Get more bang for your buck by adding a second species to your next hunting adventure, DIY options included
North American hunters are fortunate. We get access to many different game species within our 50 states and 10 provinces. From gobbling turkeys to snarling grizzly bears, tons of potential hunting adventures exist. If you're willing and able to travel and have a hunting budget, there's enough opportunity right here in the homeland to keep you busy for a lifetime. Some of the best trips provide opportunity for multiple species, too.
Combo hunts are ideal when you have a burning desire to hunt a few different game species, but can't afford or fit in multiple hunting trips in one season. Further, your odds of success increase if the two species basically share the same habitat; you'll likely encounter one species if you don't encounter the other. These adventure-rich combos are trips most hunters can pull off with a modest budget, and without years of tedious planning.
5. Southern Hogs and Gobblers
The only place in the world where turkey hunters can chase the coveted Osceola subspecies, necessary to complete a Grand Slam, is in peninsular Florida. Due to demand, public lands are very busy during the March and April hunting season. Some wildlife management areas (WMAs) have a quota system that mitigates hunting pressure through a draw. There are also Special Opportunity Hunts in which you can increase your odds of drawing quality hunts by buying as many chances as you're willing to pay for.
Of course, going guided is wise if you have only three days to hunt and want to make sure you come home with your Osceola. Hunts usually range from $1,500 to $3,000, but some outfitters offer a guaranteed shot opportunity. If you only need an Osceola to complete your Grand Slam, this angle is your best bet.
Florida is also feral-hog central. One 19,000-acre orange grove I guided turkey hunters on extinguished 1,000 or so hogs via helicopter hunting, and there were still pigs galore. While feral hogs can be hunted nearly all year on Florida's WMAs, it is illegal to hunt them on WMAs during the spring turkey season. So, you could knock on some ranch doors to ask for permission, or you'll have to inquire with an outfitter about adding some pork possibilities to your trip.
Texas is another great destination for a springtime combo hunt for turkeys and pigs. Though it's difficult to pull off a DIY hunt here, since the state is mostly privately owned, many ranchers offer guided or semi-guided turkey hunts at a surprisingly reasonable rate. Texas is a great place to bag a true Rio Grande gobbler for your slam, too. Depending on where you're hunting, you might also be able to tack on feral hogs and even a javelina, without spending a whole lot of extra coin.
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4. Wyoming Mule Deer and Antelope
Wyoming intensively manages various big game species by areas and regions. Most big game licenses are issued through a drawing, but there are often leftover licenses available if you miss the application deadline or simply don't draw. Despite the hassle, Wyoming is a hunter's paradise if you can draw a permit. And there are many instances where deer and antelope seasons overlap, both during archery and firearm seasons.
I'm getting an itchy trigger finger just thinking about it. Mule deer and antelope hunting go together like bread and butter, with both species being iconic of the West. You might find elk in Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Tennessee, but you won't find antelope or mule deer anywhere east of the Dakotas, Nebraska, or Kansas. Both roam mostly the same habitat, so it's always possible to see one species while chasing the other.
Logistically, this hunt is straightforward, with basic motel lodging or tent camping. You can hunt on public lands and encounter lots of game in most areas/regions. As long as you have a mapping app like onX Hunt, are willing to hike a lot, and have good quality binoculars and maybe a spotting scope, you should have the time of your life.
3. Alaska Caribou and Salmon Fishing
Nonresidents can hunt The Last Frontier for caribou without a guide. With some planning, you can pull off a DIY caribou hunt along the Dalton Highway. There's an archery-only corridor along the highway; rifle hunters must hike 5 miles deep to reach areas where they can legally pursue the 'bou. Although you can reach caribou hunting areas by vehicle, don't be fooled; this hunt isn't easy.
You'll need to spend time researching logistics like airfare from your home state to Alaska, so get started. You'll need to rent a vehicle. You'll need to have camping and cooking gear arranged. You'll need to have a plan for keeping meat cool and getting it home without spoilage. Your phone likely won't have coverage, so in the event of an emergency, you'll be thrilled you brought a satellite phone. These and many more logistics make this hunt challenging to plan, but folks pull it off every year.
