Skip to main content

Details That Can Make or Break Your Next Whitetail Road Trip

Bowhunters who put asphalt in their rear-view mirrors to fill more tags must also prepare for minor setbacks.

Details That Can Make or Break Your Next Whitetail Road Trip

The more thorough your pre-hunt planning is, the better your odds of a dream whitetail hunt. (Photo courtesy of Alps Brands)

It is routine for me to travel to three or four states each year to hunt. With a couple decades of whitetail road tripping under my belt, I have learned that no plan is infallible.

When preparing for a trip I naturally make every effort to be as successful as possible. That means doing my best to be prepared. Whether that's hours spent staring at digital maps and marking locations of interest or making multiple checklists to ensure I have everything for the journey. But experience has shown me, all of that planning can only take me so far. The rest will be reactionary because it's not a matter of "if" something will go awry, it's a matter of "when."

There was a time when these unexpected turns would derail me mentally. Now, I take them more in stride and know that I'm ready for just about any malady that may arise. Best of all, I've endured enough missteps and misfortune to know what I'll need to handle it. Let's try to cut the learning curve a bit and examine the overlooked details that can make or break your next whitetail bowhunting road trip.

Bowhunting with Truck, UTV
While UTVs make retrieving game easier, they’re typically not permitted on public land. Have a plan for bringing out a deer before you release an arrow. (Photo courtesy of Bowtech)


Mechanical failures have ruined many a dream hunt. I would much rather spend my money on hunting licenses, broadheads and hunting gear than a shiny, flashy vehicle. Thus, I've got a 12-year-old truck that's well on its way to the 400,000-mile mark.

With that being said, I have no hesitation loading it up and heading across the country in search of a big whitetail. But I never take off without making sure I've tackled all the preventative maintenance that I can and that goes beyond a basic oil change (but you should do that as well if it's time for one). I go with a front-to-back, top-to-bottom system. I start at the front of the truck and move to the back, checking everything I can from the lights, the battery and even the wheel bearings. This doesn't take long, and watching a few quick YouTube videos can help you with your systems check.

This is the same approach I take with my bow and hunting gear. I make sure my bow strings are in good shape, that I have all the arrows and broadheads I'll need, etc. With all inspections done, I double-check that I've got the most important piece of gear I take on any trip: a well-stocked toolbox that includes assorted wrenches, sockets and drives, several sizes and varieties of screwdrivers, a small cordless impact driver and a cordless impact wrench with enough torque to make quick work of lug nuts and stubborn bolts.

I also include zip ties, duct tape, superglue and a tire plug kit as well. To top off the kit, I bring a full-size floor jack. It's not overkill. The jacks included with most vehicles are a joke and will be almost no use if you need to hoist your vehicle on anything but flat, smooth pavement.


While we spend plenty of time considering what could go wrong, it is also important to ponder what we will do should everything go according to plan. That is, what will we do should we harvest a deer? After all, that's when the work really begins and if you’ve not properly planned for your success, things can go south quickly.

I hunt alone much of the time, thus my prep and planning is adjusted accordingly. I’m almost always hunting public land which means the use of a UTV or vehicle to aid in the retrieval of downed game is not an option.

As such, my pack-out plan is relatively rudimentary. In most instances, I use a four-wheeled game cart, equipped with plenty of ratchet straps to keep the deer lashed to the cart. When hunting hilly areas or those too rugged for the cart to be of much use, I’ll butcher the deer in the field and pack it out.

Of course, you'll need to keep that meat cool. For this, I bring a pair of large coolers. One is used for food and drinks at camp while the second is reserved for game. It’s in that cooler that I store my processing gear: A couple of knives, gallon-size freezer bags, a couple jugs of water for cleanup and a package of wet wipes.

Bowhunt Planning
Thoroughly inspect your gear both before and during a road trip, and have the necessary tools on hand to make repairs. (Photo courtesy of TenPoint Crossbows)

PLAN B, C, D and E

I will spend hour after hour on my laptop most evenings scouring maps and gathering pertinent area information to find the most promising spots I can prior to heading out on a hunt. Over the years I've developed a color-coded system to mark locations according to their perceived potential.


It's this system that allows me to use the hunting app on my phone to prioritize those areas I want to scout first. Oddly enough nowadays, these locations typically turn out to have the most hunting pressure. A few years ago, that wasn’t the case. However, with the advent of the internet and all the easily accessible information available there, public lands are enjoying renewed interest.

I no longer head out expecting my "Plan A" locations to produce. This is an important part of the mental game. Scouting and planning for months only to find out that your top spots are loaded with other hunters can take a serious toll on a positive outlook. Yet, so many of the folks I know that are new to the road trip game express disappointment and frustration over reaching their destination and realizing many others had the same destination in mind. Without backup locations, they're stuck.

Now, I never take off without three times as many potential locations as I think I'll need and I’m mentally prepared to abandon an area should it turn out to be crowded or otherwise undesirable. Plan B, C, D and E spots have saved the day on many, many occasions. By accepting this new reality and being ready to make a location change (even if it means driving 100 miles or more), I minimize the disappointment and feelings of panic when realizing an area isn’t what I thought it might be or the hunting pressure is simply too high to tolerate.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Sometimes you have to fish a bait that allows you to cover a lot of water efficiently. When you're on the search for bass that have moved into deeper water off the bank and away from obvious holding spots, a swimbait can locate them.

On the Search with Swimbaits

One of the best imitations of a wounded baitfish is the soft-plastic jerkbait, or fluke. A fluke darting just beneath the surface can be too much for a bass to resist. Rig it and fish it according to water conditions and cover to make this great bait even more effective.

Fun with Flukes

There are three models in SPRO's Outsider crankbait series: 55 (runs 3-4 feet), 60 (7-9) and 80 (19-21). Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley goes over the specifics at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

SPRO's New Outsider Crankbait Series: First Look

Professional bass angler Jonathan Kelley highlights the features of SPRO's new lures at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Essential Series Spinnerbaits and Buzzbaits from SPRO

Syd Ribes with Sea Falcon highlights four new lures for saltwater fishing. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Lineup of Lures from Sea Falcon

Syd Ribes highlights two new saltwater lures from SPRO: Flutter Tail Shrimp and Cannon Ball Jig. At ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

New Saltwater Lures from SPRO

AFTCO's Matt Florentino highlights the features of the new Barricade cold-weather suit, a Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022 in Orlando. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

New from AFTCO: Barricade Cold Weather Tactical Gear

Three-time ICAST Best of Category winner Bubba covers it all with new knives set. With Bubba's Matt Kinamore and Game & Fish's  Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2022 in Orlando.

4-in-1 Bubba Multi Flex Cutlery Kit

The innovative landing net will weigh and measure your catch while it's still in the net. Best of Category winner at ICAST 2022. With Game & Fish's Adam Heggenstaller.

Award-Winning Frabill Witness Net 'Keeps You Honest'

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now