You've always tinkered with the idea — a far-flung bowhunting road trip to a never-hunted-before whitetail destination, and this is the year you plan to do it.
First, bravo! Few things in bowhunting are as fun as crossing state lines and hunting whitetail deer in a new-to-you destination. Chances are, that destination is on public land, and if you plan on coming home with a story that ends with how you punching a tag, there are some things you'll need to do.
Here's how you win on the whitetail road.
Full disclosure: I don't sleep worth a crap. However, if you're going to be a whitetail road killer, it's one of the most significant pieces of the success puzzle.
First, make sure, if possible, you pull into camp before 10 p.m. Why? It will take you a grip of time to get things squared away. Things like setting up a tent, laying out a bedroll, unpacking coolers, or unhooking and leveling an RV take time. Then, of course, you'll be jacked out of your mind. Thoughts of what the landscape looks like and if your marked-on-digital-mapping-app stand sites are going to be as good as you hoped will flood through your brain. Before you know it, it will be 2 a.m. Not good.
If you have quality sleeping gear (tent, cot, sleeping bag, pillow, RV mattress) and work to shut your mind down and start sawing logs at a decent hour every night of your hunt, you'll hunt a lot better. You won't be dozing off in the stand or taking shortcuts when walking to and from stand sites. Plus, you can stay on the hunt longer. Most whitetail hunters that wave the white towel early on a hunt do so because they are physically and mentally exhausted.
Before you leave for a whitetail road trip, make a daily meal plan that covers every meal, including snacks, from day one through the end of your hunt. Running to the nearest convenience store, restaurant, or diner daily will boost the cost of your hunt, cause you to spend less time in the woods, and rob you of sleep.
Breakfast is easy. Have some instant, quality coffee ready along with oatmeal and a banana. Of course, if you're an early riser, there's nothing wrong with bacon and eggs, but this will cost you a bit of shuteye. I like the coffee, banana, and oatmeal route. Cereal is also a solid option if you're not an oatmeal lover.
How long you plan to stay in the woods should dictate how many and what type of food items you have in your pack. Here's the biggest tip I have to offer when it comes to in-the-woods food: Take way more than you think you'll need. Eating throughout the day is a good thing, and it will keep you warm and sharp while in the stand. If you plan to sit all day, sandwiches and the like should be on the menu, but don't overlook other solid snack items like beef jerky, trail mix, dehydrated fruit, MTN OPS Performance Bars, and anything else that sounds appetizing. It's amazing how a quick snack that appeals to your gut can change your mindset and help you refocus.
Be sure you have a sizeable day pack. Too many bowhunters that cross state lines bring small backpacks that can't haul a six-pack of Hostess donuts. Days in the woods will be long, and you want a pack that has plenty of room to store all your food and other essential gear.
Dinners are easy. Premake everything days before your hunt, freeze it and toss it in a cooler. Make a list of what you're going to have each night. This way, you can set it out to thaw, and when you get back to camp, stick in the oven or dump it in a pan on a cookstove. This way the meal will be done in minutes, and you can have a healthy, nutritious dinner before going to bed. There will be no driving into town and wasting time and money on a meal that might have you scrambling to and from the toilet all night.
We haven't touched on liquid yet, and we won't spend a ton of time on it, but staying hydrated with the proper fluids is an essential part of the road-game equation.
Water beats them all, and be sure you're taking in no less than 90 ounces of water per day. I prefer to tote a hydration bladder in my day pack to ensure this. It's also essential to have some flavor. Side of coffee, which I take in a thermos on those frosty mornings, I also tote a Nalgene bottle, which I fill with some hydrate & energy mix. Those from MTN OPS, Wilderness Athlete, and Advocare work wonders. Don't stop drinking throughout the day.
Stay Out of Camp
It's easy to get discouraged, especially when hunting public land and the stars aren't lining up. Camp starts to look comfy. You begin to justify sleeping in, climbing down at 9 a.m., and the list goes on. Have you been there? I sure have. Here's the thing about camp, though: It gets boring fast, and you have zero shot of shooting a buck or having something extraordinary happen from your foldout chair. If you're going to be bored, be bored in your tree. Take a good book, and be sure to have a phone charging device. You'll be surprised how quickly a cold day will zap your juice.
If you decide to come down from your perch or leave the ground blind, make it productive. Take a stroll and see what the deer are telling you. Do you need to make a midday move or, perhaps, jump in the truck and explore a different spot? The point is, don't get lazy. Keep going and pushing forward, and it's likely you'll find the adventure and success you went looking for.