*UP of MI public land buck
I love hunting public land, and do so every year! I will be writing about and taking video of the plan of attacks, but this year I will be bowhunting public land in OH, and rifle hunting public land in the UP of MI. The following is a quick reference public land deer hunting guide that I believe can offer you some tips that you can take to the woods this fall:
*I have found it pretty easy to find deer by staying away from people areas, and identifying funnel areas within remote core cover locations that either move deer through hunting pressure, or rut-cruising activities.
*My approach starts by finding large, interior blocks of cover that have zero roads or trails. I use no markers of any kind to navigate to my stands...even to the point of watching out for areas I could leave my tracks or break ferns to reveal to others where I have been. People are lazy...they will follow you in if you leave a trail, almost every single time.
*My average walk-in is 45 minutes to an hour which includes some degree of rough walking. What is "rough walking"? Beaver dams, water, heavy cover and steep climbs are all great to help decrease the majority of potential hunters that you will encounter. If an hour walk brings me to another road or trail...I find a new spot to hunt.
*Remember, a large portion of scouting and hunting for mature bucks on public land, starts by planning and scouting our fellow hunters in the area, first.
*After eliminating deer-less cover (water,open fields and people areas) I focus on the interior of the core area that I will scout to hunt...but I look to eliminate even more cover!
*All cover that is the same....including large expanses of hardwoods, conifer stands and otherwise boring terrain, I ignore. I focus purely on the areas with the most most topo and habit diversity within those core area. I pre-scout a route to connect the potential hotspots so that I avoid wasting time. By focusing only on the interior, core, no-hunter areas of diversity you can quickly take 10,000 acres and leave yourself 100 or fewer acres to actually scout.
*Illegal stands on public land? Although I would rather not see them at all...at least I know where someone has once been, and probably will be again. I simply...find another area to hunt.
*Old sign is better than new sign. A history of buck sign is an incredible find, in particular when it matches a location exactly where you thought it would be found. The best is when you find both new sign and old sign together in one location! However if you are scouting during the off-season new sign is still weeks or months away, so learn to rely on old sign scouting tactics. No different than finding an illegal stand in the woods which forecasts of past, present and future activity by hunters, the same can be said for finding old deer sign to predict the locations for the future activity of mature bucks.
*Once you have located sign within remote core-cover areas, look for complimentary buck use locations. What I mean by that is that bucks on public land are forced to move and cover more acres within their daily lives. Deer numbers are typically lower and both quality cover and food is typically scattered and random. In OH we have an area we will hunt that features 3 core areas of buck moment that has created a triangle of related movement. Each area offers multiple entrance and exit routes, as well as combo stand locations for morning, evening and 360 degrees of wind direction. The entire area has multiple bucks using the area, with most likely overlapping territories. We would like to think we are hunting the areas where multiple buck use comes together, like a hub.
*Finally, establish access and departure routes that are designed to preserve all of your hard work and potential stand locations for as long as possible. For the OH bow season we will plan on multiple 3 day hunts, following the various cold fronts in late Oct to Mid November, but even then in 3 days we can burn-out 6 stand locations pretty quickly! Don't be afraid to take the long way in, or out. If another way is better and "perfect"... I would take it even if it added another hour to the approach. That is the beauty of public land-typically there are hundreds if not thousands of acres that you can use to access through for the best approach possible.
Public land hunting is great! On private land if you don't have the conditions that you want you can create them through many hours of hard work. On public land you just have to find those same conditions, and much of that process can be accomplished on your computer, tablet or cell phone. Have fun and stayed tuned! I can't wait to write about and show you, the entire story of my 2014 public land hunts.
*PA Public land buck