Another way to hunt caribou in Alaska is to hire a bush pilot to expedite you into caribou country. But, once your pilot leaves, you're alone for your hunt's duration, unless you hire an outfitter, which costs around $5,000 and up — not including tags and travel — in most cases.
It's also a pretty physical hunt. A caribou's normal pace is similar to a human's fast jog, so catching up to animals can be taxing. Expect to log many on-foot miles daily. But if you can find animals, you should be able to orchestrate a shot opportunity, especially if hunting with a rifle. Bowhunters, of course, should spend time prior to the hunt increasing their effective range with challenging drills, as most shots will be 40 yards and beyond.
Early caribou hunts pair well with salmon fishing, but you might want to reserve time for that before the caribou hunt or after. I've fished the Russian River and the Kenai River. I caught a few different salmon subspecies, such as the delicious coho and the run-of-the-mill pink (humpback), while also watching giant king salmon rise above water 100 yards from shore. Salmon definitely make a worthwhile add-on to a caribou hunt.
While camping, hunting, and fishing, don't ignore that an encounter with Alaska's apex predator, the grizzly bear, is a real possibility. Go prepared, packing a sidearm with some snort and / or a canister of bear mace.
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2. Colorado Elk and Black Bear
Colorado is a go-to state for elk hunters, especially those who didn't draw a hard-to-pull permit and want to hunt on an over-the-counter tag. The state maximizes elk hunting opportunities by making OTC tags valid in nearly 100 GMUs (game management units). Success rates in OTC units are very low, but if you want the flexibility to show up and buy a tag, Colorado is your state.
The best way to encounter elk is to learn the layout of the unit(s) you intend to hunt. Seek north-facing slopes with dark timber and a water source, and you'll usually find elk there, particularly if you're far from roads and trailheads. Many units enforce a 4-point-on-one-side restriction, but if the bull has a brow tine of 5 inches or longer, that supersedes the 4-point rule.
Elk in OTC units are rarely the screaming buglers you see on outdoor TV. You might encounter one bull that's incredibly vocal during a weeklong hunt, but don't expect to see or hear elk daily. You might go days without any notable action.
Colorado has many units in which you can buy an add-on bear license if you possess an archery or muzzleloader elk tag in an eligible unit. Nonresidents pay just $103.60 for the bear tag. Elk and black bears inhabit the same habitat, so it's entirely possible to encounter a black bear while elk hunting in Colorado. I've hunted a few different Colorado units, and I've seen bears and bear sign on each hunt. If you don't mind packing out a bear, the add-on tag can inexpensively soup up your Colorado elk hunt.
1. Texas Twofold: Whitetails and Feral Hogs
Back to the Lone Star State. The whitetail rut is just getting started in Central and South Texas when it's over in the northern states and provinces. That means that if you have a lease in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, or Minnesota, Texas won't cut into your rut hunting at home. DIY hunting is tough to do — not impossible, though — in Texas, as the state has minimal public land, and most private lands worth hunting on are leased.
A good way to go if you're flexible on antler size is an outfitted management hunt, in which mature bucks with inferior antlers are the target at a far better value than a trophy hunt. These hunts generally will treat you to ample deer sightings daily. If you have a thing against baiting or feeding, Texas probably isn't for you, as most operations hunt blinds/stands over feeders or corn-laced senderos. However, some outfitters offer active hunts where you call, moving and rattling until you drum up a buck.
The same pigs that roam Texas in the spring are there in the fall—and in fact, the survivors you didn't shoot during turkey season have probably multiplied. Many outfitters offer hog hunting in conjunction with a deer hunt at no additional or a minimal fee. Acres and acres of agriculture are daily uprooted by these marauders, and most ranchers hate them. You might be able to acquire permission to hunt hogs, but whitetails are pretty much lock and key. Regardless, whatever you're hunting in Texas, find a way to chase some pork, too. They're target-rich, challenging to hunt, and delicious to eat.
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Make It a Combo
These and many other combo hunts exist within North America. If you have a list of animals you'd love to pursue, look for opportunities to knock out two in one trip. Like making your burger a combo with fries and a soft drink, making your hunt a combo by adding a second species can provide double the action without doubling the cost. Who wouldn't want that?