Going Public: Welcome to DDH’s Public-Land Hunting Blog

Whitetail deer hunting tips for public land

Just as the title alludes to, this spot is going to focus solely on the public lands we are so fortunate to have available to us here in North America. In recent years, the amount of information on and coverage of private land management and food plots and such for deer has exploded. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and it’s all very educational and great for those with access to private land. But a side effect of that can be that public-land hunting opportunities often get a bad rap, and are somewhat forgotten.

Not anymore. Going Public is here to cover as much as we can about public-land deer hunting, which is free and open to us all. And despite what some people say, the hunting opportunities can be quite good. Obviously, not all public land is created equal in that respect, and hunting pressure varies greatly everywhere. With a little research and scouting, good hunting can be found. Yes, it’s the same old cliché – but it’s true.

So, we’re going to share tips, tactics, techniques and tools for deer hunting on public land, including scouting, hunting different phases of the season, bowhunting, gun hunting, gear such as portable treestands, GPS apps and more, as well as hunting stories about successes and failures.

Our nation’s public lands have been getting more press in recent times due to attempts at selling, transferring and reducing parcels, in addition to increasing possible industrial access for mining, gas drilling and construction. Going Public is not going to shy away from such topics. These are important issues for all public-land users, not just those of us that enjoy deer hunting, so we’ll try to keep an eye on the topics as they arise.

hunt whitetail deer on public land

Quality deer hunting opportunities can be found on public land with some research, scouting and a little hard work. The author found this impressive rub and more promising buck sign while scouting new public land in central Wisconsin late last season.

Finally, we’re going to have some fun. Deer hunting is supposed to be fun, after all. There are few things that I enjoy more than learning about new hunting areas and getting out to explore as many as I can. It’s not exactly hunting Dall sheep in Alaska, but every foray into public land is its own mini adventure – sometimes it becomes way more adventure than we anticipate. We might find some great hunting, signs of a monster whitetail buck or last year’s shed antlers; or we might find a creepy abandoned old homestead, an eerie deer kill site from a pack of coyotes or wolves, or a long-forgotten railroad bed from the historic logging days. We might even meet some fellow public-land hunters that need a hand dragging out a deer, or that could help you if your truck breaks down miles from town. It’s all about those kinds of experiences.

Now, just a little about me. I don’t consider myself an expert of any kind, I just love getting out and getting after every aspect of deer hunting. Whether it’s adjusting and shooting my bow and rifle setups, scouting hunting areas, poring over topographic maps and aerial photos, talking deer hunting with friends and family, and being out in the woods hunting – I love it all. I grew up in a Wisconsin deer hunting family and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to make the trek north to deer camp for the annual gun season and all that it entails. Over the years, about 80 percent of my deer hunting has been and continues to be on public land in the big woods of northern Wisconsin and the farm country of central Wisconsin. A couple of do-it-yourself, public-land bowhunting trips to Wyoming have only increased my appetite for DIY out-of-state hunting adventures in the future.

I legitimately enjoy the challenge of hunting public land. It’s not easy, but the rewards for hard work are that much sweeter. Plus, I don’t feel I owe anyone anything for asking permission to hunt, and I’m not stuck on small chunks of property. Hunting public land allows me the freedom to have multiple areas and many stand sites scouted for different conditions and backup plans. Depending on how large the piece of public land is, if I find some good sign I can follow it as far as needed, without worrying about stopping at a property boundary.

Now that it’s almost the end of October already, with a bunch of vacation days burning a hole in my pocket, it’s pretty tough to focus on anything other than some new hunting spots I’ve discovered, what the weather forecast will be and what the wind direction will be every day. No doubt many of you are probably having the same daydream distractions!

So until next week, please feel free to share your public-land hunting stories, ideas or thoughts with me at chris.berens@fwmedia.com. Get out there and enjoy our great public lands!