For me, it is always intriguing to look at a new piece of public land that I might want to hunt on an aerial map. There are new possibilities, new stand locations, new scouting opportunities, and most importantly new bucks. But there is a learning curve with every new piece of public land that you decide to hunt. We have jumped around to multiple pieces of public land over the last few years trying to find one with mature bucks on it. So, to help you understand how to take “inventory” on a new piece of public land, here is our approach.
Some people have concerns about hanging trail cameras on public land, but we usually hang a few during the offseason to try and get an idea of what deer and how many are in the area. If you are going to hang trail cameras, make sure to lock them up. Also, once we put them up, we won’t check them but maybe once a month if not longer than that.
You can also use some of your initial hunts as observation sits to get an idea of how deer move throughout the property.
This is probably the most important thing you can do to take “inventory” on a new piece of public land. Scout late winter or early spring. Look for bedding areas and travel paths that the deer are using. You can use these scouting opportunities to make sure the hunches you made when looking at an aerial photo are correct. This is the time when you can gain valuable information that will help you target that mature buck during the season. The main thing we are looking for are areas that people are not going to or hunting. If you find these areas you will find where the mature bucks are. You can also use this time as a way to find where you want to hang trail cameras in the summer. With the leaves still off the trees and vegetation not yet growing, it is easy to see trails that are good to hang trail cameras on. You can mark these on a GPS so that you can find them easily in the summer when things have grown up.
Some other options that you can do to get an inventory of the property and the bucks that are using it is to take a drive around the ag fields in the late summer and scout for velvet bucks. You may see bucks that aren’t using the public land you are hunting, but it will give you an idea of what “caliber” of deer are in the area. If you have the opportunity to velvet scout a field that is next to the piece of public land you are hunting it will allow you to see what deer are on the property, where they are coming from, and where they enter the field. You can also talk with other hunters that have hunted the property before, but take what they say with a grain of salt and do your own further scouting after you have talked to them.
No matter what you do or how you get your information about the property, it is all info that you can use. No matter what you gain from the inventory you can always use it to help you put the puzzle together to target the bucks that are using the public land. Gather that info before the season starts, so that you can use it later.
For more information listen to episode 016 of the Whitetail Instinct Podcast.
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