“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” is a bold statement proclaimed in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. It affirms Americans are created equally, but don’t hold public lands to that same standard. It’s true, you can rate public land deer hunting spots.
As a hunter with species experience on public lands ranging from whitetails to pronghorn and elk to mule deer, it’s painfully obvious all public lands aren’t equal. As you make plans for a public whitetail hunt, establish a rating system to choose winners and avoid duds in the public hunting arena. The following provides you with a roadmap to navigate toward the best public lands available.
Licenses and Opportunity
As you whittle away at public whitetail hunting grounds, two very important and overlooked aspects include license availability and hunting opportunity. First, will you be able to secure a hunting license in the area? Remember, as wildlife managers experience increased hunting pressure, they begin to allocate licenses via limited draws. This trend stands out in popular whitetail states like Iowa, Kansas, and even South Dakota, which has placed limits on public-land archery license allocations. Research your bucket list hunt to see if licenses are limited, note draw deadlines, and understand the ability to accrue preference points for future draw success.
Opportunity in this section refers to whitetail population density. Will the public lands hold ample deer? Some states assemble accurate whitetail counts while others utilize a variety of methods, including harvest statistics, to monitor the health of herds. Dive into the data to determine if you will have enough encounters on the public lands you propose to hunt.
Winter kill, disease, dispersion, poor habitat and a host of factors could make your choice a gar hole. Avoid that situation at all costs with analysis. Properties that consistently provide refuge, food, and water, with cover as a high priority, should attract deer if density exists.
Water and Whitetails: Scouting and Installing Water Sources for Deer
Hand in hand with a habitat review is the public land location regarding other properties. This is where your HuntStand hunting app pays off. An upgrade to Pro or Pro Whitetail makes sense and saves you money in the long run by deleting poor quality hunting areas from the list.
The reasons to upgrade your hunting app beyond the free version is to have access to overlays including Property Info, Public Lands, and Monthly Satellite. The first two are self-explanatory in the fact you can differentiate public land boundaries from other property owners. These also provide you with an aerial overview of the surrounding land. Public lands that adjoin private agricultural tracts or property exclusively managed for wildlife could lead to dispersion of deer as they move back and forth.
To add even more wealth to your educated overview, use HuntStand’s Monthly Satellite feature. Updated monthly, it provides a fresh look at what’s occurring on private lands surrounding the public parcel you plan to hunt. This layer is lower resolution than traditional aerial imagery but provides ample clarity to distinguish recent landscape changes that could affect your upcoming hunt.
Ease of Entry
Next up, evaluate the location’s proximity to human populations. Consider how easy it is for you and others to get to the property. How close is the hunting property to a major city or town? Like hiking access, distance from civilization affects how many hunters will utilize a property consistently, especially after work or on weekend hunts.
Public areas an hour or more from any populated region likely receive less pressure simply because it takes more time to get there. You can find these areas in farming country far and removed from big cities, and they especially increase in number the further you travel westward. Portions of the Great Plains and western states have public whitetail hunting areas lost in the outback of America.
In addition to remoteness, look for areas where you need four-wheel-drive or an off-road vehicle to access the location. Properties accessed from the highway or highly maintained gravel roads attract the compact car crowd, whereas two-track roads quickly whittle down the number of users who wish to bounce down a road for an hour to get to a hunting location.
Lastly, assess how rugged the area is and if it includes a maintained trail system. Public areas that don’t have trail systems, but do have plenty of terrain ruggedness, tend to be used less than manicured wildlife management areas. Look for the worst in a public property for the best in hunting.
Map overlays in HuntStand, such as the Natural Atlas, help decipher the ease in accessing a property and portray the lack of easy access. A 3D Map flight over the property also aids in revealing obstacles the average hunter might encounter, then avoid.
8 Ways to Find Killer Deer Hunting Funnels
In my experience, hunters seek out the largest hunting properties. However, sometimes smaller is better. Consider the debate. A large public tract allows hunters to disperse, and it can support a higher density of deer depending on its makeup. That can be good if you hope to hike away from the crowd. It might also have all the components to keep whitetails on the property instead of vacating the public parcel daily to find food or security. Add in some nasty terrain obstacles that may keep many less-than-fit hunters out, and you can see why many hunters are attracted to the biggest properties on the map.
On the opposite spectrum are small properties. Slivers of these hunt-able properties are in a checkerboard layout across America. Think city, county, and state parcels that range from 10 acres to more than 100. Hunters often pass them by thinking they’ve been over-hunted or are too small to even hold whitetails. Small properties may lack the needed habitat required to make a home for whitetails, but never pass by a small parcel, as it could serve as a conduit that deer use as they travel between other properties.
A small property might include a giant oak that attracts deer in October, or it could simply have a wetland within its interior that deer use as an escape from nearby suburbia. During the rut, even pint-sized plots of land can produce a roving buck looking for love. Use your HuntStand Property Info overlay to acquire the size of a parcel along with ownership details to help you determine its hunting value.
This evaluation takes you away from your HuntStand app and makes you listen at the convenience store and scour online. While visiting stores or at social gatherings, listen to see if your hunting peers are talking about properties that you might be considering for hunting.
Besides casually eavesdropping on others, open the browser on your device screen and search for your public hunting choices on forums, websites, and other outlets where they might have been highlighted. Has there been chatter about a particular property? Are others posting success images from the public tract? Run down every mention of a property to determine if the secret is out or still hidden. One big buck posted from a public area could lead to a parking lot full of hunters hoping to capitalize on similar success.
8 (More) Shocking Whitetail Research Discoveries
Lastly, rate yourself. Rough, rugged, and large public hunting areas require you to be in shape to access the best hunting. Whitetails quickly realize where the hubbub of activity hums and avoid those areas. They sneak into remote sections of public parcels, and you need to be physically fit to follow behind. More than 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. Being in fair physical fitness gives you an edge by leaving the average hunter behind gasping for breath as you tote a treestand to a distant ridge.
Before you decide to marathon it into a remote public parcel with 50 pounds of hunting gear on your back, visit with your physician. Be sure that any fitness and diet program fits your current health status. Physicians will also assist you in setting goals along with recommending a workout program.
Your HuntStand hunting app will prove to be a crucial tool when trying to choose the best whitetail hunting lands. Rate a handful of properties with purpose and several will stand out as winners for the upcoming season.