First of all several questions... If this is your first public land hunt, why did you choose the Oglala grasslands? Do you plan on using an ATV? Do you have a forest service map, not just a delorme atlas? You'll need something that shows landownership because the grasslands are a patchwork of public and private lands. There are plenty of deer on the grasslands, but they aren't always easy to find. Also these grasslands receive a TON of pressure. I'd recommend the far northwest corner, north of Harrison, in and around pasture 1. The other area that produces a lot of deer, but also has a lot people is the area around Roundtop south through Fort Robinson. There is a combination of badlands and pine ridge that would make for great hunting if people weren't driving all over it with ATVs and road hunting. If you aren't planning on hunting with an ATV, I'd hunt Fort Robinson, any of the WMAs or the Pine Ridge National Forest instead.
I chose the Oglala for the simple fact that it is the largest area in West NE to hunt therefore leaving me more spread out from other hunters. I am not an ATV hunter. Go to where I can in my truck and then hump the rest of the way in. I had thought about Fort Rob, but I am worried about other hunters. Not hunting pressure on the deer, just the imbiciles that call themselves hunters when in all actuality they are just "shooters" I am using this all as a back up to my private land hunt incase that falls through. I have been in the Marines for the last four years and don't know if I have lost my spot on lands I used to hunt. I have always hunted private, but need a fallback just incase. I have downloaded some forrest service maps on my computer and have been studying those. I had looked into the areas surrounding the Roundtop as well as 5 points. Looks like there is the possibility to get away from road hunters if I do some hiking. I will look into the pasture one area. What kind of terrain is up that way? I thank you for your reply and will keep checking this. Where are you a bioligist? Thanks again.
The biggest problem with the ONG is that the deer are concentrated in only a few areas, which are failry well known. There aren't very many on the open plains, which make up the majority of the grasslands, so the hunters really aren't all that spread out. Similar problem with Fort Rob on Soldier Creek and the White River, which is why the have a draw every day. The hunter pressure is less of a problem up in the buttes. Anyway the far northwest area of the ONG (pasture 1), litterally bordering WY and SD, is open plains but with a small number of draws that the deer will be moving up and down.
If you're a hiker I'd honestly recommend one of the WMAs. The Petersen is a problem due to the fact that people can and do drive all over the damn place, but the NGPC guys said they plan to control it better this year. The biologists are finally getting back to food plotting again as well, which will allow the WMAs to hold more game than in the past. Including elk on a more regular basis. If you live in or stay near Chadron, I'd recommend the Bordeaux WMA. Hike all the way in along the logging roads from the far east road that goes to the highway, right next to the billboard and hunt the south portion near the windmills.
The Ponderosa is also great if you hike over the ridge and hunt the north end. That way you'll get away from all the pressure. It's also pretty good along the main ridge, but there will be people walking along the main trail, and horseback hunters.
Bighorn is good if you hunt during the week. Too small and too many people on the north end, which is all most people can access on opening weekend.
I don't know the Metcalf very well, and I only know the Gilbert-Baker receives a ton of pressure on the north end. I haven't really explored Chadron Creek WMA, but I have heard there is a lot of deer.
There is a lot of road hunters on the forest service, but once again, if you just hike over a hill you'll escape most of the pressure. I really like the National Rec Area where there is no vehicle pressure. Seen some good deer there too.
Also, if you have a problem getting onto your normal place, try the area around Whitney. I had good luck with landowners letting me on there for free in the past.
I'm now a biologist in Colorado, but I used to work for NGPC and still stay in touch with those guys.
Anyway, you're welcome. I like to share my knowledge but it pisses others off.
I must admit that I have missed a big game animal with a rifle. And not only was it a bull elk, it was the largest bull that I have had in my sights with a tag in my hand. But, as with most "missed shot" stories, I have an excuse. Moisture doesn't really ever bode well for hunting equipment. When moisture (either rain or snow) gets into a firearms barrel, nothing good takes place. A couple rain drops down there can change the point of impact drastically and a barrel jammed with snow after a...