Reader Shares Public Land Lessons

Pennsylvania hunter and D&DH reader Jeff Uhler is a public land hunter who deer hunts in one of the most pressured states in the nation. Uhler describes himself as an average, every-day hunter who has learned valuable lessons for hunting public land the past few years. In this guest post, Uhler shares lessons for dealing with hard-hunted public land.

whitetail deer huntingMy Everyday Lessons

By Jeff Uhler

I am not a professional hunter or spend every hour of my free time in the woods. I am an average hunter who learns every year from my mistakes or others. The past few hunting season were the greatest seasons yet for my hunting knowledge. The situations that my friend Chris and I encountered taught me a thing or two about hunting I would like to share.

On the first day of the 2010 archery season my friend Chris and I were in the woods early. About 7:00 a.m., I heard a noise and then a crash in the bushes. Fifteen minutes had passed and Chris text me saying he arrowed a doe. We waited a good 45 minutes before started to track the doe. We followed a good blood trail for about 15 minutes and then we started to lose the blood trail. After back-tracking a couple of times, we heard something in the brush about 30 yards from us. We got ready for the doe to come running out. However, it turned out to be another hunter.

We walked up to the hunter and asked him if he had seen a dead doe. He said no, but that he’d been tracking a blood trail. I asked him if he arrowed a deer and he said no. After a moment of silence he then decided to tell use that he started following the blood trail from the walking trail about 30 minutes earlier, the blood trail that we were following.  He told us good luck and walk away to meet-up with his son.

So, why would a guy follow a blood trail that was not his?  Did he hide the deer or did his son take the deer?  We will never know but we learned a valuable lesson.

A week later, Chris and I were hunting again.  It was around 10:30 a.m. and we decided to go for a walk around the field. We were standing at a high point in the field overlooking mowed soybeans.  I looked over to the left and saw something moving.  It was two deer running out of the woods 300 yards away.  We didn’t know if they were bucks or does.  I grabbed my grunter and gave two gentle but loud grunts.  The deer turned and were running in our direction.  It turned out to be two does.

I was following the first doe with my crossbow moving from my left to the right. Then I realized that Chris had his compound bow on the same deer.  As I moved my sight to the other deer, to the left, I heard Chris give a call to stop the does. However, we both shot and we both missed.

My reason for missing the doe? I did not place the correct dot on the doe and the arrow went into the ground 10 yards before the doe.  Chris missjudged the distance, too and shot over the doe.

The lesson? Remain calm, know your surroundings (hunting partner location), know your distance, and remember to aim correctly.  This lesson sounds like an obvious one but sometimes the thrill of the hunt makes you forget them.

It was opening day of the 2010 rifle season and Chris, my father-in-law Donnie, and I were in the woods 45 minutes before sunrise.  As I stood at my spot I wondered how many hunters I would have to drive away before daylight.

For me it was zero, but for Chris it was one before daylight and he didn’t go away.

Sometime before daylight Chris heard some noise to the left of him. He then saw a light and he shone his flashlight in that direction. The hunter saw him but did not retreat from his spot. Instead he started climbing the tree with his tree stand.  Now there were two hunters 30 yards apart and daylight was breaking.  To make a long story short, Chris and the other hunter shot at the same deer.  The other hunter claimed that he shot the deer first so Chris decided it wasn’t worth arguing over and let him track the deer. Chris would end up harvesting a doe at lunch time, so it all worked out.

The lesson: If you are hunting on the first day of rifle season be prepared by locating a few hunting areas before opening day, just in case someone is near your first location you can go to another and go in early so that you can go to your alternate location before day break.

Around 7:30 a.m. that same day, I was on the side of a hill and a hunter was walking up toward me.  He stopped and sat down.  I was wearing a blaze orange jacket that you could see for miles away.  I started waving at him but he ignored me.  I yelled for him to move several times before he acknowledges me and started walking off to the left of me.  Several minutes went by and as I watched him walk away I heard a noise from behind me to the left.  It was six does, and they were trotting pretty fast. As I aimed at one, I remembered that there was another hunter in that area (the hunter I told to move) so I followed the deer until it was in front of me. But by then the other deer caught wind of me and they were running.

The lesson: Know your surroundings and be prepared to find other locations to hunt.

This year Chris and I went to Ohio to hunt  first week of November. This was our first trip to Ohio and didn’t know what to expect. We saw a couple of deer in the first couple of days but didn’t get the chance to shoot.  Then on the second to the last day, I shot an 8-point.  It was huge to me, and would put meat in the freezer.  After I field-dressed the deer, Chris and I started to drag the buck out.  We were not familiar with the area but knew there was an old logging trail that we could drag the deer out on.

However the logging trail that we thought would help us turned out to be overgrown with weeds, briars and other shrubs.

To lighten our load Chris and I decided that I would go back to the car and unload some of my gear while he sat with the deer.  On my way back into the woods I took a different logging trail in which was just grass covered.  This trail was further up the hill from where we were.   Chris and I decided to tuff it out and drag the deer up the hill over logs and through thorn bushes.  It took us 2.5 hours from when I field dressed the deer to drag it out if the entire woods.

The lesson: When hunting new areas, study the topography and aerial maps to get more familiar with the land. If we would have dragged the deer down the hill to a different road instead of up the hill, which would have been the same distance, it would have been less overgrown and a lot easier dragging the deer.  It probably would have saved us an hour.

Back in Pennsylvania, the 2011 deer rifle season was pretty good.  However, Chris, my father-in-law, and I hunt county parks.  These are public land and when rifle season starts, everyone is in the woods.  The first Saturday I was in the woods and at my spot by 5:30 a.m.  Around 6:00 a.m. I saw a light coming off to the right of me.  I flashed my light in that direction and the person didn’t see my light unit halfway up the hill.  The guy started yelling at me.

Never yell at someone for being in “your spot,” they don’t know it’s yours.  Also, if someone is at your location don’t sit down at a spot close to the other hunter.  That is just being rude.  If you can’t walk to far in the woods maybe as a last resort walk quietly to the hunter standing at your location and ask if he would mind moving to a new location.