© By Othmar Vohringer
With that said, it is absolutely possible to take a big buck on public land. However, to do so you have to abandon everything that you have read or heard about buck hunting strategies. Most of the tactics discussed in the hunting media pertains to private land deer. Since I hunt most of the time public land deer I will reveal here what I have learned over the past 10 to 15 years.
Pay attention to the competition.
Humans are lazy and habitual. This means that hunters rarely venture far from the truck and almost always walk the same route and hunt the same spots season after season. Knowing this is important for the successful public land hunter. One of my preferred public land scouting times is right after the season closes. It is then that I am able to see the “sign” hunters have left behind and make notes of it. Just remember this, on public land hunters influence deer movement patterns.
Scout from home.
Google Earth has become for me a vital public land scouting tool. It is on Google Earth where I can clearly see the structure and layout of the land before I even set foot onto the land. When I look at Google Earth I look for spots that other hunters often overlook. Out of the way places and locations that don’t look like deer holding areas peak my interest. Often a small woodlot out in the open is overlooked by other hunters and so are small swampy areas and places that are not easily accessible. Most hunters head for the field edges and the big timber. These are the areas deer go to ones the pressure intensives knowing that no hunter will bother them there.
Check the boundaries.
Public land often borders onto private farmland. Walking the boundaries will reveal deer trails that lead from the public land onto private land. Often times these trails are used by the deer during hunting season as escape routes, hanging a stand near such trails can provide you with good hunting opportunities. Just be early in the stand and wait for the other hunters to enter the land and push deer your way.
Many public hunting lands have rivers and streams flowing through them. Most hunters wouldn’t think of crossing waterways or are not equipped to do so. Deer on the other hand have no hesitation whatsoever to get their feet wet crossing rivers and streams to escape from hunters onto small islands, into swampy or tall grass patches. Walking along such waterways after the hunting season closes will show where deer cross rivers and streams. I’ve made it many years ago a practice of mine to always carry a pair of hip and chest waders with me when I scout and hunt on public land.
Hunting public land can be frustrating and almost always is hard work. But rather than letting hunting pressure get to you, do as the deer do. Avoid the hunting pressure and other hunters by finding the places that other hunters overlook or can’t be bothered to get to it. With a little effort and scouting right after hunting season closes you will find these deer refuge areas.