As hunters, we just can’t seem to get enough information. Our passion for game changing enlightenment is many times indistinguishable from the intensity in which we pursue wild animals. We are driven to continually seek knowledge that will improve our hunting skills. For most of us, the precious time we get to spend chasing wild critters is a prized possession. We are perpetually challenged to make our limited time more rewarding and ultimately more productive.
If you’re like me, you enjoy and spend as much or more time planning your hunts as you do in the field actually hunting.
In my Ten Must Listen To Hunting Podcasts article, I mentioned the information is out there, and ready to be consumed. That also applies to Online Hunting Resources. In this article we turn our focus towards some of the best online hunting resources for Western big game hunters. Many of these sites cost nothing, and the ones that do charge are unreservedly worth their fees. As hunters, we invest so much money and time pursuing our mania. It only makes sense that we would surround ourselves with the best information available.
If one of your goals is to become a better do-it-yourself hunter, I can say without reservation that these 5 online hunting resources will make you a better and more successful hunter.
The list below is by no means comprehensive. There are many more amazing resources, but I’ve narrowed this list down to my go to five. Before I begin my rundown, I want to unequivocally state that I have no affiliation with or sponsorship connections to any of the sites listed below, except for the last one, of course.
Top 5 Online Hunting Resources for Western Big Game Hunters
My list starts off with Elk101.com because elk hunting is my first passion. Elk101 is in a class of its own when it comes to elk hunting. Don’t let the 101 in the name fool you. This online hunting resource is not only for beginners. I’ve been chasing elk around the mountains for over 25 years and thought I knew a thing or two about elk hunting. But I’ve learned so much from Corey’s articles, videos and his appearances on several podcasts.
While Elk 101 is full of great articles, the real value lies within his University Of Elk Hunting Online Course. Corey has put together an elk hunting resource that is unrivaled. The text, videos, diagrams and Corey’s 30 years of elk hunting experiences are definitely worth the $99 annual fee. You can’t drive to and from most western hunting spots for less than that. This past year, I led a group of friends on an archery elk hunt in my home state of Montana. One of the guys in our group had never hunted big game, not to mention elk, and had never shot a bow. He immersed himself in the Elk101 course before he came, and it dramatically decreased his leaning curve and increased his confidence. He showed up at camp, prepared, confident and ready to hunt elk. In my opinion he was better prepared than other hunters with several years of experience.
There is simply no doubt, this course will open your eyes and prepare you to deal with the challenges of elk hunting, improve your odds, and ultimately make your hunt more enjoyable. Isn’t that the end game for all of us?
Personally, I never miss a podcast, video, or interview that involves Corey Jacobsen. His elk hunting knowledge is second to none. In the future, I’m planning to require his Elk101 course for any new big game hunters that join in on my group hunts.
This site has an array of amazing resources, and they continue to add value. There is simply no way to do this site justice in a brief summary.
If you’re planning big game hunts in multiple western states or planning to hunt multiple species, this is a go to site.
If you’re traveling and planning a DIY hunt, this is a go to site.
Gohunt.com has both free and paid subscription components. The free articles are quite good and if nothing else they will certainly improve your skills. The real value is with the GoHunt.com Insider subscription, though. Yes, it does cost around $150 per year, but there is almost always some sort of promo code to be found that is good for $50 in gear discounts. Try listening to several of the podcasts I mentioned in my Ten Must Listen To Hunting Podcasts.
Here are six reasons I will continue my GoHunt.com Insider subscription.
- The annual state and species strategy articles are worth the membership alone. I get so much out of these comprehensive reports. There is one for each species in each western state they cover.
- The draw odds, unit descriptions, and specific hunt season analysis is phenomenal. Yes, you can find this information on your own, but the time involved to analyze and compare multiple years is quite arduous. My time is valuable to me. I would rather spend it hunting. Having all this information in one organized and usable site is worth the membership to me.
- Quite often I find myself using the state Rules & Regulations and the Dates & Deadlines pages. Without this site, you would have to visit and breakdown dozens of pages in order to even attempt to get all of this information together.
- The Insider membership articles and contributors are excellent. They dive into real hunting information, not the summary, glassed-over, mile-high stuff you see everywhere else.
- The filtering feature is top notch as well. You can quickly narrow down specific states, species, trophy potential, draw odds, hunt methods, seasons and harvest success rates.
- Gohunt.com is staffed with serious hunters. They respond quickly and knowledgeably to comments or questions.
Below is an example of how I used Gohunt.com to plan a hunt.
I searched in Arizona for late season over-the-counter mule and coues deer archery hunts. Once Gohunt.com narrowed down the available OTC units, I read through the unit descriptions and compared harvest and trophy potential in those units. If I had been forced to go to the Arizona hunting regulations for this information, I certainly could have gotten it, but it would have taken a lot more time, and I’m sure I would have missed something.
