While different types of hunting terrain require slightly different gear and tactics, the basis for what you need are all similar. Below are tips to help guide you in the right direction on your next public deer hunt.
1. Electronic Scouting:
“Virtual” scouting is critical when hunting on public land. Before heading out, survey the area you will be hunting. It’s important that you learn the difference between public and private grounds so you don’t end up accidently trespassing on someone’s land.
Using online tools and apps such as BaseMap and Google Earth are great for scouting virtually from your own home. They can help you to identify potential places to hunt, identify water sources, locate feed, roads, land accessibility and much more.
2. Know your unit:
Most states have a designated unit or general area for public hunting. Know what tag you have in your pocket and the season dates. Some units are considered a migration unit, which means deer typically won’t show up in heavy numbers until there is some weather that pushes them to the area.
Knowing the general area and terrain via scouting is a great way to get familiar with the area.
3. Boots on the ground:
After you have covered the area electronically it’s time to get your boots on the ground. You’ll find that some spots are a lot different than what they look like on Google Earth or a hunting app. Look for sign such as tracks, droppings and rubs. Also, pay close attention to heavily used trails where the deer pass through frequently. Saddles on ridgelines can be a great spot for deer to cross from feeding to bedding areas.
4. Hunting Laws and Regulations for the state you’re hunting in:
Hunting laws and regulations and tags vary depending on the state you are hunting, especially if you are a non-resident. Regardless of where you live, you are required to know the laws and regulations of the state you are hunting. Check out the State’s department of wildlife for the most up-to-date information, including hunter’s education requirements.
Don’t forget to check if the state you’re hunting allows the use of trail cameras and attractants. While a lot of bucks tend to break patterns as hunting season approaches, using trail cameras will give you an idea of what kind of bucks are in the area.
Typically, mineral and salts work the best during the spring and summer months while other supplements work better in the fall.
Glassing can be one of the most productive ways to scout and hunt. A good pair of optics can go a long way… literally. You may have heard the expression, “Let your optics do the walking,” and that couldn’t be truer. Not only can they help you see more and further, but they can save you a lot of unnecessary walking especially if you’re in tough terrain. Quality optics will help a ton during periods of low light peering into shadows to look for movement or glistening of antlers in the sunlight.
Be advised that while hunting public lands, you will likely encounter other hunters. However, sharing a territory shouldn’t keep you from having a successful, and more importantly, a fun hunt.
Use your intel wisely to hunt the available public areas, as mature bucks don’t always spend time in the backcountry, despite popular belief. Through elevated pressure, the deer can get pushed to you or change their pattern enough to come into your area.
While hunting public land has its challenges, it can be very rewarding. Happy hunting!