A Proven Strategy for Public-Land Bucks

A Proven Strategy for Public-Land Bucks
The author poses with his largest public-land buck harvest over the past four years. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

Doing some additional homework and traveling the extra distance can often yield private-land results to public-land whitetail hunters

For as long as I can remember, I at least some part of my deer hunting season was on public land. I had very little access to private land, so I had to supplement with public-access areas.  This was especially true when I went to college and was living on Ramen Noodles; all I hunted was public land.

Hunting public land can be very frustrating when it comes to deer hunting. It’s difficult to be cruising social media and see private-land hunters talk about how many deer they saw during a recent hunt. On public land, you’re sometimes lucky to even see a deer over a week’s period of time.

With all the frustrations and challenges, it is not impossible to harvest a buck on public land. In fact, I’ve had opportunities to take a legal buck every season for the last four years. Out of those four opportunities, I’ve successfully harvested two. This may sound like public-land hunting is easy, but it’s not.

Recently, I climbed into my stand on public land, eager for what I thought would be an awesome sit due to upcoming rut. Up to this point, I hadn’t seen more than a couple deer on a handful of public-land hunts this year in Missouri.


Just before daybreak, the woods exploded with deer crashing and grunting. Two different waves of deer, to be exact. But as dawn broke, so did the action. No deer activity at all through lunchtime; the woods died off completely.


What happened?


Just the ups and downs of public-land hunting. If I would have been 250 to 300 yards to the south, I probably would have caught the deer during shooting hours. Just as easy, during my upcoming hunts they could be under my stand.

public land bucks muzzleloader jeremy flinn
The author poses with another nice public-land buck he harvested during a muzzleloader season. (Jeremy Flinn photo)

Some of you might be wondering how I was able find and get on bucks?


First off, you got to get away from the crowds. Pulling out a good topography and aerial map will give you an idea on distances from parking areas. The further you are from these areas, the harder it is on you, but it’s just as hard on other hunters. If you’re willing to work harder than other hunters and go the extra distance, the less hunting pressure your area will get, which will help your odds.

Studying these maps also will show natural pinches, funnels, feeding and bedding areas. Having target areas in mind before you make the long trek will cut down on scouting time.

The biggest error made by most public-land hunters is the lack of on-the-ground scouting. If you don’t get out and leg it, you’re cutting down your odds for success. I visit my public-land hunting areas multiple times – no matter how far in they are – before hunting to make sure my time spent in the tree is worth it.


One last tip: Don’t just rely on state land for public hunting. There is plenty of city and federal land that can be very good hunting. Check with your local township for city permits to urban or suburban special hunts.

A degree of luck is sometimes needed to be successful on public land. Adding in some hard work to your strategy beforehand can often tilt the odds in your favor.

Recommended for You

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think? Bass

MLF Pros: What's With the Moon?

G&F Online Staff

We're told to pay attention to the lunar phases. What do bass pros think?

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of defense is insect repellent with DEET to keep chiggers at bay. But when you do get a few chigger bites, use Chigarid to treat them. Hunting How-To

How to Treat Chigger Bites

Lynn Burkhead

How does one go about getting rid of chiggers and treating chigger bites? Your first line of...

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish! Bass

Baitfish for Bass: Search, Suspend or Sink Crankbaits

Jason Houser - May 21, 2019

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near anything that fits in their mouths. Catfish

5 Ways To Catch Catfish on Lures

Keith Sutton - September 16, 2015

As most catfish anglers know, blue cats, channel cats and flatheads will eat darn near...

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options. Catfish

12 Great Catfish Baits

Jeff Samsel

Dozens of different bait types are commonly used for catfish, including these great options.

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish. Records

Upon Further Review: 70-Year-Old Catfish Record Voided

G&F Online Staff - May 22, 2019

Experts agree record channel cat caught in 1949 was actually a blue catfish.

See More Stories

More Whitetail

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season. Whitetail

Oklahoma's Big Archery Bucks of 2018

Kelly Bostian

Where and how some of the state's best archery bucks were killed last season.

Remaining at a deer stand site or moving to a new one is a big decision. Consider these points first. Whitetail

Whitetails: Should You Stay Or Should You Go?

Bruce Ingram - November 05, 2019

Remaining at a deer stand site or moving to a new one is a big decision. Consider these points...

CWD is a threat to whitetail herds everywhere. What does it mean for hunters? Conservation & Politics

A Primer on Chronic Wasting Disease

G&F Contributors - October 30, 2019

CWD is a threat to whitetail herds everywhere. What does it mean for hunters?

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.