One question -- the public land seemed to be intersperesed with the private land and the public land was not all that well marked. I also wondered if the smaller blocks of public land got overwhelmed by hunting pressure.
Would like to hunt this area some time.
The Nat'l Forest properties aren't all marked by Shawnee National Forest signs 'everywhere' they should be.
No ATV's allowed in forest and some restricted camping rules in various areas also. Weekends get hit harder than thru the week.....but THE RUT get's hit hard and fast and furious and thru the first gun season Nov.20th start this year. (3 days).
I quit hunting The Shawnee when the big influx of hunters started back in late 80's. Some great areas in there and there "WAS" some great big monster bucks in it's day! Still a few there.....but not the quality it was 20 years ago. To many smaller bucks have been taken before they reached full maturity, so the QUALITY of numbers of good bucks went down hill.... and this still happens every season!
Get you some GOOD aerial photos and good maps from Shawnee National Forest Circus.....and study them and 'try' to find you a "quiet place" to hunt! GOOD LUCK and have FUN!...it is a beautiful area for sure!
My son and I took a look at the Shawnee NF two years ago with thoughts of hunting. But where we looked we quickly observed that it had steep terrain just like the area in WV we quit hunting due to the slightly steeper terrain. The section of the Shawnee we visited had some flat areas, but if you walked to the edges of those flat areas the drop off was steep and deep. We didn't/haven't hunted it.
There is some easier terrain to hunt there.....but I bet it's crowded now a days with the 'close to the road' hunters. I miss The Shawnee and my younger days though.....I have had some great hunts and FUN there thru the years. Back then you NEVER saw another soul while bow hunting.....things have changed!
My son now says I hunt CLOSER to the truck every year! It's a fact....and I learned I don't need to be back very far in a lot of areas to kill a Big Buck! I've now killed many on FLAT terrain of My Choosing! It's "H" to get old............ (*;
For finding places to hunt though you'll want to order the 1:24,000 USGS topo maps (Can also order them on the map order form). These are larger scale with more detail and show contour lines. However, they cover a much smaller area.
Pope county is a good county that I have hunted quite a bit in the past but you have to do your homework. There are some small pieces of Shawnee ground in Masaac county that get overlooked and might be worth looking into. Alexander county is another good county that seems to get less pressure...also you have the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge you can hunt in Alexander. All thick river bottom ground surrounded by Ag. Would be a great place to boat or canoe into a spot.
Bowhunting you should be able to find some good places to yourself. However, gun season is getting bad down there. If you work hard enough though you can find a place to yourself and maybe kill a wallhanger buck...they are there...just tough to fool.
My advice would be to plan your hunt the first week of bow season...try to find the deer on the food sources and hunt unpressured deer...it may be warm and it may be buggy but that keeps other hunters out of the woods... I think it is a great time to score on a trophy.
The first few weeks in November prior to gun opener is when the rut gets going. During the rut the woods can be full of hunters...even during bow season.
Another good time to bowhunt is late season after the gun seasons...early January after the woods have had time to calm down...setting up again on food sources. January down there you should have the woods to yourself...even though the deer have been hit hard by hunting pressure there is no way they all got killed and some big bucks can come out of the wood work late season when they are slaves to their guts.
PM if you have any other questions...would be glad to help.
Around 95-2000 blue tongue disease went through that area and really shrunk the deer population. There has been a very noticable drop in the deer population in that region ever since then.
Back in the 80's you could follow a deer as the shots would follow it down the valley. Honestly, those guys never really knew who killed the deer, it was simply a matter of who it fell in front of!
You could ride ATV's back then so we would get up early and ride several miles of fire trails to get back away from everybody. Have seen some pretty big deer over the years, but those require A LOT of walking. You don't hunt 200 yards from a road and expect to see them in the SNF. Expect to walk a minimum of 1 hour to reach their stomping grounds. Only the young and dumb are up around the roads.
BTW, we would bowhunt Sat.-Thurs. then Shotgun Fri.-Sun. Back in the 80's, my dad and I were some of the only bowhunters in that area of the woods. Didn't take long for some of the others to get wrapped up in bowhunting!