How to Become a Public Land ’10 Percenter’

The author picks the brains of four top-notch public land hunters.

How to Become a Public Land ’10 Percenter’

You’ve heard the age-old adage, “10% of hunters kill 90% of the game.” I don’t believe this is to be the exact case. However, when it comes to public land bowhunting, especially with an OTC tag in-hand, it’s generally an accurate statement.

Every year thousands of motivated bowhunters try to become “10 Percenters.” Although they give it a sincere effort, the sad reality is that most fall short of meeting their goal. And while it might be more like an 80/20 split, entrance into this exclusive group is a difficult task.

A conversation with my good friend and hunting buddy, Matt Elliott, sparked this 10 Percenter topic. He thought it would be a cool idea to compile a few nuggets of thoughts on the subject by having a few ultra-successful public land guys comment. Fortunately for me, I have a strong network of friends and acquaintances who tend to get it done regularly on public land hunts. I’m not sure if some of these guys and I are friends just because of our mutual love of the wild, or maybe I subconsciously gravitate toward these types of people so I can steal their knowledge. Either way, you all get to benefit from my buddies. Don’t tell them that I told you.

To begin, I made phone calls to some of the best hunters I know. I purposely didn’t reach out to guys who all hunt the same species. Instead, I focused on successful public land guys. My only question to them was, “What is the one thing that you feel contributes the most to your consistent public land success?”

I’m pretty sure if 10 Percenter was listed in the dictionary, it would be accompanied by a picture of my buddy, Nate Simmons, the “Western Hunter.” Nate has been killing great bucks and bulls on public land consistently for as long as I have known him. For that reason, he was my first call on this project. Nate attributes his success more than anything to his willingness to go to places where most others aren’t. This comes in many forms, like distance from the trailhead, ruggedness of terrain, during adverse weather events and where apex predators rule. Nate said, “I’m not a good enough hunter to kill stuff where everyone else is, so I have to be willing to suffer some to get away from them.” Although I may not agree with his humble statement, I do like the logic behind it, and it has undoubtedly been the demise of many trophy animals.


Ultimate Reference

My good friend Robert Hanneman, from Huntin’ Fool, is always the first person I call when I have a question about hunting anywhere. Not only is Robert an encyclopedia for hunting the western states, as much as I hate to admit it, he has also killed more big bulls than me. In our discussion, Hanneman told me that the number one thing that sets the killers apart from the regular guys is the killers always take their first available shot opportunity. He explained that in his mind, so many guys he has hunted with wait for everything to be just “right,” and often that leads to missed opportunities. Hanneman feels that every second you are in bow range of an animal gets you one second closer to being busted. He put it like this, “Successful guys know the shots they can make, and they don’t waste any time making those shots.”


Game of Inches

Even though Alex Gyllstrom’s day job is as marketing director for Whitetail Properties, his real passion is public land whitetail hunting. Personally, I don’t know a ton about whitetail hunting, so I was interested to hear his take on the subject. Gyllstrom said, “Bowhunting public land whitetail is a game of inches, and there are so many factors that come into play leading up to success. If I had to narrow it down to one thing, though, it would be scouting. I spend many hours poring over maps and e-scouting, but I am mainly talking about boots on the ground scouting.”

Gyllstrom went on to talk about the value of finding bedding areas, travel corridors and staging areas well before the season opens and letting your scouting connect all the dots. He concluded with, “Nothing can replace time in the woods,” and I would say his results are hard to argue with.


Plains Royalty

I refer to Jace Bauserman as the “Antelope King” due to his yearly success on nice antelope bucks. It was no surprise when he penned a book about the subject called The Prince of the Plains. When I asked Jace what his silver bullet was for chasing speed goats on public land, he wasted no time and quickly replied, “Don’t get stuck using one tactic.” He explained to me how so many guys go on their hunts with one tactic in mind, and if that doesn’t work out, they are done. He went on to say, “Every antelope hunt I go on, I have my ground blind, decoy and knee pads and leather gloves for stalking. So many guys plan waterhole bowhunts, which is a great option, but when it rains, and there is water everywhere, sitting water is no longer productive. When this happens, you need to have other options. “Have a bag full of different tricks. It will inevitably lead to more shot opportunities,” Bauserman added.


Healthy Body and Mind

Social media has introduced me, as well as many others, to a whole new group of killer bowhunters such as Ryan Lampers. The more I learn about Lampers, the more I am impressed by his public land success. I don’t know Lampers well, as he is more a friend of a friend, but when I hit him up about this, he graciously agreed to hook me up with his insight on the subject. This is what Lampers had to say: “Consistent success for myself is, and always has been, the result of good old-fashioned effort and drive. A healthy body, coupled with a never-quit mindset, are the tools I have always leaned on to keep myself positive throughout a tough hunt.”

Final Thoughts

As for my one thing that contributes to being a 10 Percenter? Well, that has been a tougher one to answer than I had imagined when I started this article. I agree with everything these guys had to say. It made me realize that there are so many different ideas on this, and none are wrong. I also know the background on these guys and how much each of them puts into every single season to ensure success. Above all, I believe my mental toughness is what I can contribute to my success. Having the ability, and the mindset, to hunt days and even weeks at a time isn’t in everyone’s DNA. I have always said I’m not the best hunter on earth, but I’m a stayer. I know that every day I am out there, my odds go up, even on the bad days.

Each of the guys quoted within, me included, are fascinated with the process. They know that being a successful bowhunter is a year-round commitment. There is no offseason, 10 Percenters never stop preparing for their next hunt. They are a meticulous group that all have different ideas of what it takes to make it all come together. Are you ready to up your game and become a 10 Percenter? I hope you are and do.


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