“A good plan today beats a perfect one tomorrow.”

That saying has been attributed to many sources, but it applies nowhere more than in outdoor pursuits, and if you’re looking to plan a Texas hunting or fishing excursion and don’t have your agenda well under way, you’re behind everyone else.

There is an amazing array of sporting opportunities in the Lone Star State and elsewhere, and narrowing down your choices can be tough, but now is the time to nail down your one big trip — or two or three if you’re lucky — for this year.

So, where do you start?

First, look at what you’re heart is set on — perhaps a trip you’ve never done, a species or place that always has caught your fancy or simply more success in your home range that you’ve always known was there. From there, you can zero in on where you want to go, what you want to do and how much you can spend on an adventure.

The easiest way to go about the situation is to jump on the Internet and search for as much specific detail as possible. From there, you can narrow your quest to specific guides and outfitters that target particular species in woods or waters you’re interested in. Once you have what could be a good match, you should make contact by phone or email, getting as much information as possible.

It’s foolish to simply book a trip off a Web site unless you’re setting up a side outing while you’re at your favored destination and the outcome of a less-than-stellar-trip won’t ruin the whole excursion. You also should look up outfits mentioned in quality outdoor publications and don’t be afraid to contact writers and editors to get more information or to verify a story.

Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to book a quality trip, and friends can be the best people to ask about outdoor excursions, especially if they’ve been to a destination you’ve had your sights on or are planning a return trip of their own. Maybe you can tag along since they’ve already done most of the heavy lifting or know the lay of the land and can offer up firsthand accounts.

There’s no doubt that hunting and fishing outfitters and guides are able to charge a premium rate. For instance, a guided bass excursion on a lunker hot spot could cost $400 a day, while guides on the Texas coast start there and run up to $600 an outing. However, price also is relative in this situation. If you’ve saved up for a year or more to spend one week abroad or simply upstate or downstate and will have 51 more weeks of anticipation until the next one, there’s no bargain in scrimping while cutting down on your chances of success.

You’ve got to pay to play anyway, so you may as well have a good day.

You also should consider your companions on your big outing and plan accordingly. The worst thing you can do is sink a wad of dough on a trip and then have it ruined by an unknown band of partners. Family and friends make outdoor trips for me regardless of success, and in the end it’s better to go it alone rather than risk having an excursion turn out negatively by someone who’s irritating or unsafe.

Once you’ve narrowed your destination, you should build a broad checklist of general items including ideal dates, guides, accommodations and budget. As the trip nears (two or three months out), you should nail down items such as airfare or rental vehicle, room reservations and gear needs, all of which can be cheaper if you buy earlier at non-peak times.

One thing to always do when planning a trip is to stack the deck in your favor, pinpointing the perfect dates, especially if this is your one big excursion for the year. Target nature’s cycles (moon phases, tidal movement, migrations) and seek out optimum times for activity. For example, hunting the opening weekend of deer season is much different from targeting whitetails at the height of the rut, as is angling for bass during the spawn versus doing it in the heat of the summer.

Hunting and fishing pursuits across Texas have become crowded — it’s just part of the game. For this reason, you should consider hitting hot spots during the week or other times when peak activity is diminished. Some fishing guides simply won’t fish the weekends or pick their fights due to increased boat traffic. I’ve seen parking lots that hold 100 boats and pickups filled on a Saturday that had only five rigs on the following Tuesday.

It’s natural to seek perfection on a big outdoors trip, but honestly good planning is all you need. And in the end, it’s almost as fun as the trip itself.


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