Sitka Mountain Gear
Going public
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
olebuck 04-Nov-19
Rocky D 04-Nov-19
JTV 04-Nov-19
drycreek 04-Nov-19
Windlaker_1 04-Nov-19
midwest 04-Nov-19
GF 04-Nov-19
APauls 04-Nov-19
JohnMC 04-Nov-19
IdyllwildArcher 04-Nov-19
midwest 04-Nov-19
midwest 04-Nov-19
Dale06 04-Nov-19
Buckhunter 04-Nov-19
showme 04-Nov-19
ground hunter 04-Nov-19
pipe 04-Nov-19
GF 04-Nov-19
WV Mountaineer 04-Nov-19
weekender21 04-Nov-19
ihookem 06-Nov-19
RD in WI 06-Nov-19
spike78 06-Nov-19
relliK reeD 06-Nov-19
From: olebuck
04-Nov-19
i live in Central MS - we have long seasons and i hunt over 100 days a year. I also travel and hunt a couple of other states every year. in the off season i food plot, habitat management, fill feeders, run 15 cameras, have a countless number of stands that i maintain - this all takes 100's of hours. i have a 60 HP cab tractor, polaris ranger, polaris Ranger EV, honda ATV, and untold amounts of other crap that i have secured over the years to chase these deer - My family owns about 200 acres that me and my two brothers hunt on, i am also in a deer camp and other leases that total about 3,000 acres. i've hunted this land for 20 years. I spend alot of time and a tremendous amount of money every year to deer hunt and turkey hunt. Once i kept tabs i have found that the majority of the time is Labor - not hunting.....

Whats unique about my geographical area is that i have over 200,000 acres of public hunting in my county... now the pressure is pretty high - but the hunting can be good. I am contemplating dumping all my leases and concentrating on public land and farms that i can hunt for free.

My efforts in the off season could be exchanged for scouting of new ground, and more time with my family. During the season i would take a more simple approach - with a climber or saddle hunting. Hunting the same areas for the last 20 years almost seems like a waste - i am at the point in my hunting life where i want to see new areas and hunt in places i've never hunted. i don't care if the deer are as big or plentiful.

I'm Not tired or burnt out on hunting - it just seems i've lost some of the adventure about where i am hunting at.

anyone here just started with a clean slate ?

From: Rocky D
04-Nov-19
There is no way hunting public should be more productive than managed land.

I hunt exclusively on public ground and even though I embrace the challenge it can be a tremendous amount of work to consistently kill above average deer. I look at maps both online and off looking for out off the way spots and often walk a mile to some stands sites. I have pulled up and have had cars parked in the very spot that I was going to and likewise I’ve had them parked beside me when I walked out.

I drove six hundred miles to scout for two days over Labor Day to find the tree that I am setting in right now. So there is time energy and effort hunting public ground.

As for starting with a clean slate I have done so. In 205 at 58 I decided to focus on deer 150 inches or better so I migrate from Georgia for three to five weeks a year. Time is a critical element when hunting distant lands. More importantly than where you hunt in my opinion is that you establish goals to keep you focused.

Sounds like you are from southern Missouri so maybe hunting public up north may have more trophy potential or save point for Iowa or go to Kansas.

Achieving established goals can be extremely rewarding in and of itself.

Personally I would pursue different species or go for better quality. Yesterday, I passed a 140 whitetail on public ground which is blasphemy for most but I eighteen days and it was day one..

