at TagHub and see the how and why for the outfitters we recommend. For instance, we have a great outfitter in eastern Montana who’s units show up as Yellow-Chip because the access is tough for a DIY hunt. However, the success is Blue-Chip because he has access to many ranches that are great habitat for a variety of species.
With all of these tips and tricks for planning we have something new coming in our research world, TagHub 2.0. The chip colors and other trusted ratings systems aren’t going anywhere but there will now be many more features available. From 3D maps to point tracking, the whole system will be impressive and we are very excited to roll it out and help you hunt the West every year!