I do most of my scouting on foot. I look for trails, tracks, droppings, bedding areas and feeding sites. Once I have the deer patterned in an area, I’ll pick out three stand sites and the trees where I most want to hunt. Because I travel so much and hunt so-many different areas, I don’t really have time to concentrate on one specific piece of property. So, when I go to a new region, I’ll put out Plotwatcher trail cameras (http://day6outdoors.com/products/plotwatcher) on two places and hunt from another area. This way, I effectively can hunt three-different locations and determine which site offers the greatest chance for success. Seeing most of the bucks on the property and determining when and where they’re moving doesn’t take long. One big misconception that some hunters have is you don’t have to do any scouting if you use trail cameras. However, the more effectively you can scout on foot, the faster you can find optimum places to put your trail cameras.
Although I’ve had the opportunity at times to hunt really-good private land, I also still hunt public land. If you know where to set-up on public lands, you may have just as good an opportunity to take an older-age-class buck as you will on private land. Often, the advantage of hunting private land is it doesn’t have as much hunting pressure. But, if you study aerial photos and topo maps of public lands, you can pinpoint hard-to-reach places most hunters won’t hunt. Remember, an older-age-class buck doesn’t get to be that old by moving during daylight hours where lots of hunters hunt. The public-land hunter who’s successful is willing to walk 2-5 miles away from access roads, cross water and crawl through thickets. You don’t just take deer, turkey and/or hogs on public lands. You earn them.
One secret to reaching remote areas of public lands where you hunt is to gain permission from the landowners whose properties back-up to those remote places. Most hunters go onto public land the same way all the other hunters do. Rarely will they go to the trouble of locating property owners on the edges of public-hunting areas to get into remote public lands. My best public-land buck was an 8-pointer that scored about 120. This buck was really pretty, and I probably would have harvested him, even on private land. Because I had access across private property to get to a remote part of the nearby public land, I found and took a nice buck. You can too, when you’re hunting with a muzzleloader.
By: Travis Johnson, avid deer hunter and the host of “Travis Johnson Outdoors,” an outdoor TV show on CSS and Fox Sports South.
Editor’s Note: One of the best tips I’ve ever received about hunting with trail cameras was to put a moisture-absorbing packet inside a trail-camera box next to the batteries. Even a waterproof trail-camera can get moisture in it. Do you have another tip for maintenance of trail cameras or how to prevent theft of them? Please respond directly to this post or post your comment or question below.