Once you have identified a few potential places to hunt, and narrowed your options, it is time to investigate your state’s trophy record-keeping system. Alternatively, you can contact the assigned biologist for each hunting location. A little legwork may help in the long run by signaling if the areas you hope to target produce the most, or even trophy, animals. This allows you to select lands that fit your hunting plans and hunting style, and cuts down on wasted opportunities. Additionally, visiting with public land managers or land unit biologists may give you access to information regarding hot spots or some local, insider hunting tips.
A View From Above
Now that you have figured out where to hunt and when to go, you’ll need to investigate the best strategy to hunt the area. There are two words you need to know, Google Earth. Google, along with other similar sites, can provide a detailed satellite image that allows you to “scout from the sky” and pinpoint high-traffic game corridors of the land you plan to hunt. The satellites take images of your Googled hunting lands detailing terrain details such as ridges, back roads, watering holes, woodlots and fields.
In addition to finding satellite images, many states also now offer detailed aerial and satellite maps, contact information for land managers, hunting regulations and a myriad of other extremely useful information on their websites. All this information can assist in your efforts to virtually scout the area and formulate your game plan.
The Road Less Traveled
One of the common mistakes public-land hunters often make is not venturing far enough from their vehicles or roadways. Many hunters focus on an area several hundred yards from their truck when hunting public lands. There is nothing wrong with that, but when you have a few vehicles parked in the same area and the hunters employ the same mindset, is it easy to see why success is not always found. Instead, get out and away from the vehicle and parking areas.
If you are concerned about getting lost—the number one fear of outdoorsmen—consider utilizing a GPS. Likewise, you could take a class on wilderness navigation with a compass and map. Both allow you to go where other hunters won’t tread, and that often results in success.
Eliminate the Welcome Sign
Surveyor tape can be enemy #1 to public land hunters. It is certainly a great tool to help you find your hunting location under cover of darkness, but it also allows other hunters to find your hot spots. So keep the tape to a minimum.
A GPS is a super alternative to tape, reflectors or other ways of marking a trail. Enter waypoints, important locations such as where you parked your truck, into the GPS while scouting. Then, use the unit to take you directly back to those spots. These units are great for marking the locations of scrapes and rubs, or the location of roosting turkeys.
Going For It
Public land hunting is a great low-cost option for hunters, just remember others are looking for budget-friendly hunting options too. Combining pretrip legwork with smart scouting and hard hunting can get you ahead of the crowds and up your odds on public land.
Do you hunt public lands? Share your experiences in the comment section.