By Michael Deming

As you sit at your computer hitting the refresh button and just hoping that the state will post the results of this years’ drawing just a few minutes early, the anticipation is killing you. Every year you go through the same ritual, hoping this will be your year. Unfortunately for a great number of people, this time ends with disappointment. However, there will be a small percentage of people who get to see their name in the successful category. WOW! The excitement is close to what you used to experience as a young child at Christmas. The opportunity for this upcoming season has now become endless. It’s time to call all your buddies and let them know about your good fortune.

L1010766This scenario has played out in a lot of homes this year and has for decades. The problem with this situation for the majority of people is that they have never put their boots in the unit they have just drawn. If they are lucky, they have driven through it on occasion. They might have had a buddy tell them that this is a good unit because they had a tag there years ago. They might have just applied for the tag because it takes 20 preference points to be guaranteed one. Regardless of the reason, you have a tag right now which may or may not have the potential to yield you a trophy of a lifetime and you need to make the most of it.

Here are the questions you need to know the answers to about your tag so you can truly make the most of it. What is the possible trophy potential of this unit? How many tags have been given out and how many other seasons are going to be going on when I’m planning on hunting? What is the moon phase during the open dates? Where do the animals rut and what happens to them if there is an early snow? What do the animals do when they start to see excessive pressure from hunters?

These are just a small smattering of questions you should know the answer to if you plan on being successful this coming fall. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are likely going to go home with tag soup or an animal that doesn’t live up to the expectations you put on this precious tag.

Every year I have numerous conversations with hunters about these exact issues. Unfortunately, these conversation usually come after the hunt is over and they are disappointed with the outcome. They have either killed a substandard animal or gone home unsuccessful.

A Double J Elk 2012 272Just because it has taken a ton of points to draw this unit, it doesn’t mean that there is a monster buck or bull hiding behind every tree. As a matter of fact, there are very few units anywhere that this is the case. Sure, there are always those lucky guys that drive into the unit on opening morning and shoot a giant just off the road. If you are that guy, it is a great place to hunt. However, if you aren’t that guy, you might find out your premium tag wasn’t worth the wait. You more than likely see and kill bigger animals in the units you can draw every couple of years and this is because you know the answers to the questions asked above.

The number of points it takes to draw a specific unit has a lot more to do with the amount of available public land in the area than it does animal quality. Limited amount of tags usually always means more opportunities, but it doesn’t always equate to trophy potential. There aren’t very many Utah Henry Mountains premium deer tag type units anywhere. If you don’t have years of experience in the unit, there are many of those questions that you have no chance of answering. If you do have some experience or friends willing to help you that have experience, you are probably in for an enjoyable experience.

Now, I don’t mean to throw water on your raging fire of excitement about that premium tag you have in your pocket. Instead, I want to create the awareness of what you need to do at an early enough time in the year to actually make a difference. If the hunt unit is in your back yard, you should spend every free minute you have figuring out the roads, water sources, feed sources and talk to as many people as you possibly can about the past hunts they have been on in this unit.

L1020308If time away from home is limited or you will be traveling to far away states to hunt, I would highly recommend using an outfitter. This is a tag of a lifetime and if you were to purchase it at an auction, it could cost you between $5,000 and $350,000. That is a huge investment and one you shouldn’t take lightly. Definitely not a tag that you just “HOPE” to kill a giant. There are probably some great ones there, but they don’t get big by being stupid or easy to harvest.

Outfitters are in these units year after year and know the answers to the questions, which means that they can help you make the most out of that tag. Their years of experience is well worth the knowledge you will gain about the area if you hire the right outfitter.

Hiring the right outfitter is another difficult decision, but we can help with this process. We have been in this industry nearly a dozen years now and it is a very small industry when you put a microscope on the best in the business. We know who is good and better yet, we have a really good list of who is not.

If an outfitter is in your budget, they are highly recommended to help you make the most out of your tag. We are happy to pair you with one of the best for your premium tag.

If the cost of a guided hunt isn’t in your budget and you just want to go enjoy your hunt with family and friends, I wish you the very best of luck and encourage you to savor every minute of every day. Enjoy the hunt. For those of you hard-core trophy hunters who already know this info and are hoping to glean some new intel, I appreciate your time. However, we all know that time in the hills and burned boot leather is the key to harvesting the best stuff the unit has to offer.