I have been hunting private land for deer my entire life. For those of you that hunt public, I have some questions. I hear all the time to find a good spot on public land, prepare to walk a ways. How far do you typically travel and how do you get your animal out if you are a good distance from your vehicle? I assume atvs are not allowed? It's my understanding that you are not allowed to alter trees. So does this mean no cutting branches, limbs, etc? Aren't you guys just a sweaty mess if you are hiking quite a distance? Do you really limit what you take so you can be more mobile or do you pack everything because walking back to the truck is just a pain in the rear? What about when it's really cold? Do you pack your clothes in so you aren't sweating the entire walk in? I give all you public hunters a lot of credit. This seems like a heck of a lot of work. I'm very curious to read your responses. Thanks for your time.
School me on the ways of hunting public land
Loves to hunt and fish, et.al.;
Public land hunting definitely has some differences from private land, however don't let that completely discourage you. I have hunted mostly nothing but public land all my life and have had some form of success just about every year.
True, the antler size is considerably more humble and acquiring doe tags becomes harder when competing for potentially fewer tags. Walking distances can be greater and it does help to have a method to bring in hunting clothes into the woods to avoid overheating and getting all sweaty.
Other drawbacks include having your spot also being sought out by another hunter or as we have experienced in the past (and this upcoming year) having your best stand clear-cut leaving you to go back to square one in your search for the ultimate stand.
Though there are negatives, there are also some positives to having other hunters in the woods. I have both helped and been helped by complete strangers to drag deer out of the woods. One time I had a group of guys wait for us by our truck for over an hour after dark. We had apparently left for hunting unaware that we left a dome light on and yet still locked the truck. These guys knew that our battery would be dead and stuck around to give us a jump when we came off our stands. For every schmuck that exists, there are still some incredible human beings out there. I have also developed friendships with the people who happen to hunt the same parcel and we have e-mailed each other pictures of trail cam photos.
If you don't know where to start, right here at your computer is as good of place as any... Some resources include www.wisconsin-wi.com/wisconsin-gis-maps.html as well as the DNR website under Forestry, Forest Landowners, Web mapping application. Under these sites you can study satellite photos and aerial maps to see where to start to look for potential hunting spots.
Good luck out there and safe hunting,
I walk slow so I dont get heated up, I got a spot only a quarter mile in, on top of a ridge. I pack in a mummy bag with a garbage bag put, the garbage bag in the mummy ,so my boots dont get the inside wet, and have my thermos of hot coffee right next to me. I use foot warmers,hand warmers and put two body warmers in my breast pockets. I like to hunt where there are a lot of hunters, they always kick them around for you. Always try to hunt uphill so the drag is downward.The hard part is to find that spot, so you have to do some pre scouting. The spring is a good time for that. If there is still snow you can find the trails they have been using all winter and they will use them year after year. Always get up high, dont hunt down in a bottom, you cant see down in there,and they will usually walk up out of those bottoms when they feel they have to move.
Jitterbug and Skunky were both right on with the patience concept. As far as gun season and increased pressure, a guy should really try to beat everyone into your spot so that when the others walk in they are moving deer to your already quiet and settled location. Jitterbug was also dead right with lunch time movement. I've killed 3 mature (4+) bucks with my rifle and each of them was between 10:50am- 1:50pm. Midday is absolutely a must to hunt, especially in the northwoods. You need to play your wind just as much as you play the wind of other hunters.
A good honest shout out to Trouter. I was hesitant to admit I am a D- public land hunter. I have shot all my deer except a few on public. I have 7 ac. that is all but surrounded by public land > ihave shot deer on it but always over corn. I dont hunbt over corn anymore though. As for southern Wis. public land, I have shot 3 deer in 10 yrs of serious hunting. One , a buck and 2 does, all three with a bow. I have not gotten one in 2 yrs. now but I am serious again this year. I never got one down here with a gun . It is one thing after another. A few minutes after closing, so I dont shoot. A nice buck in the 4 day doe season , and then 2 does come by 2 min. after closing. I was happy to see 3 deer in the late doe season, but always one reason or another that goes wrong. It is far different than a blind, where they dont see you so easy. On Monday morning in the Flambeau River S.F. I heard them coming and looked behind me . They walked by my tracks and surely caught wind of me. They are very skittish in wolf country. It is a challenge just seeing one up there without bait.
