The Overland Hunting Quest
Border to Border was born by a desire to rekindle the adventure of hunting. Like the hunters of old who trekked through the West with only basic provisions, a map of the land and a desire to see new country, we intend to recapture that adventure and excitement in a modern world. The rules are simple and self imposed: travel overland from Mexico to Alaska hunting every state crossed. The only meat consumed is what is killed along the way. All hunts are on land open to the public. No fancy lodges or hotels—every one of the 45 nights will be spent camping out. No guides or outfitter, just friends and family.
The goal of Border to Border is to not only entertain and rekindle the American love of adventure, but inspire, educate and motivate viewers for their own DIY hunting adventure.
Number of States to Cross(And 1 Canadian Province)
Number of Miles to Travel(Round Trip)
$ Gas Budget for a Trip
Number of Days Away From Home
Number Of Big Game Species Hunted
New Mexico Antelope
New Mexico is an amazing state for hunters who love diversity. Home to some of North American’s only free range, fair chase “exotics”, New Mexico boasts a healthy population of aoudad, oryx and ibex as well as native game such as elk, mule deer, couse whitetail, mountain lion, black bears, desert and Rock Mountain big horn sheep.
For this expedition to be a success we have to get to Alaska before the winter sets in and the seasons close, which means we have to start early. Luckily one of the earliest seasons in the country is in New Mexico for antelope. Considering New Mexico also is home to the largest antelope in the United States that makes for a perfect place to start our adventure.
The only hook is the New Mexico antelope season runs for only three days starting in late August. I will be hunting 150 miles southeast of Raton, NM on a piece or property I never seen before, but have looked at topo maps and talked to guys who have hunted the property in previous years. Even though I am doing research before hitting the ground, three days isn’t a lot of time to get to know an area, find a good antelope and get a shot.
Tick tock, tick tock… hopefully our first episode doesn’t come down to us eating tag soup
I will be joined on this hunt by outdoor writer and long time friend Jeff Johnston who is spending his fall vagabond around the west on his own cross country trip. Meeting up and sharing some laughs around the fire will be a great way to kick off the Border to Border adventure. If Michael Waddell gets a break in his busy schedule he may even make an appearance. He is a sucker for speed goats!
New Mexico Antelope
The pronghorn, Antilocapra americana, is a species of artiodactyl mammal indigenous to interior western and central North America. Though not an antelope, it is often known colloquially in North America as the prong buck, pronghorn antelope, cabri (native American) or simply antelope because it closely resembles the true antelopes of the Old World and fills a similar ecological niche due to convergent evolution
Antelope World RecordSocorro County, NM 2013
Number of NM Antelope entered in B&C
Colorado Elk Hunting
Like New Mexico, Colorado has a lot of wildlife diversity. But what is has more than anything else is elk, and lots of them—around 280,000 at last count. Colorado is home to the largest elk population in the United States and also offers over-the-counter tags, so it stands to reason that for our next stop on Border to Border should be around the town of Craig, arguably the epicenter of the elk boom.
I am familiar with the area having hunted Craig in the past during the peak of the rut, but early September is pre-rut and can be a tough time to kill an elk with a bow. This will probably turn into a waterhole waiting game, but our luck may come together and if I do my part we will be grilling backstraps before it is all over. Looking at TOPO maps of the region ahead of time have yielded some likely looking wet spots elk might be wallowing at.
In case I do not fill my tag, luckily the Colorado mountains are loaded with grouse and the streams are full of trout —both eat well.
What will make this hunt really enjoyable is I will be picking up my wife in Hayden, Colorado. It will be good to have the company, but it will be even more fun to watch her try for elk. She has hunted quite a bit, but has never hunted elk, so this will be a first for her. Hopefully she can keep it together if a big bull walks past!
There are three hunt-able subspecies of elk found in North America; the Roosevelt of the Pacific Northwest, the Thule of California’s central coast and the Rocky Mountain found from New Mexico up through the Canadian Rockies. While Rocky Mountain elk have a wide distribution, no state or province sports the density of Colorado with over a quarter million in its herd. While Colorado has a healthy population of elk, they also have their fair share of hunters with over 260,000 elk tags sold a season.