From: JTV
04-Nov-19
well, I was forced to it after than land owner died and I lost the place after 18 yrs, this is year #4 back on state land ... I hunted it previous and even off and on when I had private ... I did the food plot thing, keeping trails open, worrying about trespassers, running cameras, put some $$ into that place thru the years, not to mention all the sweat and even a Toe and a half (another story, accident cutting a trail).....yea, there is 'competition on the state land, other deer hunters and other forms of hunting going on at the same time, no more plots and I am hunting pure woods and some marshland and back from edges of ag. fields in a few spots ... ..... there is no such thing as having it all to yourself ...... you think you have a honey hole, then BAM, someone else shows up.... I am not as picky on the bucks I now take, but I do take some nice bucks, but it is also the effort I put in, waaaaay more than the weekender .... but one thing is for sure, it is 'free' and I do really like the place.. most of the time ...lol .. ;0)

From: drycreek
04-Nov-19
Your story, up to a point, is my story. I hunt my home place, and two leases. I have the almost exact equipment that you do involved in almost the exact way, sans the four wheeler. Your Ranger EV is my golf cart. Your Ranger is my CanAm, my tractor is an M6040 cabbed Kubota, etc. I have an F350 and two trailers to move my tractor and backhoe. They didn’t come cheap either.

No way am I going back to public land in Texas, too many idiots to hang my hat on a dice roll. I can understand your frustration because on my leases I’m the only one with a tractor and equipment to do food plots, mowing, road repair,etc. I do get a little money from them each year for seed and fertilizer but that doesn’t nearly cover my time, fuel and all, much less the original cost. I do it because I love it, and on the lease close to me, I like the guys and they’re my friends. The one that’s two hours away I’m giving up after this year. I don’t particularly like those guys except for the one who actually holds the lease. He’s a good friend and I hunt for nothing except about 4/5 days of mowing each summer. Big bucks there, but there’s more to hunting than big bucks. Each of us has to decide for ourselves, good luck in whatever you decide.

From: Windlaker_1
04-Nov-19
I'm in kind of the opposite boat as the OP.

Hunted strictly Public land since 1975-ish. Northern Wisconsin. I no longer have a place to stay, and I'm not crazy about camping out.

This year will be 1st year on Private land. Nephew invited me to hunt his farm. His GF died last year (she hunted, he does not), and he'd like someone to use his land.

All the years I hunted public...bowhunting wasn't bad crowd-wise. I shot some decent deer, rarely had problems with other hunters. Due Season is a completely different story.

Looking forward to a new area. Small (only 20 acres), but i SHOULD be by myself.

From: midwest
04-Nov-19

midwest's embedded Photo
midwest's embedded Photo
I had farms I had hunted for many, many years and lost them to leasing or being sold for recreational property. I really didn't have the desire to spend a bunch of money buying land or leasing for whitetails so basically gave up hunting whitetails for a few years other than an annual gun hunt with a friend. Last year, I decided to try a public land bowhunt on a small piece close to home and had one of the best hunts ever. Doubled on a spike, which I can put my antlerless tag on, and about an hour later, grunted in a nice 3 year old buck that was tending a doe. Super exciting and they piled up about 15 yards apart.

That kind of lit a fire in me to pursue this public land thing a little more. I'm not burning a bunch of vacay time for this so my trophy standards have dropped considerably but there is zero stress and it's a new, exciting challenge. I scouted a couple other public spots this year and liking what I'm seeing so far. Lots to learn and that's what I like! Enjoy the challenge, olebuck.

From: GF
04-Nov-19
I have to say...

I look at all the time, effort, money and flat-out WORK that a lot of guys put into non-hunting-related activities to improve their chances of taking a certain size buck, and it’s just clearly Not My Thing.

Not passing judgment either way, but I could never do it.

My idea of hunting is being on the ground, working the wind, paying attention and (should the opportunity arise) being sneaky enough to close the deal. I have to be feeling HIGHLY motivated (by meat) to sit in a tree all day.

So heck, yeah! Get out in public, take a look around and find out what you may have been missing out on.

The deer will probably win most of the time, but that’s most of the fun, IMO....

From: APauls
04-Nov-19
There is no way in HECK I'd dump the land without doing both for at least one year. I have no idea what your situation is with how many other hunters on your lease other than yourself or whatever but I can tell you what you're NOT seeing. And that's all the "crap" that comes along with hunting public. Hunting public costs nothing, like you say. Get out there this year, sacrifice a few sits on your normal spot to go give it a try.