Bottom line? Gohunt.com is one of the leading online hunting resources for a reason. This site can be used to help take your pursuit of big game to the next level. As long as they continue to add value to the membership and do what they do, I will continue to be an Insider.
If you have not heard of OnXmaps, you’ve been living under a rock. Like many hunters, OnXmaps has quickly become an absolute key component of my hunting arsenal. This is another fee based subscription service that is worth the cost. The GPS Hunt Chip is their flagship product and has been solid for me over the years. The Hunt Chip adds a lot of features to your Garmin GPS device. You simply insert the chip into your compatible GPS unit and you’re ready to go.
The newly released mobile and desktop platforms have been a little slower to develop. The platform is not where I would like it to be, just yet, but they are getting there pretty fast. Even with a few deficiencies, I use the OnXmap application on my phone all day, every day, during a hunt. The application uses the phone’s internal GPS and works without cell service, as long as you download the appropriate layers and basemaps for offline use.
The iPhone’s large screen, along with access to both topographic and aerial map layers make this a must have hunting tool. I will admit, I have become a bit addicted to using the aerial photo layers while hunting. As of yet, the application does not support many standard GPS navigational functions. However, it does show your location on the map so it is possible to use it for simple visual map navigation. In order to be useful without cell service, you MUST download both the topographic and aerial photo basemap layers to your phone in advance. I highly recommend you test the downloads before you go into the field.
Like I said, I use it all the time to check for likely hunting spots, navigation to those spots, and to save prime hunting or scouting waypoints. OnXmaps is by far the best in the field scouting tool I’ve ever used.
I can’t recommend it enough. I’m expecting big things from the OnXmaps service, it has so much potential. I’m eagerly awaiting some of the advancements that are coming. I believe the mobile and desktop service is $29 per year, per state, and they offer an Elite service that covers all states for $99.
I currently use OnXmaps in three ways.
- I use the online mapping tool alongside Google Earth on my desktop computer to plan and outline all of my hunt strategies. A dual screen setup is ideal for this practice.
- I use the mobile application on my phone in the field. I’m always sure to confirm that I have both topographic and aerial photo basemap layers properly downloaded to my phone.
- I still carry and use my Garmin Rino650 with the OnXmap chip installed. This gives me a solid backup to my phone application. You just can’t rely on a phone as your primary navigation device. If a phone experiences water, extreme temperatures, dead battery or loss, you are in trouble. Getting lost is never a good option, so having a GPS unit as a backup is important. The Garmin Rino units can also be used as a radio communication tool with your other hunting partners which is an added bonus.
Don’t be afraid to post questions on these forums. Most of the members are actually a wealth of knowledge and very willing to share. Rokslide.com and HuntTalk.com are two of my favorites. Some of the most talented big game hunters often post and reply to posts on these forums. You won’t find or get people to divulge too many hot spots, but you will get great DIY hunting advice, gear reviews (some are biased) and information covering a very wide range of hunting topics. The short list below are some of my personal favorites in order of preference.
- Rokslide.com – 14,464 members*
- HuntTalk.com – 16,721 members*
- MonsterMuleys.com – 10,731 members* – Mostly mule deer discussion with a little elk hunting mixed in.
- BigGameHunt.net – 119,869 members* – Lots of members, but they don’t seem to be quite as engaged as with the other forums.
*Totals at the time of this article
Specific State Hunt Planners
While these sites do not provide a lot of hunting skill information, many of them are quite valuable for planning your hunts. Basically you can select Game Management Units (GMU) or regions from an online interactive map and view key information about that unit. These hunt planners have made it much easier to breakdown states and analyze specific units, species, seasons and harvest methods in one centralized spot.
Many western states now provide some sort of hunt planner. Unfortunately, they are not all created equal. Some of them are pretty darn good and others are pretty useless. I will do my best to label them appropriately.
- [Very Good] – Wyoming Hunt Planner
- [Good] – Montana Hunt Planner
- [Decent] – Recreational Access Arizona 2.0
- [Decent] – Utah Hunt Planner
- [Decent] – Idaho Hunt Planner
- [Only Moderately Useful] – Colorado Hunting Atlas
- [Only Moderately Useful] – New Mexico Hunting Access Information
This is my new venture. I know I’m new to the game, but how could I not put my own site on this list? I grew up in Missouri hunting and fishing my whole life. I chased Midwest whitetails for over 40 years, but I’ve always been drawn to western big game hunting. Traveling from the East, I’ve been on dozens of western big game hunts. Archery is my first passion, but I will take advantage of just about any open season. My family and I recently moved to Missoula, Montana.
I created Treeline Pursuits as an outlet to share information about do-it-yourself backcountry hunting in wild public spaces. I hope you find value in the articles, videos and information I’ve posted so far. I have no idea where I will go with this concept, I just know I have an intense passion for hunting and helping others. I have a lot of things planned for Treeline Pursuits, but if there is something you want to know about, let me know. If I don’t know first hand, I will do my best to do the research and pass along the information.
I’m looking forward to an amazing season and I’m sure you are too.