Average hunter success on elk
Colorado Elk Population
Wyoming Mule Deer
The wife and I drew mule deer and antelope tags in Wyoming so we were excited to head north out of Colorado to the fabled Cowboy state. The antelope tags are unique in that they are special ag land depredation tags. What this means is they have a much longer season and open much earlier than traditional tags and hunters can use a rifle in September, but there is a catch—in the particular unit we drew, they are only valid on or within a 1/2 mile of irrigated agricultural land. The intent of these tags is to reduce the amount of damage herds of antelope do to cropland in the early Fall. While the regulations do limit the number of acres available there is usually little pressure and obtaining permission to hunt private ag land is generally pretty easy. In fact multiple ranchers list their names and phone numbers on Wyoming’s site for people to contact looking to hunt. There are also other ranchers who sign up for a “Private Land Public Wildlife” program that hunters can simply apply for and are granted permission to various properties.
Hopefully we will tag out on a couple of antelope as there is nothing quite as good antelope backstraps grilled over an open fire.
Wyoming Mule Deer
Wyoming is an incredible destination for big game hunters with stable populations of mule deer, antelope, black bear, wolves, elk, moose, big horn sheep and mountain goats. After enough points are accrued, it represents one of the best odd of all the western states for the traveling big game hunter. While Wyoming’s regulations are confusing to navigate, the state’s hunting is worth it if you are lucky enough to draw a tag. If professional help is required, contact Cabela’s tags to help with the draw.
Millions Acres Of Public Land
Idaho Shiraz Moose Float Trip
Every year my brother, an Idaho resident, and I put in for one of the state’s trophy species, we generally flip flop between moose and sheep as in Idaho you can only apply for one trophy tag a year. This single tag application combined with paying the full tag price ($2,100 refundable) and buying a hunting license ($164 non-refundable) plus no preference points keeps the Gem state at the top for draw odds. Even with the decent draw odds, neither of us drew a moose tag, but one of his co-workers did. So after Wyoming I headed straight to Idaho to meet up with my brother where he will have his raft loaded and ready to float one of the many rivers in the moose unit.
It’s a bit before the rut so the calling action was slow, but there are plenty of moose in the area so finding them should not be too much of a problem. It will be just a matter if we can find a big enough bull to satisfy this rare tag. In the mean time, I’ll pitch a fly for dinner and prowl the brush patches for grouse in an attempt to provide dinner each night.
Of the three subspecies of moose found in North America, (Canada, Alaskan-Yukon and Shiras) the Shiras is the smallest in both body and antler. Shiras moose range throughout the Rocky Mountain West and are most commonly hunted in British Columbia, Alberta, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. The world record was taken in 1952 at Green River Lake, Wyoming and scored 205 4/8. Today many moose populations are declining across their range, making this an increasingly difficult tag to draw.
Shiras Moose World Record
States Have Shiras Moose
Washington High Country Mule Deer and Bear Combo
Washington has an over-the-counter tag for its high buck hunt in limited alpine units in the Cascade mountains During this hunt you can also get a bear tag and the odds of tagging both a deer and a black bear are pretty darn good. In addition to the good hunting the scenery is some of the most incredible in the world. What makes this hunt even more fun is I am going to reunite with some high school buddies whom I haven’t hunted with in 20 years.
The high buck hunt opens on the 15th of September and they guys have hired a horse packer to pack them and their camp in to the backcountry on the 13th. Unfortunately, I won’t be done hunting moose in Idaho in time to make it in with the group, so they gave me the GPS coordinates to plug into my Garmin and I will mountain bike myself the 14 miles into camp on the 15th. Hopefully I can find their camp and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they haven’t shot all the deer by the time I get there!
