Public Land Tips #1- Pressure is Key

-By A. Maxwell

Public land tips. A series of articles we put thogether here at the Southern Outdoorsmen to help you on your quest for public land sucess.

The most common piece of advice given about hunting public land is to go deeper into the woods than all the other hunters. Walking farther than everyone else is without a doubt a great strategy in some areas, but it does not hold true in all situations.

I have ran across many situations where I tried walking past everyone else, and in doing so I also walked past all the deer. Hunting where the deer are instead of where you want them to be can be a hard lesson to learn, especially on public land where you are competing with lots of other hunters. 


Pressure is king with almost any kind of hunting, but its especially important with deer. Pressure forces deer into more defined areas so it can be used to your advantage. Wherever the people are absent, the deer will concentrate! Often times there are what I call "pockets" of deer movement on Public land. Those pockets of movement could be 2 miles from the gate or trail head, or they could be 200 yards from it.

On the parcel of Public land near where I hunt, getting far away from roads is not an option. The property is roughly 8 miles long and only about 1.5 miles wide on average. To make matters worse, nearly every ridge top has a road on it. The farthest you can get from a road is maybe half a mile, so walking farther than everyone cant happen here. The key in areas like this is hunting the overlooked stuff. So in order to find the deer, you first have to find the people.

Clear evidence of a well used trailhead. 

Clear evidence of a well used trailhead. 

A great way to find the overlooked areas of the land you hunt is take a morning or afternoon off from the stand, and instead drive all the roads. See where everyone else is parked, know what trails they are using. With the information you gather on days like that you can narrow down your search drastically. Most of the time people will be parked in the best looking woods or parked in a spot where they can access an area that looks good on a map. Remember, if you can find a good looking spot from google earth, so can everyone else hunting the area. 

Often the areas you find no people will be the areas that look less than ideal. Terrain features like large creek crossings, thickets, or extreme topography will keep people away. Putting boots on the ground and exploring these areas are the only way to know if they are worthwhile because as mentioned before, if there was a distinct feature on a map to tell you it may be a good area there would already be someone in there. 


There are two other people that hunt behind the same gate that I do on the public property I hunt. To find the area that I now hunt, I walked down the road and followed their tracks. Once I found where their tracks went into the woods, I made an educated guess of where they were probably hunting and scratched that off the map. By doing this I'm avoiding messing up their spots, and I'm narrowing down my search for my spot. 

After scouting everywhere behind that gate that I wasn't seeing boot tracks, cigarette butts, or other trash, I ran across my best spot yet. Since August I have gotten 6 different bucks on camera behind that gate, mostly in daylight too. 

Finding the "pocket" of deer movement was key in that area. Other people putting pressure in that area has concentrated the deer movement in a spot that would not necessarily stick out on a map. The only way to find it was patterning the people! 


The deer concentrate in these areas because they don't have to deal with people there. Hunting pressure makes deer spooky, and it makes them smart. Entry and exit into these areas is even more important, because if they know your coming in there they will move! Always be mindful of your ground scent your leaving while entering the stand, and where the wind is blowing while your on your way to and from the area. Saving these areas for the perfect conditions is a must, because every time you go in them you risk alerting the deer to your presence. The deer are there because they are avoiding all the other hunters, and if your not careful, they will learn to avoid you too!