Before we all know it, deer season will be upon us. Seriously, will you be ready? How are your hunting areas looking? I am constantly on the move for new hunting areas. I hardly ever hunt the same exact spots as the year before. But why is that? Just because you shoot a buck in a spot one year, doesn't mean another bruiser will be coming by the same tree the following year. Want to find new and improved hunting spots right now? Here's how you can do it.
Glassing to Door Knocking
This is my number one method for hunting big mature bucks. Opposed to hunting an area, and hoping there is a nice buck that shows up, I like to go out in the summer and find the bucks that I want to hunt.
Disclaimer - I'm not saying to abandon your proven hunting areas. I still have set spots going into the summer that I monitor with trail cameras, and when a mature buck does show up, I'll be ready to go after him.
Instead of banking solely on the hunting ground that you already have though, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to find a buck that you want to hunt, and then go after getting permission to hunt where he is.
So, you decide to head out for an evening of driving the back roads, looking for big bucks and trying to find a buck that you want to target. This is when the real work starts. What I like to do when I find a buck is to watch him as long as I can. Try and figure out where he entered the field, and where he is heading to. You can use this knowledge to estimate where he is bedding, as that parcel of land may differ from where you saw him feeding.
Don't just focus on where you saw him feeding, start to put the puzzle pieces together in your head right away.
The next step is to go back home, and figure out who owns the land where you watched the buck feed. Depending where I am hunting, usually typing in a google search of "county (the county you are hunting in) gis maps" will lead you in the right direction. Many times the farmer that actually owns the land won't live near where you want to hunt.
My "go to" is to usually show up at the landowners front door, looking halfway decent. Tell them that you were studying plat maps, and noticed they owned some land south of here or whatever the case may be. Politely ask if he/she would be open to the idea of someone bowhunting on their land. The selling points I like to make are I bowhunt, so no guns will be on their property, they will never even know I'm there if they don't want to, and that I would be willing to help with anything on their property in exchange for hunting rights. I will also tell them that they can have as much venison as they like if I were indeed to hunt and successfully harvest a deer on their property. This is usually a good combination for making a good impression on a landowner.
Be prepared for a no. The landowner may not believe in hunting, or maybe already allows people to hunt, or even hunts themselves. Don't get discouraged, and go out and find another buck to target.
In the cases that I do get turned down permission to hunt, that is when I go back to the plat maps and see if I can get permission on a neighboring property by going through the same process.
Overlooked Public Land
There are a few types of overlooked public land in my opinion. The first type is the public land that is overlooked because it looks like crap from aerial imaging. Except it might not be crap at all. This applies mostly to people that hunt public land in areas that are highly pressured, or near big cities.
Instead of looking for the most appealing looking piece of public land (because that's what everyone and their brother is doing as well) and then having to compete with a bunch of other hunters, look for something that doesn't stand out. Maybe it's a small finger of timber in the middle of a giant CRP field or something along those lines. In order to shoot a mature buck, you may have to look where no one else is looking.
How about that little chunk next to the highway you always drive by, but have never thought to hunt?
This is actually happening to me right now, I almost am mad at myself. There is a piece of public land that sits right along a highway that I drive by all the time. It had never dawned on me to hunt it, until I had a couple buddies up in the spring to shed hunt, and they asked me how many sheds I found in there. The answer was zero, because I had never stepped foot in it. I never even paid attention to it. But the more I think about it now, I have never seen another person hunt it, and I have already laid eyes on some good bucks in there. It will be fun for sure, the challenge with hunting a spot along a highway is to not let other hunters know your hunting there.
People are curious by nature, if you don't want others intruding on your honey hole, think of creative ways to access your highway gem.
What I am already formulating is to pull over and quickly dump all of my hunting gear into the ditch and then drive off and park a ways down the road. I would then walk back to my gear in plain clothes, and get dressed in the ditch and then head out to the stand. This move could be risky and maybe even dumb, but I think it just might work for my highway honeyhole.
Follow the Public Hiking Trails
Sounds crazy right? Again, if you want new and improved hunting spots, thinking outside the box is a must. Many public lands are set aside for more than just hunting. Plenty of areas include hiking and biking trails. It may seem absurd to hunt near these trails as we are usually trying to avoid such human interaction. But maybe we are thinking of it backwards. Public trails can offer two advantages to us as deer hunters.
First of all, it gives us a chance to take advantage of something I like to call hiker interrogation. Now don't go and take me that seriously. What you can and should do though, is while scouting, go and casually act like another hiker. If you run into somebody, ask them if they have seen much for wildlife, and what they have seen. You will be amazed at how much you can learn.
The second thing I like to take advantage of is to use the public trails as entry and exit routes. Think how often those deer see people on a daily basis going by on those trails. They end up not paying attention to them, and you can use this to get into and out of your stand undetected.
Location is everything when hunting big mature bucks. It will be a major factor in your success rate. Chase The Mountain wrote an article that highlights how to become a more successful hunter and in that article, he talks about the importance of location.
The most important thing when trying to obtain new hunting ground is to not overthink it. Yes, thinking outside the box and getting creative can pay huge dividends, but don't stress out if you don't have any big bucks on your hunting property right now. Make a plan, set goals, and work hard towards finding a buck that you want to shoot.