Washington has a healthy number of bears with a population averaging around 30,000 animals statewide. While baiting or hounds are not allowed, Washington does offer residents and non-residents two fall tags, combined with a long season that opens in August and continues for over two months. For the seriously bear-afflicted, Washington also offers an additional spring season in select units available by draw. In addition to the traditional black color phase, Washington hunters take many color phase bears including: blonde, cinnamon and brown.
bears in Washington State
are killed annually by hunters
British Columbia is a bittersweet place for a do-it-yourself non-resident hunter. This Canadian province has all the big game you could ever want: grizzly bear, black bear, cougar, caribou, moose, three sheep species, mountain goat, three species of deer and two species of elk. The problem is, if you are not a Canadian citizen or BC resident you have to hunt with an outfitter. Boo.
But you can fish and hunt small game/upland birds without an outfitter. So I will drive from Washington to the coastal town of Prince Rupert, BC and will be stopping and hunting grouse and hares around the town of Terrace. It is 22 hours of driving from Seattle, Washington to Prince Rupert BC where I will board a ferry for the final state on the expedition, Alaska. Hopefully there will be a few smoked grouse in the cooler to eat on the ferry ride.
Of the four main forest grouse species found in North America (ruffed, dusky, sooty and spruce), the spruce is one of the most widespread. Feeding almost exlusively on conifer needles in the fall and winter, spruce grouse have the unique adaptation of being able to enlarge their gizzard and intestinal tract by up to 75% during the winter months to accommodate their increased food intake.
British Columbia number of Big Game Species
Limit of Forest Grouse
SE Alaska Prince of Wales Island Blacktails
At 663,267 square miles Alaska is the largest state in the US by far. The next closest state is Texas at a paltry 268,581. Easily the largest of the 50 states Alaska covers more square miles than all of the five lower 48 states I covered en route. Due to the size, hunting more than one big game species on this trip to Alaska is going to be impossible before winter sets in and the seasons close.
So I opted to hunt Sitka blacktails in Southeast Alaska, on Price of Wales Island. I have hunted brown bear, black bears, caribou and Sitka in various parts of Alaska before and Sitka deer are extremely enjoyable to hunt and for sure taste the best, of any deer species I have ever had. Combine with the ability to shoot multiple deer, plus catch salmon, halibut, crab and shrimp, Prince of Wales Island is pretty tough to beat for the do-it-yourself scavenger. However we didn't hit it right.
However as good as Prince of Wales Island is for hunters, due to the schedule of the Border to Border trip, we arrived at exactly the wrong time. A week or two before and the bucks would have been up above timberline in the high alpine country. If we could have waited a couple more weeks, the bucks would be down with the does in the low country. But the time we arrived, they were in no mans land—somewhere in between in the heavy timber. Before heading afield I spoke with the local deer biologist and he just looked at me with a cocked eye and asked “why are you here right now…this is the worst time to hunt POW Island.” It was a statement I heard from many area hunters. The good news was no other hunters were in the field and does were plentiful, with enough time afield and a dash of luck maybe we could pull a buck out of the timber.
On the flip side, the rivers were literally choked full of pink, chum and silver salmon. The were stacked up by the thousands and in the saltwater the crabs were still viable, so we knew we would eat well, regardless of how the deer hunting turned out.
The Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis) is smaller, stockier, and has a shorter face than other members of the black-tailed group. Sitka black-tailed deer are closely related to the larger Columbia black-tailed deer of the Pacific Northwest, and both are considered subspecies of the (even larger) mule deer of the American West. Fawns are born in early June and weigh 6-8 pounds at birth. The average October weight of adults is about 80 pounds for females (does) and 120 pounds for males (bucks), although bucks of over 200 pounds have been reported. The summer coat of reddish-brown is replaced by dark brownish gray in winter. A Sitka black-tail buck’s antlers are dark brown with typical black-tailed branching. Normal adult antler development is three points on each side. Antlers are relatively small, with very few scoring more than 110 points by the Boone and Crockett system. The average life-span of a Sitka black-tail is about 10 years, but some live as long as 15 years.
years average life-span