Before you start hunting deer on public land you explore the territory you’re going to hunt in later. You look for signs of their presence, or maybe you might see some animals. Of course, a modern hunter has trail cameras to help with this “deer scouting”.
This is mostly about scouting white-tailed deer, done a few weeks before hunting season. You need to spend some time in the forest getting information. Now, do you just go in and hunt where you saw the most bucks?
Real life’s more complicated: this approach may or may not work on private land. On public land, it’s not at all likely to work well. This article gives you some advice for hunting on public land.
Why Is Hunting on Public Land Not the Same?
When someone hunts on public land, he’s not likely to be the only one. Also, there’s little control of who exactly is out there competing for the same deer. Or even if they’re scouting at all – they might be hiking!
Private territory has controlled entry: you probably know who else is there, even where. On public lands you certainly won’t be the only one putting up trail cameras. It’s a good idea to lock down and close your cameras securely against possible theft.
You may set out alone for a zone to scout, to find hunters there already. Will there be people out walking in the woods, thus disturbing the animals? Will the bucks just not return to these areas?
Where Is the Best Hunting Area on Public Land?
There isn’t one. Trail cameras, game cameras, and security cameras are all more or less similar. Each one, however used, is battery-operated and takes pictures rapidly by electronic means.
When tracking game or human movements, the camera uses either visible light or infrared. At nighttime the infrared LED’s glow only minimally. Either way, you get the exact location of the target as well as its picture.
Trail cameras embody good design and high technology, so they are easy to set up.
How to Scout for Deer on Public Land
You will have to find places that are not so accessible, or further. Another problem on public land is, you can’t cut trees or put down food plots. This means that scouting is the only way to get to know the deer’s territory.
Firstly, use technology: search on your computer using mapping-programs, instead of driving around. Look at aerial photos, and altitude maps that can show you the slopes. You can identify potentially good deer habitat from the vegetation and location.
When you’re doing this, you are identifying likely places to mount your trail cameras. Most of these programs let you record points and save symbols on the maps. You can tell where possible trails, dense cover, edges of woods are, and much more.
Close Scrutiny of Possible Hunting Sites
Secondly, go physically into the territory to check out what you’ve learned. Now you’ll be prepared, but there is no substitute for this next step. One has to know how deer move to and from their bedding and feeding zones.
Areas with suitable cover, tracks and points they must cross are places to put cameras. You want to find out when bucks pass and what they are like. Thinking about tree stands, you want to look for clues of where deer have been.
Don’t forget to memorize and note the trails or roads in the area. Are they well-worn, can many other people come here, and how easy is it? These routes will be your means to travel back there.
How Do You Scout Deer With Trail Cameras?
Trail cameras are a key element of a modern hunter’s scouting tactics. Using these, you can find out how deer are behaving, around the clock. Together with signs like droppings, rubbing places and scraped soil, you’ll know who does what.
Placed near vegetation tunnels and natural boundaries, cameras also show where to hang tree stands. Not only that, but you can get an idea of how many bucks there are. You will want to know their ages and how difficult they will be to hunt.
To survey suitable areas well, put up cameras to spy on deer trails. Monitor paths that lead to summer foraging areas, then in the fall, move them. Change the cameras to places where visible scraping and rutting signs by bucks appear.
How Does One Use Cameras to Identify Suitable Animals for Hunting?
Bucks can be unpredictable, and on public land they will be so more often. You have to try harder to understand their behavior, making up for this. For example, use several trail cameras in a likely area to capture their activities.
Many cameras will get you many photographs; sort through them for the best animals. Get an idea of the bucks you could hunt successfully, forget those you couldn’t. Observe his behavior, such as if he is nocturnal, diurnal, or both.
Find out whether he keeps to areas where you can’t stay out of sight. Such bucks as these, and those active at night, will be the hardest to shoot. Your cameras are at hand with images to help you to decide.
Where Do You Put Up Trail Cameras for Deer?
It may be harder, but scouting on public lands can be successful with trail cameras. Without good thinking it won’t be, but with practice and knowledge it will. Three areas are particularly good for mounting cameras, and we shall explain.
Fringe and Bordering Areas
By these words we mean the edges and boundaries of publicly-owned land. It’s true that such zones may be nearer to human-visited places and routes. However, look where neighboring property has similar habitats, or at strips of land for pipelines.
Because other people can get to fringe areas, see which parts are too busy. Don’t bother with setting cameras here where there will be excessive pressure. These parts will not be any good for stands.
Try to understand why people enter these areas, because some fringe habitat is good. Deer can graze here better than in deep woodland. Often, rangers and conservation agencies actually plant their food here to improve their conditions.
Deer Are Drawn to Good Foraging Plants
Areas with good natural, or supplemented food plants are sought out actively by deer. They will brave dangers of human contact, traveling carefully: you need to find their paths. These are used regularly to go between fringe land and isolated, inner forest.
When these feeding trips take place is crucial. Mount cameras on these trails, not just one, to find out precise movements and times. Daytime images are good prospects, but night movements, as said, prove that deer are hiding.
New Extensions to Public Land and Newly-Proclaimed Public Land
Here is a chance to re-live the pioneering days: explore these areas eagerly! In fact, go further than our ancestors could, and find this information online. Where have state and federal land acquisitions just happened?
Even find out where they are planned or proposed for the future. Use your mapping programs to study these exciting new hunting grounds before visiting. Most hunters won’t have knowledge of the best parts here.
Find good territory for buck by scouting these areas in mid-year. Some zones may have had no deer for a while, and they’ll move in. Put trail cameras besidelikely tracks they’ll use to enter from old territory.
Scout in Small, Forgotten Public Areas
Precisely because hunters forget them; often other people do as well.Examples of these are small, isolated parts where boundaries suddenly change direction, or make “peninsulas”. Sometimes they are natural enclaves of one particular habitat, surrounded by different vegetation or rock.
Don’t look down your nose at scouting here, because there will be less human pressure. Buck are clever at seeking sheltered places, and move into them. Think of these as being quite like fringe habitats.
Use mounted cameras to find out whether these isolated, small areas will be promising. Identify deer trails and study the pictures.
Public Hunting Is Possible
Yearly experience proves that older whitetail buck can be hunted and shot – on public lands. It doesn’t happen by chance, but scouting skills are always the secret. Scouting with thinking, and clever use of trail cameras…
* Go here to find out what trail cameras are made in the USA
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