By Steve Wall
As with many other hunters, I do a majority of my hunting every year on public land. It can be very difficult deciding where to hunt on some of the larger tracts of land. I have been very fortunate to have harvested three nice whitetail bucks the past three years on public land in Wisconsin. I attribute this success to putting my time in the stand, a little bit of luck and most of all scouting. The following tips will help no matter where you hunt, however good scouting is crucial on public land.
I begin almost all of my scouting looking at aerial photos from different websites. Google Maps and Bing Maps are great places to start. I like to look at the same location on both sites. These maps have different imagery and I may see something on one site that I dont see on the other. What am I looking for when I look at the aerial photos?
- Food sources
- Possible access points
I like to hunt travel corridors from bedding to feeding areas. I also like to hunt funnel areas where two larger wooded lots meet. My favorite place to hunt though is on edges of two or more different types of structure (ex: clear cut/ hardwoods). Deer seem to love traveling along these edges when moving from one area to another.
The aerial photos give you a good place to start looking but nothing is better than getting your feet on the ground. I like to scout the same area at different times of the year. You can learn new things from scouting in the spring, late summer and during late season hunts.
- Spring is a great time to find last years scrapes and heavily used trails.
- I also like walking areas in late summer so I know what the area is like with leaves on the trees. Late summer is also a great time to set up trail cameras and see what deer might be in the area for the upcoming season.
- One of my favorite times to scout is during late season rifle and muzzleloader hunts. I enjoy this time of year because there is usually a little bit of snow and some of the hidden trails seem to stand out a little more.
When scouting public land and deciding on a place to hunt dont overlook any areas. People think that you need to be the person that walks the farthest from the parking area. I can tell you that this is not always the case. I agree with getting away from other hunting pressure, but I have killed a buck on public land from a tree that I could nearly see my truck. This was an overlooked travel corridor between a feeding and bedding area. Dont be afraid to hunt near logging roads if the deer sign tells you that you should. Logging roads can help you access these areas quickly and quietly.
So the next time you are on the computer, pull up an aerial photo of the land you hunt and see if you can spot an overlooked stand site. Perhaps you will see an edge between two different structure types. Grab your boots and get out in the woods to check it out! Good luck and happy scouting!