Hunting Public Land

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Hunting public land can be one of the most difficult places to hunt. When hunting these lands you have to understand that these lands are for everyone. I have been hunting public lands for quite a while now. I do have properties that I have permission to hunt on but during much of the hunting season I am about two hours from those locations due to work and schooling. Due to location I was forced to find new areas to hunt. So I looked for state land in my area and found areas hunting was allowed. I learned about regulations and important details about this land.

After doing all of my homework about the land it was time to go and explore the new areas. I looked at the map, chose four different locations, and went to it. When hunting public lands it’s always a good idea to have more than one spot to hunt, so if hunters are in one of your spots then you have other options to turn to. Things that I looked for were the obvious signs of deer; trails, rubs, and tracks. All of these things are important in finding an ideal whitetail habitat. But other things that many hunters don’t think of are funnels, bedding areas, food sources, and pressured areas vs. non pressured areas. I learned to go further into the woods. The reason for this is most hunters don’t travel deep into the public lands they go to where they first see deer sign and hunt that area which will most likely be the most pressured area.

Last hunting season (fall of 2009) I shot two bucks on public land. The way I did this was I scouted and learned as much about the land as I could. I hunted a location in the fall that I called the buck haven. This area was three miles in the middle of the public land; it was a place where no signs of humans existed. It was a perfect place to hunt.

Before hunting season I scouted this area and saw three bucks traveling in a bachelor group. I found two ridges that made a perfect funnel where the deer used it as a travel route to get to the bedding grounds. I also found multiple rubs from different bucks using the area. This was my deer haven, I had planned to hunt Buck haven in the evenings to catch the deer before heading to the bedding location.

On September 27th opening day of early bow I shot my first deer of the season and on 0ctober 28th I shot my second deer of the season hunting a place I call deer haven. Both bucks; neither were monsters, but the feeling of harvesting a whitetail on public land was unexplainable. To me it was a great accomplishment. If you are a person who doesn’t have a lot of private land or can’t get to it, take it from me and try hunting state land, many hunters underestimate the possible outcomes of public land. 


groovy mike's picture

congratulations on not oen but TWO public land bucks!

oudoorsman121 that’s a great story.  Thanks for sharing it and congratulations on not oen but TWO public land bucks.  Well done!

You are absolutely right that most hunters hang out close to the road and on the edges of public land.  I live on the edge of the six million acre Adirondack park. If you get off the road and off the trails and you quickly lose the signs of human influence.

I gotta agree with ecubackpacker too “… you see a buck you want to shoot , then shoot him because it may be the only buck you see.” 

As for the Public part of public land – its not the other hunters that bother me most – although I always wear orange just in case! – it’s the idea that people are out there “hking” with their kids and dogs and NOT wearing orange.  That’s another reason I try to get away from trails.

Jaybe is exactly right too.  That is exactly how I found my moose – JUST past the area covered in boot prints!

Tndeerhunter's picture

good points

I enjoyed reading your hints there. There is no doubt that a good hunter using proven tactics will be successful on public lands. As you have shown us, simply thinking outside the box may be all that's needed. Using the other hunters to you advantage or simply "goin' where they ain't" may be all that's needed to fill your tag.

Good stuff!

ecubackpacker's picture

Great tip

Great tip about hunting public land. It can be a very rewarding hunt to harvest a deer on plublic, knowing the pressure put on public land deer.
The deer don't have to be monster deer when harvested on public land. Your right, if you see a buck you want to shoot , then shoot him because it may be the only buck you see.
I have found, just as you, that most hunters won't walk too far to hunt public lands in NC. Most of the hunters around here won't walk more than a half mile from where they park...they don't want the hassle of getting a deer out. Great tip, hunt a little farther than the other hunters.
Thanks for posting. Good hunting to you.

jim boyd's picture


Great tip and well stated!

I hunted public land a lot early in my hunting career and also just returned from a week of hunting on public land in Illinois.

The pressure up there was greater than I thought it would be, to tell you the truth.

I did see quite a few deer but did not find one I wanted to harvest, in spite of the fact that I had been out of bowhunting for many years and really did want to take one with the bow.

I too find the best hunting off of the beaten path - and had to walk a lot to get to these spots... I should have been in better shape for the hunt to tell you the truth.

After the third day, I could feel myself starting to wear out.

Great story on the deer harvest, Outdoorsman, glad to see you got not just one buck - but two!

Way to go!


ecoroamers's picture

Hunting Public Land

Public lands are a great place to experience hunting, camping, fishing, or what ever, but just as was stated, remember the word is public.  Some forget that everyone has the right to enjoy these places and use them as their own personal trash receptical, or off road vehicle portal to stupidness.  I too hunt public lands and they have always produced plenty of food for my family, along with many hours of scenic enjoyment.  I am from southeast kansas where there are roughly 14,500 acres of reclaimed mined lands opens to all types of public hunting, fishing, and other activities, but they can be very dangerous as well.  As you put it, the area must be thoroughly investigated, and explored before going out into these woods.  There are open pits, mine shafts, caverns, caves, steep embankments, and very thick understory vegetation.  Not exactly what most people think is in Kansas.  Anyhow, great blog, good luck.

Critter done's picture

Great Tip

Your right about the Public part. All hunter need to remember that it is for ALL HUNTERS. If we remember that we have to share it then everything will be great. Good for you for scouting, most guys in my area just jump in the first day and wander why they don't have much luck.

Awesome Tip!!

jaybe's picture

Shhhh! Don't Tell!

It's so true that most hunters do not travel more than a half mile from their vehicle - often much less than that!

Where I hunt on public land, if you just go over the first ridge, you are back further than most hunters ever venture - and that's less than 1/4 mile!

The deer are very aware of this, and they simply move back from the roads, only coming out to cross them during the night.

Good point, but I sure hope this doesn't get around!