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Thread: Hunting public land

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    19

    Default Hunting public land

    Hi all. Have a question for the masses...

    I've hunted deer for many years, and for most of those years, had the luxury of knowing someone with some land who allowed me to harvest a deer or two. This year, I'm looking for new places to hunt, and keep thinking about the different WMA areas in VA. I've never hunted public land before and really don't know what to expect or what I'm getting myself into.

    How do you know where to hunt and that someone else isn't setting up in the same area as you?

    How do you scout for deer, knowing that there could be many other folks doing the same thing? Wouldn't it scare away the deer with folks walking around all over the place?

    What is proper etiquette for hunting public land? Is it "whomever gets there first gets the spot"? When is it safe to leave / walk out / walk over to get your deer if you shoot one? How do you make sure you aren't messing up someone else's hunt by getting into or out of your stand?

    Can you stalk deer or is it stands only? (If you can stalk, is that safe to do or stupid?)

    Can you set up stands on the land or is it a 'pack in / pack out' type of thing? Are there any stands already there that are for public use?

    Thanks,

    Muttman

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    warrenton, virginia
    Posts
    3,716

    Default

    Those are a lot of good questions. I can't answer for public land, as I only hunted Thompson WMA in upper Fauquier County years ago. After that experience, I vowed to never hunt public land again. I have been fortunate to be a member of a club and also a few private parcels to hunt.
    2013 Frog Only Tournament Winner
    2010 Tie for VA-Outdoors Angler of the Year
    2009 Caroline County Rotary Club Tournament Winner
    2007 Tuesday Night Classic Champions
    "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Posts
    19

    Default

    @Dirtman... What made you decide not to go back to Thompson? That's one of the areas I was going to check out. I've fished the lake there, and saw people walking in and out during hunting season, but never ventured into the woods.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Midlothian
    Posts
    12,675

    Default

    I am travelling for a few days but will attempt to answer as best I can in the next night or two. Good questions

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    warrenton, virginia
    Posts
    3,716

    Default

    Not sure how it is now, but back in the mid-70's, I was the Superintendent of one of construction companies that built I-66 from the Linden exit back to the East a mile or so. Anyway, one rainy period (no work),I went up to Thompson early figuring I'd hunt a few hours then head back down to the jobsite. I "thought" I got there early enough, but there were already quite a few vehicles in the parking area. I donned my blaze orange, and headed down the side of mountain with a flashlight. I came across a good spot I thought and sat down on a log to wait for daylight. When it got light enough to see, there were about 6 other orange vested hunters that I could spot with my naked eye. I waited until 9AM, then got the hell out of there without being shot thank goodness.

    Again, this was only one experience, (and many years ago),but one lesson I consider learned. If I absolutely "HAD" to hunt piblic lands....I would do my homework in the woods long before the season started and get far, far, far back off the beatin path.
    2013 Frog Only Tournament Winner
    2010 Tie for VA-Outdoors Angler of the Year
    2009 Caroline County Rotary Club Tournament Winner
    2007 Tuesday Night Classic Champions
    "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Spotsylvania, VA
    Posts
    29

    Default

    Try some of the military bases. A few of them offer the general public the ability to hunt after taking an orientation course or two.....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Augusta County
    Posts
    127

    Default

    I cannot speak for WMA's because I've never hunted them, but if they are like the national forests in our area, there are great opportunities to be had. However, in order to find them, you MUST be willing to hike. I've seen and harvested some nice bucks and know others that have, but you have to walk. I'm not talking yards, but miles. I currently have a "honey-hole" in the GWNF that is a 1.5 hour walk from the vehicle. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 miles. These areas are ideal ONLY for the peak of the rut; usually the first 2 weeks in November. As with any area, hunting pressure is easily identified. Look for survey tape or go in before dawn and use your flashlights to find trail-tacks. Almost everyone uses them to mark their way in. In the forest, it is usually best to find buck sign, i.e. rub lines and scrapes and hunt them. Even during the rut, these old mountain bruisers rarely venture far from their "core" area. In the NF lock on stands are allowed if you don't want to carry a climber. I usually place mine in September and remove them in late January. Hope I could help and good luck!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Ashland, VA
    Posts
    362

    Default

    Personally I have not had the opportunity to hunt public lands or the WMAs yet however I am still quite new to hunting. I will say though, I completed an internship with VDGIF this past January in which I did a rough inventory of the types of trees and density of the trees they have on the Mattaponi WMA (for logging and management purposes). I did stop and talk to several hunters at the tail end of the season and they talked about how great the place was and the surprising amount of success they were having. The Mattaponi WMA is 2500 acres, I literally inventoried about 1,000 acres and found that the places near the access points were obviously hunted pretty heavily. The further you go into the WMA the better the chances that you will be all alone and in some pretty "pristine" hunting grounds if you will. I came across some good sized rubs on fairly large trees in areas where nobody would ever hunt simply because it was a good clip from the parking area. I would say if you really want a deer, a large deer or buck at that, and to make sure you are not squatting on some one else's ground then go the extra mile, literally. Just be ready for a long arduous trip out.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Richmond by way of Mechanicsville
    Posts
    71

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    Whats going on Muttman? I am and have been in the same boat you are in.
    I have a lot of experience hunting about a half dozen of the WMAs through out our great state. I really enjoy a few of these tracts and I have had consistent 'luck'. Some of the WMAs can get quite crowded and others you may not see anyone all day. If you're a bow hunter you can usually bet that you will find sparse activity. During gun season, its an entirely different story. I think I have some adequate answers for your post.
    When I hunt I get there early to ensure that I am the first truck in the parking area. This method will ensure that you are not walking into somebodies set up. Additionally, this can deter other hunters from using that access point to the WMA.
    Scouting these areas can many times be fruitless. You will have no idea if people are out there the day before, the day after or everyday. You will also not know if they have taken the appropriate steps to ensure they leave no scent behind. Generally, the harder to access any given area of a WMA, the more productive your efforts will be.
    During the season, its first come first serve. If you or someone else sets up in a spot that traffics people to areas of the WMA than you can expect to have your day or theirs ruined. This may happen even if you go off the beaten path, but is MUCH less likely. If you havent figured it out by now, there are a lot of unknowns that you will encounter when hunting the WMAs.
    Stalking is permitted, however I would not recommend it. There are no stands provided for public use. I have seen a few though, but I am not sure that they are legal.
    All in all, if you are a bowhunter, the WMAs can be safe, solitary and productive. I do not and would not go to the WMAs during gun season. You are putting your life in others hands. You may want to try the National Forest for that. BUT thats just ME.
    Do your homework with the WMA maps provided by the VADGIF, but most importantly, look at google maps/earth to determine cover and topography. The more you get out there the more you will learn; everyone starts somewhere. I hope this gives you a good place to start. Good luck!

  10. #10

    Default

    I'm not sure if this helped Muttman but it has given me a bit of reassurance. I'm leaning on the Thompson WMA and planning on tracking far off the beaten path. To me, that's the only way to do it. I've already begun by studying my topo map to determine where I want to scout.
    Spotter ready...Shooter ready!

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