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Hunting Privately on Public Land

These three bucks were taken with a recurve bow on different parcels of Minnesota public land.  If the author can do it -- so can you!

      Some of the greatest places to hunt this year will either be passed up, overlooked, or ignored.  Why?  Because hunting on public land isn't always easy -- but it can be highly productive.  And, if you play your cards right, at least a significant percentage of your hunting on public ground can take place in private.
Here are five quick tips to help you hunt privately on public land:  

  • Hunt in Unusual Places.  Although many areas designated as public hunting land hold a variety of wildlife, usually a predominate type of hunting takes place.  It's true that some land makes it possible to hunt deer, grouse, ducks, etc, but many were originally intended for or are more suitable for a specific type of hunting.  The second largest buck I've seen (and missed) in close to three decades of hunting was on public land that most hunters would consider to be exclusively for ducks and pheasants.  Don't be afraid to go against the traditional usage of a public hunting ground.
  • Learn to Stagger Your Public Hunting with the Predominate Specie Being Hunted on a Particular Piece of Land.  For example, if the area you're hunting pulls in pheasant hunters and the season doesn't open until 9:00am (as it does in Minnesota), you'll probably be better off hunting in the morning.  The afternoons will attract plenty of hunters when they get off work.  On the other hand, if the place you hunt is known for its duck hunting, you might want to save that for an afternoon hunt.
  • Take Advantage of Other Hunter's Habits as They Enter Public Land  The fact is, some segments of public hunting parcels receive very little traffic.  These isolated areas become populated pockets of wildlife.  Almost all public hunting lands have somewhat predictable parking places.  Since most people who hunt on public land arrive in cars, consider using other hunters as your drivers.  I have had squirrel hunters bring deer right by my tree.  If your private hunt is interrupted, at least let the interruption work in your favor and let hunters drive some from the well-trodden tracts of land.
  • Hunt Pressure Spots Early.  Some areas attract every kind of hunter.  In an area where there is a shortage of public land, even the most undesireable area becomes a haven for hunters.  If an area is likely to receive a lot of traffic once the duck season starts, hit it early in the season before that happens.  In some cases, as the hunting season progresses, the pressure can be so heavy the deer will change either their time or places of travel through an area.  Be ready to adjust your strategy.  Many bow hunters don't think it pays to hunt the first part of the season.  They're wrong!  Sure, the odds increase during the rut as the bucks start chasing the does, but the deer are out there year round.  Some public hunting spots are more productive early in the season.
  • Don't Judge an Area by Its Size  Although an area may appear small and insignificant, it might hold the whitetail that you're looking for. If it doesn't, the private land surrounding it probably will. Deer are highly mobile creatures that relocate when hunting pressure intensifies or during rutting periods.  Both rifle and bow hunters can take advantage of deer movement. Remember, even the smartest deer can't read a public hunting sign!

© 1997 Tom Rakow.   All rights reserved.