|Conventions are one way to find big game outfitters for an upcoming trip. (Photo courtesy of Safari Club International)|
Although there are still a few late season big game hunting opportunities remaining in certain areas of the U.S. and Canada, for the most part, another hunting season has come to end. But does that mean that there is nothing to do except daydream about next season? Nothing could be further from the truth. Now is the time to start planning for next year, particularly if you want to hunt out of state.
The deadline for certain permit/tag applications seems to get earlier every year, and the deadline for many western states is fast approaching. Wyoming's elk permit application period ends on Jan. 31, with moose, goat and sheep running through February. If you want to hunt elk or pronghorn in Arizona, you'd better have your application in by mid-February, and the same story for certain limited entry hunts in Utah. Spring black bear tag application deadlines are generally in February as well.
Even whitetail tags for certain midwestern states have early application deadlines. I'd like to hunt Kansas this year, but I can't if I don't get my application in by the end of April deadline. Iowa gives you a little more time with a May deadline. Obviously these dates vary greatly by jurisdiction, so make sure you check the website of the game and fish department where you want to hunt to make sure you don't miss their deadline.
Now is also a great time to look for an outfitted hunt by attending one of the huge annual hunting shows. One of the biggest is the Safari Club International show in Reno, NV, Jan. 23-26, followed shortly by the Wild Sheep Foundation's show Jan. 31 - Feb. 2, also in Reno. Countless regional shows this time of year can also keep you busy through the winter.
These shows are great places to actually meet and speak with countless outfitters and guides all in one place. Just about every reputable outfitter has a good website these days, but the problem is that most of the bad ones do as well. Even speaking to someone over the phone may not tell you all you need to know about the person before committing to plunking down your hard-earned cash for a big dollar hunt. But actually meeting them face to face and looking then right in the eye beforehand can be invaluable when in comes to finding just the right outfit to trust with your "dream hunt". Some of these outfitters will even offer "show specials" that could save you big money.
If you're like me, when you're not hunting, you're thinking about hunting. But now is the time to start doing more than just thinking about it to ensure that the 2013 season is everything you want it to be.