Since you've been hunting private ground for 20 years, you are forgetting about the sucky parts of public hunting and seeing the rosy. It's a natural thing to do. Try it for a couple years, and when you can determine if it's ACTUALLY what you thought, do or don't make a change. But if you dump it to try hunting public, and realize that oh ya, having a douchebag set up 20 yards over, or parking problems, or gun hunters or etc etc etc etc actually doesn't appeal to you, you'll lose a ton of money trying to get back into private ground, and maybe have a way worse situation than you left.

The beauty is it costs you nothing to try public. Going the other way is spendy to try.

From: JohnMC
04-Nov-19
Why not the middle ground. Hunt your private or private and leases. Put less work into. Stop or do smaller or less food plots. Same with running cameras and feeders. If on more than one lease, it sounds like you are, keep your favorite one drop the rest. Seems like you are wanting to go from one extreme to the other when there is a lot of middle ground you can land on.

04-Nov-19
I'll second what APauls said. Let me tell you about my hunt on public thus far this week.

First day hunting was Saturday. I was hunting a very small parcel of public and a guy rolled in and set up upwind of me about 60 yards away. At the end of the hunt, he intercepted me on the way back and said, "man, I saw your truck, but I've never seen anyone on this small parcel so I came in anyways. I guess that's hunting public ground."

Second day, Sunday, yesterday, I got up very early to get into a spot and set up with decoy so I could be in stand and quiet way before light because my only shot for this spot was sitting a narrow creek that went along the road, but did a 90 degree turn into the property with the idea of decoying a buck walking the creek inside the property. Right at first light, a truck pulls along side mine, then leaves and rounds the corner, parks, guy gets out upwind of me and goes into the woods with no bow or equipment. I see him going in and out of the woods working his way along the entire creek the entire length of the property (a mile long). Deer are flying out of the creek bed wherever he goes and running across the field to the woods on the private.

As I got back to my truck, he pulled up to me and says, "I saw your truck and I didn't want to mess you up so I went and looked for deer and sign in the creek over there. I didn't see anything. Have you seen any deer?"

Neither of these guys were jerks. Both of them were nice guys. But they (in their minds) unwittingly blew my hunt because they're "that guy" and there's lots of "that guy" out there.

From: midwest
04-Nov-19
Hopefully better luck during the weekdays, Ike. Good luck to you and your dad!

From: midwest
04-Nov-19
The thing about hunting public is I EXPECT to have interrupted hunts so I don't worry about it when I do. I set a realistic goal....I go with the mindset that any deer is a good deer on public if my freezer is empty. This year I have a full freezer so any buck 3 years old or better is the goal. But I also have friends who want deer so towards the end of November, anything goes!

From: Dale06
04-Nov-19
Basis the public land hunting that I’ve heard friends talk about, there is no way in hell that I’d trade private for public. I’ve hunted public sparingly, in Oregon, with some success I’ve hunted it in Mn and just got some of my equipment stolen. I have my own land to hunt these days. And I enjoy a lot putting up blinds etc.but I do not put in the hours that you do. You could dial back the number of stands and food plots some, and reduce your hours of labor.

From: Buckhunter
04-Nov-19
DONT DO IT!!! ITS MORE WORK AND LESS DEER

From: showme
04-Nov-19
I don't think Public ground in Mississippi is a sane choice. Giving up the camps or a way life, by choice, indicates the bubble not level today, or the other half needs to but out. :] We will go counting shoes....

04-Nov-19
GF,,,,,,,,,,,, took a deer today in the UP, long bow , on the ground, sneak and peak, shot distance 12 yards............. I hear ya brother

From: pipe
04-Nov-19
Good luck! Hunting is hunting no matter where... The different challenges present and that's what makes the hunting great.

From: GF
04-Nov-19
That sounds awesome, Ground-Hunter!

And don’t anybody get me wrong - I’d be thrilled to pieces with access to a decent sized piece of private land; I just don’t have any inclination whatsoever to turn my recreation into work with all of the farming that so many guys do.

