Your guide to the perfect 8-day fall hunting road tripCovering big and small game, outdoorsman and nomad Sam Soholt plots his ultimate hunting adventure
By Sam Soholt
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Meet the author
Sam Soholt is a photographer, sportsman, and public land advocate living a nomadic life out of a retrofitted Blue Bird school bus. Originally from the great plains of South Dakota, his life as an avid hunter and outdoorsman eventually led to a career in film and photography for brands in the hunting industry. He now calls Montana home, but spends most of the time on the road. If you happen to see an old green-and-white school bus somewhere on a backroad, there is a pretty good chance you’ve spotted Sam.
This article is part of our Up For It series,
where experts in their field curate their ultimate road trips.
When plotting this perfect hunting road trip, I debated between choosing one species versus multiple. Initially, I wasn’t sure I could identify a route that would comprise several species, rather than just one. After some—pardon the pun—hunting, I think I’ve done it.
Word to the wise: This trip will most certainly take a lot of planning. In fact, it would be best to work out logistics for this trip at least a year in advance. Tag draws, season dates, and the rut (mating season) are all going to play into the timing of this trip.
Personally, when I go on an excursion, I am a strong believer in having as many tags in your pocket as possible. You just never know what you may run across.
In terms of timing, this trip—starting and ending in Bozeman, Montana—will be best made in November. It is the convergence of season dates, the deer rut, the duck migration, and the right weather.
A long-distance sighting in the early morning dawn sunlight. | Photo: Sam Soholt
Stop 1: Broadus, Montana
Species: Antelope and deer
The first leg of the trip will take you from Bozeman to Broadus, Montana. It’s a 309-mile stretch that leads from mountain valleys and passes to the open plains and the rolling hill country of southeast Montana.
Broadus has long been known as an area to produce plenty of deer and antelope—and that is exactly what you will be chasing. There is a lot of public land to explore, so get the rifle ready and hit the back roads.
At this point, you’ve already done your homework and cached maps on your OnX Hunt app with locations that have held animals in the past or look like they would hold animals. The nice thing about hunting antelope at this time of year is, for the most part, hunters haven’t even thought about antelope in weeks and have moved on to other things. This puts a lot of the herds at ease and allows you to have a better chance at filling a tag.
The other good news is that it’s the very beginning of the mule deer rut and the big deer should be on their feet, giving you a good chance to double up on deer in two and a half days. If you’re not picky about the size of the animal, this hunt is actually fairly achievable. So, if you do happen to find an animal or two, notch those tags, and get them in the Yeti on ice. You still have a week of hunting left to do.
Looking for deer from the cab of the truck. | Photo: Sam Soholt
Stop 2: Chadron, Nebraska
Species: Deer and turkey
The second leg of the trip runs us down the road another 250 miles to the northwest corner of Nebraska. The Chadron area has a ton of public ground and you can hike in fairly deep. You’ll want to hike far enough in to get away from people, but not so far that the pack-out is a giant pain in the ass.
The deer season here usually opens up around November 15. So, if you roll in a day or day and half early, it gives you the opportunity to do two things: First, scout for deer, and second, find a winter flock of turkeys. That means you will be doing your deer reconnaissance work with a shotgun in hand. And, no, turkeys don’t usually gobble at this time of year. I promise, though, they taste just as good in the fryer—gobble or not.
The best part about Nebraska is you can pick up both an archery and a rifle tag. That means you have the opportunity to chase two deer at the same time. In addition to great deer and turkey hunting, this area is just an absolutely beautiful landscape. The cool, crisp November days will make it that much sweeter when you hike out heavy with a turkey or deer in the pack.
Scenes from an early morning lakeside duck hunt. | Photo: Sam Soholt
Stop 3: Ogallala, Nebraska
The third leg of the journey, only 174 miles from your last stop, gets you centered in a massive waterfowl flyway. This is where you will be spending part of day six and days seven and eight.
If you have never driven through this area of Nebraska in the late fall, you are truly missing a sight to be seen. There are huge flocks of ducks and geese milling in the fields, turning the ponds and rivers black.
Now, this is one location that might be a little harder to access than the others. I say that because, if you don’t already know someone with a place to hunt, it might not be easy to locate a spot to knock down a few ducks. It is not impossible to find a place on the fly. However, you’d be well advised to do your research on duck-hunting spots ahead of time, well in advance of your trip.
If you want to go old-school, you can knock on doors once you roll into town. If you want to be a bit more tech savvy, use OnX to look up landowner names and do research to find phone numbers. Lastly, you might consider hiring an outfitter.
After all, you only have a couple days in town, and you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck—pun intended. So why not go with the guys that do this stuff every day? Hiring an outfitter also allows you to save some space in your truck, since you can forego hauling decoys, waders, blinds, and a dog.
On a bluff, looking for movement across the plains. | Photo: Sam Soholt
Stop 4: Mitchell, South Dakota
Species: Ring-necked pheasant and Coyotes
Your final leg takes you to the magical land of upland bird hunting. It is a place so incredible that there is even a Corn Palace built there. Of course, I am talking about Mitchell, South Dakota.
This area is home to the king of hunting pursuit in the Dakotas: the ring-necked pheasant. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people flock to South Dakota to walk fields, cattail sloughs, ditches, and tree rows to flush out roosters. It really is an incredible experience watching a couple hundred birds explode out of the end of a field. The sound they make when they flush is not something you can ever be ready for and the cackle is enough to make the hair on your neck stand up.
The last day and a half of this trip will be spent walking public land trying to kick up a couple birds along the way. Pheasants get pretty skittish this time of the year, so you will have to be a little more strategic about how you go about hunting them. However, I did save this hunt for the very last day because you can’t start hunting them until 10 a.m. this time of the year. And after eight days of early mornings chasing everything else, a 10 a.m. call time will be a great relief.
Bonus species: Coyotes. As long as you have a small game license in most states, you can hunt coyotes. This is probably not something you’ll devote a lot of time to on the trip, but it doesn’t hurt to have that rifle around in case you come across a song dog.
The inside of Sam’s Ford after the hunt. | Photo: Sam Soholt
Stop 5: Bozeman, Montana
Heading back to homebase, Bozeman is a long but easy shot straight across I-90. It is not a short drive back to Bozeman from Mitchell. The long drive will give you plenty of time to gather your thoughts, though. After this trip, you’re going to have lots of amazing stories to tell.
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