When it comes to public land, conventional summertime scouting advice doesn’t cut it. On most tracts, you won’t be able to sit back on the spotting scope and pattern a bachelor group while making plans to fill your tag. The inevitable hunting pressure will cripple that fantasy in a hurry, so ditch the private-land strategies and scout the way you should.
Here are three tips for how to do just that.

1. Hunter Sign

From our August issue

Trimmed-up trees, old screw-in steps, and evidence of blinds or stands can all tell you what the pressure has been like in past seasons on a property. This will portend future pressure as well, and should allow you to work around where others hunt. A general rule is that if it looks like a good spot with easy access, someone will hunt it. Identify the high-traffic locations and avoid them.

Related: Before You Hunt: Essential Scouting Tips

2. Uninviting Areas

There’s nothing quite as uninviting as a swamp or overgrown thicket in August. This goes for us as well as the deer. But the thing is, the deer will eventually get there given the hunting pressure that is coming, so you’d better spend some time familiarizing yourself with the nasty stuff. This skate-where-the-puck-will-be strategy isn’t much fun, but  will be worth it.

Related: Deer Scouting: Make Your Fall Hit List

3. Good Enough Simply Isn’t

The best spots on public land are either overlooked or nearly non-accessible. Sweating and swatting mosquitoes to find them is the name of the game, and the game stinks. This is especially true if you scour a parcel that just doesn’t do it for you. Accept that instinct for what it is — right. Settling for a mediocre spot on public land instead of burning more boot leather is never a good idea. So keep sweating, swatting and looking until you’re truly happy with your findings.