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Public Land Pointers

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I know that there are a lot of you, who like myself don’t have the deep pockets for private lease fees or outfitters in order to hunt.  Instead, we’re left to hunt the public Wildlife Management Areas, which while offering some great opportunities, they do see a lot of pressure and offer unique challenges.  Now, I’ve been hunting and taking my share of game out of the public WMA system for well over thirty years, so I decided to share some pointers. I really hope that these tips can help you battle the crowds and skittish deer, while setting you on the path to success.

Go Beyond The Pressure

The number one most important factor in finding success on our WMA’s is to get away from the crowd.  Public land hunters have a tendency to hunt within a few hundred yards of the roads or trails. Therefore, putting in a little extra legwork can bring you into areas with a more relaxed population of deer.  Another thing to consider here is crossing the obstacles that will stop others, such as creeks, ponds, or swamps. Over the years, the older deer have come to expect hunters won’t be back there and they feed and breed and hang out with the expectation that they’re safe.  Utilize waders, canoes, or kayaks if you have to; they can get you in to spots that are often as good as some private lands. It’s all about going the extra mile and trying to catch them unaware. 

Scout early and often

After you have worked hard to get to spots on public land, continue to do your scouting.  Pay attention to the sign as you come and go from your stand and if you sit day in and day out watching deer travelling out of range.  Move your stand! It’s so much easier to kill a deer where they are, not where you want them to be.

Choose Your Days

Public land is often best during the week as most hunters typically, for one reason or another, are restricted to hunting the weekends.  If you can manage to hunt during the week you stand a much better chance of not walking in on another hunter’s set up, or having them inadvertently do the same to you.  Hunt the fronts; not many of us are fond of hunting in the rain, but I’ve learned to look forward to it. The woods are empty and quiet and the noise of the rain and wind masks both your noise and scent, placing the odds just a bit more in your favor.

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Pack a Lunch

Get to your stand well before daylight.  As hunters filter in to get themselves situated, they can push deer your way.  And late morning and early afternoon, as the other guys head back and forth at lunchtime, again, they can bump deer your direction.  And pay close attention to the forecasted feeding times while you’re out there. I know it’s not easy sitting on stand all day long, so during the lulls between the feeding periods, climb down, stretch your legs. Grab a spot at the base of your tree and enjoy your lunch and generally take a break.  Nap there if you need too; the point is don’t be stomping around in the woods laving fresh scent trails ad making noise. Stay put, be diligent and smart, and you’ll be able to use public land to your advantage.  


As always, if you have any comments, questions or just want to share your success from the woods, give me a shout out at [email protected].  God Bless and Good Hunting!


Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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