I have hunted on public land in Sauk and Adams counties off and on for 30 years.
I have never filled a tag on public land.
Yes, prepare to walk a ways. I have about 15 stands. Sometimes I dont use then for several yrs. My avr. distance to my stand is about 1/2 mi. Some are through a lot of water, but ALL of them to get there means I need to get in to some water. Several mean I have to cross a creek. ATV's are almost never allowed so when I do I study a bit on how to get them out without anyone seeing me, so therefore I always have waited till night . As for altering trees, I never do unless the branches are dead . I alomst neve rcut them cause it shows someone it is a stand there. As for a sweaty mess, No, I refuse to sweat. i will take almost all my clothes off before I sweat and I almost always take off a bunch of clothes . It doesnt bother me but if I start to hear bangos , and then I will head for the truck. If I sweat , I get cold real fast. As for packing , yes, I pack my 14 lb Lone Wolf, a backpack and gun or bow. The pack and climber weigh about 30 lbs. I leave nothing in the wood except toilet paper and then I even hide that if it gets used. I even try not to leave a boot track. As for scouting, I scouted 21 mi. last yr., 19 the yr. before and 51.7 mi. the yr before that and about 16-19 miles for several yrs. before that according to the GPS Most was on the same 7000 ac. track of land in about 3 areas. I have 3 core areas I concentrate on. All three are about 400 ac. each inside that 7,000 ac. The rest I dont bother with much cause it is over run with hunters . This is in southern Wis. I also hunt a track of woods on the west side of Price co. and the east side of the Flambeau River State Forest. There are so few deer there it is not worth looking for them. However, it is so vast that I have not seen a hunter across the river that I hunt since 2009. I have at least 1,000 ac. with noone on it, but likely only about 15 deer on that 1,000 ac. . I love public land . It is the true test of a hunter. As for the true test, my grade is about a D-. I dont do very good on public land. I only hunt public land casue I refuse to pay the prices of hunting land.
When I hunted public exclusively I would look for the dead zones where it generally is thick as can be. Crossing water is always a plus because most hunters don't want to deal with crossing or dragging deer out (tough during the years of partial ice). In some cases the hunters all head out back and the front is the best because remember a lot of these guys are your drivers. Just depends on the property. I always cherished large drives coming through and after the drivers pass you by (tree stand a must) the smart deer came back through the drivers and I would get my opportunity. All day hunts are the best. Can't count how many times I filled my tag during the lunch time hours. Some of my finest hunting memories is from public land hunts, it is rewarding.
That is good advice scoutking. I had a spot that was an absolute honey hole for 2 years for the rut. It was a small funnel on a ridge on a large 3500 acre piece of public about 1 mile from the parking area. Lots of bucks cruising through, only seen one other guy in that area for those first two years. Last year I noticed trail cameras in the area and seen more guys hunting there. this year it was so busy the deer pretty much avoid the area now as I hardly see anything there. It's a real bummer but this happens to a bunch of public spots. Over time they may come back, but who knows. Time to go find new areas. Scouting for how much hunting pressure areas get is almost more important than scouting for deer sign.
There can be some excellent hunting on public land, but to be successful year in and year out its takes some very serious dedication. Private land, you find a good spot, it will most likely be good next year, and so on. Public changes constantly, largely due to other hunter pressure. A guy really has to put in a LOT of time scouting and finding as many good locations as possible so you can jump around and keep your good spots "good". Feel free to PM me if you want to chat more. I've been hunting exclusively public land my entire life.
Read the regulations on what's allowed. Pack light and get dressed when you get to your spot to keep from over heating. If you have private land, just keep hunting that is the best advice I can give.