For many hunters, the idea of tagging a mature buck on public land is nothing but a dream. But the reality is that many of Virginia’s top bucks come from public lands, ranging from public WMAs to various military installations.
Start scouting public land early; for DGIF managed lands, use a combination of the online maps as well as Google Earth. Find the primary features that are far away from the closest access roads and parking. Many public land hunters will choose not to travel but so far.
Locate deep draws, ridge lines, and creeks – features that deer will use. Next, get out there and walk the property before season. Look for game trails, fresh rubs and bedding areas.
GET IN THE STAND AND STAY LONGER
On public lands, you must be in the stand before other hunters; it’s not just about getting a prime stand location. Many hunters are creatures of habit, and this includes getting into the woods late, and not being able to stay in the stand without being restless or cold after an hour. This is when you want to be sure to stay in the stand.
Deer on public lands are going to hold tight to cover due to the increased pressure. With these deer, you have to wait for them to make a mistake. Hunters will bump these deer as they move in and out of the woods, and this is when you want to be ready. Key in on the thickest cover along game trails.
HUNT SMART & SAFE
Hunting mid-week is always the best option on public land, as the pressure is the least, and deer will be slightly less wary.
As with all hunting situations, hunters must be aware of other hunters at all times. This is especially true on public land. If you plan to hunt from the ground, bring additional blaze orange that can be affixed high above you, visible in all directions. If you plan to stalk, it is advisable to wear more blaze orange than required. It’s better to plan on being extra safe in this situation.
Don’t ignore the vast number of public hunting lands in Virginia this season, just plan to hunt smarter.