Free to everyone anywhere, public lands offer great hunting opportunities. If you need a place to hunt, or you’re bored hunting the same ol’ spot or unwilling to lease land, try public lands.
Arron Warbritton cofounded The Hunting Public, an online video series that teaches strategies for hunting public lands. He hunts public lands 90 to 95 percent of the time, and believes everyone should use these resources, and understand why they’re available and what they offer.
To strengthen the case, consider these five reasons you should bowhunt public lands.
Public lands, unfortunately, are burdened with myths and misconceptions. Some hunters complain that these lands have no elk, deer, turkeys or other game, and are overcrowded. Warbritton disagrees.
“Public land gets a bad rap sometimes,” he said. “A lot of folks say there aren’t many deer, or there’s too much pressure, but from what we’ve seen, that’s not the case. There are lots of good options on public land that people overlook.”
The U.S. has over 618 million acres of public land, and estimates from Action Bio Science and the Quality Deer Management Association indicate the U.S. is home to over 30 million white-tailed deer. Deer and public lands can be found nearly everywhere, but you must know where to look.
Hunting public lands offers great challenges because the land and its wildlife are accessible to everyone. Therefore, finding your own publicly owned hotspot can be challenging.
Warbritton said hunters must deal with competition for these resources, and understand that they’ll be pursuing deer and other wildlife that are wary because they’re hunted often.
“Deer don’t know whether they’re on public or private land,” Warbritton said. “They simply know that human scent means danger, and they learn to avoid it to survive. So, that challenge is there.”
Plus, if you hunt private land, you can supplement your season by hunting public lands to give your land and its wildlife a breather.
“If you’re pounding deer stands on the same property over and over again, deer will eventually pattern you and avoid your location,” Warbritton said. “By spreading your hunts across different areas you can put less pressure on deer and give them their space.”
Public lands present new challenges, opportunities and learning experiences. Do you want to diversify your skillset and learn more about deer behavior? If so, hunt public lands.
Warbritton said you don’t have to hunt public lands exclusively to learn things. In fact, simply walking around on public lands can make you a better hunter. You’ll learn which habitats deer prefer, how they use and navigate different terrains, and how they adjust to human scent and hunting pressure.
To succeed at hunting, you must adapt and continually learn. Because public lands are diverse and everchanging, they offer unlimited adventures and learning opportunities.
“You meet all kinds of people out there,” Warbritton said. “We’ve had a couple of bad encounters over the years, but 99 percent of the time it’s awesome. Those people are there for the same reasons you are. They all care about the land and the resources, and if you work with them, you’ll have a better experience.”
Hunting public lands is a great way to expand your social circle, and these properties provide good places to take friends and family. “A lot of times you’ll be surprised at the results,” Warbritton said.
Bowhunting season dates vary by state and species. If you’re flexible, you can plan out-of-state trips on public lands to hunt just about every big-game species in the U.S.
According to a Realtree.com article, Idaho, Florida, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kentucky, Montana, South Carolina and North Dakota open their archery seasons before or near Sept. 1 each year.
And if your hunting season ends too soon, book a late-season hunt elsewhere. Archery seasons last into February or March in Ohio, Virginia and Arkansas.
Just do your homework. Use maps to find good tracts of public land, and check state hunting regulations to abide by the rules. Then, buy a nonresident license, book a campsite or hotel, and try bowhunting deer or other game on public lands in other states. Don’t forget your climbing treestand! They’re ideal for public-land hunts.
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