Only speaking for myself.

04-Nov-19
You've got private ground you can hunt. Dump the ground you are paying to hunt and go to the public. 200,000 acres of ground, you will find many places people won't bother you. And, it'll put the fun back into it for you.

From: weekender21
04-Nov-19
Public vs. private varies so greatly from one region to another it's hard to give advice to your situation. Everyone is recalling from their experience on their particular piece of private and public.

We've purchased a few hundred acres in western NC in the last few years. I've enjoyed putting in access trails, food plots, and improving the habitat. But...there is no way I'd completely give up pubic. In some places public may very well provide an opportunity at bigger deer, better buck to doe ratio or better numbers in general (neighbors on private matter). I'm into public hunting for adventure. From NC to AK, I always want to know what's around the next bend in the river or over the next ridge.

I'd say enjoy both but if you don't own the private land I can understand not wanting to invest in it. Good luck!

From: ihookem
06-Nov-19
Public land sure has a learning curve. I am 100% public now and would never put that kind of money into a deer. I am happy with a doe, however. I hunt very high pressured land in S.E. Wisconsin. I took a 3 mile walk and found 2 gut piles , a trail cam and even a ladder stand all in different places inside of 100 acres. One guy took the balls and tied them to a tree. No doubt to brag he got there first . I however dont forget and will likely throw a few hunts a few weeks before Nov. 4 next year . There are , strangely enough where there are areas where people just dont go. I have noticed that this is where there are a lot of deer too. I am not sure if the deer are there cause there are no hunters, or the deer are in so thick that hunters wont go there. It was discouraging when I came across the gut pile with the balls hanging, but calmed down when I reasoned how many land owners go to their private land and see the same thing and payed for the thief to boot. It may be different for me to some degree cause the closest spot to park in 1.2 mi. from my house and the farthest is about a 10 miles drive. Packing everything in and out gets old too. If I had money, I would own my own land but for a guy who is hard pressed to make $50,000 this year had little left after taxes, cars and a very hungry retirement plan. I have a 7 ac. parcel in Northern Wis. that is almost surrounded by public land , but I bough that for $3,000 30 yrs ago. Sadly north west Wisconsin deer hunting on public ls dismal on a good year, and this year is a bad year so not seeing a single deer on a 2 day hunt is par for the course so I just hunt high pressured southern WIs . public and actually enjoy it . It did however take 5 yrs of scouting , 16 mi. last year, 51.7 mi. the year before an 20 mi. the year before that to just get an idea of the land. It is however about 5,000 ac. What isn't water is marsh and very tough hunting . A doe is a success story .

From: RD in WI
06-Nov-19
Jim, I have a small patch of woods that I own (1.25 acres) that has yielded 2 does in 4 years of hunting. I passed on others that I could have taken, including a few bucks. I hunt some public land (heavily hunted in WI) but have killed a small buck there and passed on a number of does in the same 4 year period. I do nothing to my land, except cut trees for the fireplace and to keep the understory fairly thick. Scouting the public land is the only effort I put into hunting it. If I were you, I would determine what level of effort you can manage in order to have a successful season and split that effort between maintaining the private land you frequent, as well as scouting the public land, in order to ensure that you know it well enough to have good experiences there in the future. I am pulling for you from Wisconsin. Very respectfully - Rich

From: spike78
06-Nov-19
One interesting thing is that of all the cams I put out every year I get more BIG bucks on them on public land then my private land spots.

From: relliK reeD
06-Nov-19
I am with you olebuck. I own 20 acres and have relatives and friends in the same area with a total of 1000 acres. I lost count of how many deer my relatives and I have shot over the years. I new every tree and crossing area. Five years ago it no longer excited me and decided to mix it up. Ventured around and tried public land, big woods up north and other towns. Shot five decent bucks in the last five years all as a ground hunter in different towns and having a blast exploring. At 61 years old I needed a change and haven't hunted any of my or relatives property and may never again. Im going to try another new piece this weekend.

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