Public Land Tips#3- Set Yourself Apart and Get Creative
Public land is public, open to anyone with a license. In any given area you are likley competing with sevral other hunters. If you are going to be the one to get that old buck that lives in your area, your going to have to go at him differently than everyone else.
By Andrew Maxwell
Old deer get old for one reason, they know how to avoid hunters. A 5.5 year old buck, or a doe of the same age for that matter, has lived through 5 hunting seasons. We only spend a few months out of the year in the woods they live in, they spend every day of their lives there. They know where we hunt and where we don't, so they spend the majority of their time in the areas that we ether don't want to hunt, or cant hunt.
Some of the most successful hunters I know kill deer every year by doing things that other people aren't doing. The changes they make could be as simple as taking a different entry route, only hunting certain wind directions, or going places that other people wont, or cant, go. This goes back to patterning what the other hunters in your area are doing. Knowing the general areas they hunt, and the ways they hunt can give you clues as to how you can give yourself an advantage.
I'll focus on how we hunt to give an example of how you can set yourself apart on public land. Here in the Southeast the most popular way of hunting is using a climbing tree stand. Climbers are great because we can carry them in and get in and our of a tree in just a few minutes, but they have their disadvantages too. With a climber you need a straight tree with no limbs in order to hunt, this may limit where you hunt if the trees have too many limbs, are too small, or have split trunks.
The solution? A portable lock on stand like a Lonewolf or Hawk (read a review for the Hawk Helium XL here, and Muddy Aerolite climbing sticks here and a Lone Wolf Alpha Tech here). By having a stand that can easily be put up in nearly any tree you open up lots of areas that would otherwise be un-huntable with a climber.
Say you are looking at hunting an area with lots of thick cover, like old cutovers or briar thickets and the trees around it are irregularly shaped or have too many limbs for a climbing stand. Most other hunters in the Southeast are using a climber, so they have no way of hunting the edge of the cutover or briar thicket, so they just hunt in a nearby stand of hardwoods. If the deer travel in the thick area, or on the edge of it, they have no way of hunting them, but you do with your lock on stand.
Another example could be in an area with no trees suitable for a climber or even a lock on. Most people wont bother to carry in a ground blind, so they may hunt woods near the area with no trees to get in. If the deer move around in daylight where there's no good trees to get in, you need to find a way to hunt it. Hunting on the ground wearing a leaf or gillie suit can be deadly in situations like that.
Creative access routes are another way to be different. Now, when I say creative, I really mean long, difficult or overlooked. Your access is the most important part of your hunt. People typically use the same access routes, the same trail head, the same locked gate, or the same pull off on the side of the road. People are loud, and smelly. The deer in your area have more than likely wised up to these heavily used access points.
One of my better looking spots for this upcoming season is a great example of creative access. I found a buck bed (if your not familiar with out buck bedding tactics, check out the hunting beast forum, or go check out episodes 31-35 of our Podcast on Itunes, Stitcher, Iheartradio, spotify and more) on the downwind side of a popular trail head leading into a public parcel of roughly 500 acres. That trail head is the only trail head that leads into the area, and it gets used a fair bit by deer hunters, rabbit hunters, hikers and even horseback riders. This buck has a bed situated roughly 180 yards downwind (NW is our dominant wind in the fall and winter, so this bed is NW of the trail head) so when people park, slam their truck doors, talk, and walk in the deer can smell and hear them before they even get into the woods!
Upon smelling people the trail head, the buck simply has to stand up, and walk down a draw into the thick swamp to get away. Never seen, never heard, never in danger. To make matters worse, he can face down the draw and smell the trail head, and watch the draw below him. The trees around him are also impossible to get a climber in. The solution? Creative access.
My plan is simple, drive past the trail head and just park off the shoulder of the road (make sure that's legal before you do it). I'll get out and walk the edge of a pasture and then walk up the draw he is in to get as close as I can. After finding the bed and looking at what the buck can see, I now I can get roughly 100 yards from this bucks bed, maybe closer. So if we have a NW wind, there is a good chance he will be in that bed. Ill access from the South, and hang my stand within range of a persimmon tree and a scrape just 100 yards from him.
This setup will be good for a few reasons. First and foremost I will be on his escape route, so if someone parks at that trail head and walks in, there's a good chance he will smell them and bail out of his bed and head right towards me! Secondly, I'm on a great food source with several persimmons and white oaks within range of the tree I plan to get in. I'll be close enough that I'll hopefully catch him in daylight as he heads out to feed in the evening. Lastly, there is a large community scrape within range of my stand as well. Deer use scrapes all year, and I have tons of trail cam pictures of bucks working scrapes just like the one ill set up on as early as September.
I'm setting myself apart with an aggressive tactic that involves hunting extremely close to bedding, I'm using creative access, and I'm hunting in a place that most people cant hunt with a climber or pop up blind. Will it work? I guess ill find out in October. But if it doesn't pan out, I have several other spots in my back pocket just like this!
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