Four states away from my home in SW WI, there are 3 stand location areas within a NW PA tract of Federal land that have combined to produce nearly 20 buck kills for myself and a hunting buddy of mine. The cool thing is that as the hunting season starts and continues into the fall, including seasons for Turkey, Bear, and Small gamethe areas I choose to hang a stand in will most likely get better and better as each day of hunting passes. Bring on the public land hunting pressure!
Since 1993 I have enjoyed 16 rifle season openers in those 3 general PA stand locations, averaging around a day of hunting. Although my hunting partner has averaged the same number of days of hunting per year, he has only hunted 8 years. During that time we have hunted the same 3X3 mile area bordered on two sides by water, one side by a road, and another side by woods. This area is a typical tract of northern PA public land. Now before you think I am participating in anything illegal outside of driving almost religiously about 7-8mph over the speed limit to get to my hunting spots while traveling through 4 states to get there, Im not! Im not baiting, dont have a mineral lick stashed in the woods, and I certainly dont have one tied up already-although that would make for an interesting story if that was possible. Instead, almost as much as I love to scout for a spot where many different layers of deer activity and habitat come together, I love to hunt people on public lands too, as well as the Deer Drives that they make!
Deer can be somewhat unpredictable, but hunters are a different story. You can predict by habitat where a deer will spend its daytime hours and even its nighttime, but that doesnt mean that reclusive old monarch of a buck will wander by your stand exactly when and where you want him to. However, hunters are one part of the equation that you can count on every single year. You can count on where hunters access the woods, where the majority of hunters travel while in the woods, and where those hunters spook deer to.
In the UP of MI where I still plan to hunt this season, counting on hunters means that there will typically be at least 1 bait pile within 100 yards from the end of virtually every 2-track or dead-end woods road. In PA a predictable portion of the story is that hunters will be sitting within a mile of the road or lakeshore typically before the increases in elevation during the morning hour of opening day, combing the ridges above during the day, and then working their way back to the parking areas to arrive just before dark. On both the Upper Peninsula of MI and PA public lands I frequent, these patterns repeat themselves every year through the fall and leading up to the rifle season openers in mid to late November. And the deer notice too!
Deer become conditioned to human patterns so much so that one of the most predictable aspects of this very unpredictable creature is that they quickly learn to avoid the extremely predictable patterns of hunters. How can these concepts help you as a hunter to be successful on any type of property that you hunt? Simply, you need to recognize these locations within the lands you hunt that are not disturbed by humans, then you need to stay away from these areas and allow them to improve throughout the season. Finally, after allowing your favorite spot in the whitetail woods to stockpile deer, you need to learn how to go out of your way to access these locations without spooking the deer within.
I haven't hunted PA public land in 4 years, but even so, I am sure there will be some nice bucks starting to collect in a few honey-holes very soon! By using people patterns you can let your favorite stand locations improve...even while sitting in your home 4 states away. When you combine these hunter-hunting tactics with my quick reference Public Land Hunting Guide, you can develop an exceptional plan of attack for your next public land adventure!