LOTS OF LAND
The numbers sound promising for public-land hunters in America. The National Forest Service manages 193 million acres of land including forests and grasslands from coast to coast. The Bureau of Land Management also has authority over 270 million acres. States shine in big numbers, including land they own, plus land they lease from private owners to open to the public. Despite a seemingly plethora of property, you still need to be savvy for success when competing against pressured game and hunting competitors.
RISE AND SHINE EARLY
Beating other public-land hunters into a parcel does not earn you a ribbon, but it can earn you a trophy. Set your alarm early to get a head start into public land. If the other public hunters are waking at 5 a.m., you need to wake at 4 a.m. and beat them into the best hunting positions.
By arriving an hour early, you can sneak into position using darkness to conceal your presence. Swing wide around the best cover and terrain to put that country between you, and other oncoming hunters. When other hunters arrive at dawn, they may naturally move any game your way.
Not only are you situated in a good setup or ambush location, but just the sight of your vehicle by other hunters can have a forceful effect. They may feel the area is already busy and move on to another property.
Most mid-sized public hunting properties include a parking area. Sometimes you need to park there since it may be the only access to the parcel. Use your hunting app, like the free HuntStand app, to scout for any backdoor entrances to public tracts. You may be able to find property access points along county roads, rights of way or even by asking a landowner permission to cross their property to hunt the backside of a wildlife management area. By entering public lands from far, remote corners, you will be less likely to bump into other hunters and still be in position to hunt where game escapes for refuge.
Next, scout for the roughest terrain that could impede the average hunter from accessing it. Avoid areas with marked trails and instead zero in on steep, rugged regions or areas that require equipment to cross water. The best public areas are oftentimes the most difficult to access so spend time gauging this category.
The reason you want to find cursed country stems from abundant research on the health of Americans. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week. More than 80 percent of adults do not meet the guidelines for muscle building and aerobic activities. Stay in shape and hunt the tough stuff others cannot.
If the hunting crowds still seem overbearing on the weekends, plan your hunting days for the midweek if your schedule is flexible. Most hunters hunt the weekends instead of taking off precious vacation time they may need later for family. Some hunters simply do not have careers that allow them to hunt during the week.
You should discover fewer hunters during the middle of the week and studies have shown that game oftentimes relaxes and returns to use public areas that they avoid on weekends. You may not have to explore deeper into a property to discover quality hunting.
HUNT THE BOUNDARIES
It is always greener on the other side of the fence. That is why it is imperative you assess all property adjoining any public property. More hunters are managing land for hunting and one of those prime areas could be next door. Without a high fence, wildlife property managers cannot corral deer, turkey or upland game on their property. Some will naturally disperse and possibly pass through the public property you are hunting.
Hunting public property can be frustrating with all the competition, but with focused know-how and a tactical approach, your next public-land outing could be your best.