I'm a southerner, and the South I grew up in was a very different place than it is today. The culture was rural and agrarian, and everybody in the Deep South of the 50s and 60s hunted everything with dogs. Deer hunting was a mere pastime back then because there were very few animals around. Deer hunting season was short. The taking of a whitetail deer was a cause for celebration. Shooting a doe was unthinkable. As the times and farming practices changed, deer flourished, and other forms of hunting diminished. By the mid-70s, everyone deer hunted. Seasons became longer, and bag limits became more liberal. A generation of hunters emerged who were schooled in advanced whitetail tactics. Many hunters lost count of the number of deer they had harvested. About this time, in an effort to recapture the old, heart-thumping magic, many southern hunters began to look longingly at western hunts. Big animals in exotic locations - that was the ticket...!I was one of those New South baby-boomers who yearned for the opportunity to hunt the western states. I dreamed of hunting elk, mule deer and antelope. The problem was, I had no idea how to get started. I didn't even know anyone who had been out West. With two small children, expensive, outfitter-based hunts were out of my financial reach, plus I had no idea who I could trust. It looked hopeless as my 30th birthday approached. Well, I'm now 45 and haven't missed taking a big hunting trip in the last 15 years. How did I manage this? The answer is simple: I taught myself how to set up self-guided hunts on public land.
My first western hunt was a fully-guided antelope hunt south of Rawlins, Wyoming, and it cost me $500, not including the license. It was the best investment I ever made. On this trip, I uncovered an important fact - namely, a lot of high-ticket, guided big game hunts are conducted on public land that's open to everyone. All you need to find a place to hunt is a land status map and a license for the particular area........(continued)