I guess this should have been written ealier in the year seeing how many States deer hunting season's are already under way.
But better late than never!
I receive quite a bit of email about Deer hunting on public land. Having just came back from a Controlled Hunt on Public Land myself, here are some tips for you that are heading out to hunt Public Land Deer.
- Get a map. Preferably a topo map and an aireal photo of the area where you'll be hunting. You can find good topo maps on the Internet at several areas or contact the USGS for an index. A good map will show you many things. Some of the things you'll be wanting to look for are: where are other hunters parking, areas that will funnel deer into a tight area such as saddles in ridges, potential feeding and beddeing areas, waterways, old roads, etc.
- Do your scouting. This should go without saying, but you'd be surprised at how many just pick a place and go hunting without ever setting foot on the place. Prepare for success by using some boot leather to get the feel of the land and to try and pattern both the Deer and Deer Hunters!
- Pattern the Hunters. Since you'll likely have company from other Hunters when visiting Public Hunting area, get to know where they park and the areas that they'll likely be hunting. Use this information to determine Where Not To Hunt! You can also use this information to determine likely areas where these Hunters will push the Deer as they're coming and going to their stands.
- Hunt the Midday. It doesn't take long for Deer to pattern the Hunters. They know that most Hunters will be out of their stands by 9 a.m. (many much sooner) and walking around before heading back to their vehicles for coffee, lunch and a nap. Plan on hunting during the midday hours. I can't tell you how many Bucks I've seen from 11 to 3 on Public Hunting land. If you've done your homework and are set up away from the other Hunters, you may be pleasantly surprised at a visit from a Buck during the midday when other Hunters are back at their trucks taking a Siesta.
- Call the Manager. Part of your pre-hunt scouting should be a call to the Manager of the Public land where you'll be hunting. They can provide valuable information on Hunter access and likely spots to find a Buck during the Hunting Season. They can also let you in on how the Deer herd is doing and clue you into what the Deer are feeding on.
- Plan on getting your Deer out. Many Deer Hunters never plan on how to get their Deer out once they have it down. They never think about it until they are faced with the daunting task of dragging a Buck out of the woods. It would be smart to invest in one of the Big Game Carts
advertised in the Outdoor catalogs.
- Think outside the box. As I said earlier, Deer pattern Hunters much better than Hunters pattern Deer. If most hunters are Hunting fields or easy to reach areas, do something different. Find thickets or other areas where Hunters will not hunt. Swamps and overgrown clear cuts are two of my favorite areas to hunt on Public land. I love to hear Hunters say "That area is too nasty to hunt, you can't see very far in there". That's the kind of place I want to be. The group of guys I grew up hunting with were the first to hunt the flooded timber for Deer. No one else would put on wader and go in after the Deer. Now, many people will but few are successful because the lack the patience and experience to still hunt the flooded timber properly. Do and go where other Hunters will not!
Most public hunting is not easy. But with a little planning and thinking outside the box, your hunt can be successful. Just remember, these Deer are hunted hard so plan on outsmarting them. You can reason, Deer can't!