All of you reading this have probably seen an increase in demand for hunts and tags across the West over the past couple years. I’m still trying to wrap my head around what caused everyone to wake up one morning and decide they wanted to go hunting. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing for the hunting industry, but it can also be frustrating for the guided hunter looking to book a quality hunt or the self-guided guy showing up to a trailhead with a parking lot that looks like Disneyland. This growing demand has caused a lot of hunters to either adapt or plan ahead.
The guided individuals who have been saving to book their dream hunt(s) are probably wondering if they will ever find an opening. There are still a lot of good hunts available, but you might have to broaden your horizons. It seems as if elk and sheep are king right now, and I do not see a time where that will change. Prices are also at an all-time high, making some hunts not as affordable. Now might be a good time to consider another species or country. Take advantage of the "one-off" hunts like aoudad, bear, or mountain lion or consider out-of- country hunts in Mexico or Africa where you can still book a great hunt at a good value. I would recommend not being so focused on a certain species, rather focus on the hunts that are a good value while providing a great experience and adventure.
For the self-guided hunters, there has never been more competition when it comes to hunting out west. Technology has evolved enough over the years that it’s easy for anyone and everyone to have access to mapping platforms and research tools that allow them to digitally put together a plan before the hunt even starts. Again, this isn’t a bad thing, but it is making it harder for anyone to think they have a "secret spot" that no one else knows about. I think this has been a common issue for elk hunters as it is hands down the most talked about and popular hunt in the country. It’s not always like the videos make it out to be, either. Elk hunting is a struggle, and for most, it will take more than a couple self-guided hunts to feel like you are getting them figured out.
It is easy to get frustrated when you can’t find an opening for the hunt you want to book or you wind up at a trailhead with five other guys who had the same plan as you. Remember, we are all trying to accomplish the same goal and there are only some many tags or hunts to go around. It is easy to get stuck in a rut and focus on the one species or hunt everyone is talking about. There are so many hunts out west that are overlooked by a majority of hunters each year. I am guilty of this very thing as I use to prioritize elk over almost anything else. I then began to realize that there are so many more fun and adventurous hunts I was missing out on because I was so focused on elk and I wasn’t looking for other opportunities. I’m not going to give all my "secrets" away, but I would encourage everyone to take a step back and look outside of the box. Make a list of other hunts in new locations that are intriguing to you, and maybe consider giving up a hunt you have already done for something new. Yes, elk is the icon of the West and most hunters dream of someday harvesting a sheep, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the experience and memories. Do what you can to make the most of your time, finances, and resources to make sure you aren’t missing out on those memories and experiences