How to Apply Private Land Scouting Tactics to Public Lands

If you’re hunting private land, you can save a lot of boot leather by spending time with the landowner and a map. The landowner can show you ponds, creeks, crops, acorn trees and bedding sites on his property. He’s on that land every day and sees deer, often by day and by night, so he probably can direct you to the best areas to hunt. Even if you’re on a lease with several-other people, more than likely, the landowner knows where the other people usually hunt.

On state-run public lands, the people with the most knowledge about those properties are the wildlife biologist, the WMA manager and the WMA forester. If a company or a corporation owns the public land you’re hunting, they’ll also employ the services of a forester, a wildlife manager and/or a land manager for that property. These resource people know more about the deer, the land and the terrain than anyone else. Like a private landowner, they usually are on these public lands all year long. They know where they see deer and deer signs and where deer are coming and going. However, most public-land hunters never meet with these resource people. If you take your maps and set-up a time and place to meet with these individuals, your odds are much greater for locating the best places to hunt and to take deer.

Another secret for finding productive regions to hunt on public lands, even on lands that don’t allow motorized vehicles, is to go to these properties during the summer months, when all the gates are open, and you can drive to pinpoint overlooked hunting areas. You probably won’t see another hunter in the woods then. I believe the hunter who spends the most time in the woods all year long and learns the most about the deer on the land has the greatest chance of taking the best bucks, whether he’s hunting public or private lands. The more time you spend practicing a sport, the better you will become at it. People who view deer hunting as recreation will be happy just to sit in the woods quietly without a cell phone, a TV, a radio or someone to talk to and take a buck. However, they won’t take as many nice deer as the hunter who views deer hunting as a sport and works and trains for that sport all year long.

The fear of success and the thought of having to drag big deer out by themselves may discourage many public-land hunters from hunting deep in the woods. But if you plan before the season to involve your friends, neighbors and family members who hunt to help you, you can agree to react like volunteer fire fighters if anyone takes a deer. The hunter who takes the deer will mark the spot where the deer is and call the other members of his hunting team, who then can help the successful hunter get his deer out of the woods. When you hunt public lands, plan for success.

By: Travis Johnson, avid deer hunter and the host of “Travis Johnson Outdoors,” an outdoor TV show on CSS and Fox Sports South.

What tactics do you use to consistently find good deer on public lands?

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