Finding That Public Land Honey Hole
Hunting public land is extremely rewarding when it is done correctly. At times it can be fairly hard to find a good spot to hunt that does not have a dozen other hunters all hunting on top of you. Depending on the size of the public land you are hunting, there could be quite a few spots that most public hunters never go to. These are the honey holes we want to find and with a little technology, we can find them even easier than before.
The Struggles of Public Land
Where there is public land, there are sure to be many hunters hunting it. Public land is a great public service that allows hunters that do not have their own land to hunt on government land. Although, sometimes it seems like there is not enough land for everyone to hunt.
So what happens is you get dozens of hunters all hunting in the same classic places you find deer. Most of the time these hunters hunt just a few dozen yards from each other too. This is not ideal and it puts a ton of pressure on the deer. Then it turns into every hunter shooting the first deer they see because they do not want someone else to shoot it.
All this deer pressure can make it hard to reliably find deer, especially mature deer. If there are any mature bucks on public land, they are extremely smart. They have likely had a few encounters with hunters and did not get to be big mature bucks by being dumb.
Although it is not a total loss. With a little bit of basic strategy and the help of DeerBrain, you can figure out where other hunters are likely to be, and therefore where the deer are likely not to be. Then it is just an elimination game until you find a honey hole.
Public Land Strategies
The first thing we need to figure out is what sort of strategy we want to use while hunting public land. All the same strategies that work on private land will work on public, but if it is simple enough other hunters are likely doing it.
You could pick out a nice scrape or scrape line to hunt, but if it is not too hard to get to, odds are you are not the only one that knows about it. Scrapes are great to hunt around and you can definitely see some good action around an active scrape, but you need to make sure that it is secluded enough that other people do not stumble upon it.
That can be difficult to do. Your choice is to either share the scrape with other hunters or scout deeper into the public land in search of an area most hunters do not go to. You can also make your own scrape. It can be challenging to get deer to use it and you can not just make one anywhere, but it can be done.
Hunting Buck Beds
A great option for public land is to hunt buck bedding areas. A pressured buck on public land is likely going to have a very secluded and safe bed in an area that most hunters either do not go to or can not get to. It can be challenging to find these areas and once you do find them you need to make sure you do not run the buck out accidentally.
If you are able to figure out where a nice buck is bedding, you can wait close by. You should hunt on the trails between his bed and his favorite food source. This works well during the pre and post-rut. During the rut, bedding is off the table.
Funnels and Pinch Points
During the rut, it is just about impossible to predict deer movement. What we do know is that they will be moving a lot. During this time you can think of deer like cars on a road. During most of the day(year) they are driving on their own little roads and minding their business. Although during the five o’clock rush (the rut) they are all trying to drive through the same intersection to get home.
To go along with our little scenario, you want to be the stoplight at the intersection. You need to find the natural funnels(roads) that are going to lead to the pinch points (intersections). Then you can set up close by and while bucks are rutting they will eventually have to come through the pinch point you have found.
The best funnels you can hunt are the natural ones. This can be something as simple as a couple of hills, a water crossing, fence gaps, or a treeline opening. Deer will always take the path of least resistance. So they will naturally go through these funnels.
Food sources are always a go-to when deer hunting. Deer spend a lot of time going from food source to food source. We often either try to catch them at a particular food source or wait on the trails inbetween. All and all, food sources are the core of most of our hunting strategies.
That means they are also the most simple thing to hunt. This is a good thing most of the time, but if you find a fruitful food source on public land and there are plenty of deer using it, there are likely going to be plenty of other hunters there when the season opens.
While I think hunting food sources on public land can definitely produce a deer to harvest, if you want the big boy, you will need to go the extra mile.
How Deer Brain Heat Maps Can Help
Heat maps are the solution to the overcrowding issue we have in public lands. In the DeerBrain app, there is a feature called Heat Maps that we can use to estimate where most hunters are going to be and where there is the least amount of deer pressure.
This is especially useful if you are hunting out of state. You do not even have to be in the area to create one of these heat maps. You can find any location in the apps map editor and then start creating your heat map.
Great, so how do you use it? Well, I have already made a YouTube video about it that you can see below if you like, but I will also explain it here.
To get started, you need to find your hunting area on the map. After you do that, you can use the crosshairs on the map to outline the entire WMA. You can make it a basic square or as detailed as you like. Once you have the area mapped out, you can start adding access roads and hunting stands.
Of course, you are not going to know where every hunter hangs their stand, but you can put any and all information you have in this app and it will make your heat map even better. You can start by labeling all the access roads. If there is an access road there is probably someone that uses it. Which means deer pressure. Be as thorough as you can be. Add every road and access route you can see or know about.
Then you can also add every deer trail or stand location you know about into it as well. After you have added everything you know or can see from the satellite view, you can hit finish, and a heat map will be generated.
This heat map is going to be a good estimate of where the most hunting pressure is. Plus you can edit it if you learn more about the area. So using this map you can see that the green areas are areas of high pressure and the red areas are areas of low hunting pressure.
This gives you a good idea as to where you should do a lot of scouting. If you go with the buck bedding hunting strategy, you can get a good idea of where to look with topographical maps (which are also on DeerBrains map editor). Together with the topo map and your heat map, you can really narrow down your scouting area without even stepping foot on the property.
I think the heat maps are especially good for your first time on a particular piece of public land. You can get a basic idea of where people will be and update it as you scout and learn more about where and how other people hunt on that land.
After a while, you will have a solid understanding of where people are and where the deer are going to go to get away. Then all you have to do is set up on the trails inbetween.
If you are interested you can download the DeerBrain app for free in the app store. Then Heat Maps are a premium feature that you can get for $9.99/year or bundle it with the other awesome DeerBrain premium features for $39.99/year.
Hunting public land can be difficult to do when you are trying to hunt on top of everyone else. The areas that are easy to get to are going to be the first areas that get covered up by hunters when the season opens. You need to pick your hunting spots more carefully and hunt where other hunters are not willing to go.
This means you are going to be hunting where the deer are not used to seeing people and hopefully will get a chance at a mature buck. Although hunting these areas can be difficult and even harder to find.
This is where DeerBrain comes in. With the use of heat maps and some basic scouting, you can map out everything you know about the property or what you can see on the satellite view. Then DeerBrain automatically generates a heat map for you that will tell you where the most hunting pressure is.
After you know where the hunting pressure is, you can hunt in areas of low pressure. Since deer may be forced to go into high-pressure areas at times, it can also be a good idea to hunt inbetween these high and low-pressure areas. After all, if you go thrashing through these low-pressure areas, they will inevitably become high-pressure areas.
Written by Patrick Long of Omega Outdoors