Rate Public Lands for Better Hunting Experiences

Whether you’re hunting predators in the vastness of Western Bureau of Land Management acres or hunting a Pennsylvania state forest you can assure yourself of higher success by rating your public land.

Rate Public Lands for Better Hunting Experiences

Technology provides hunters greater ability to keep up with the weather, changes on public hunting land, boundary lines and other information that can help make or break a hunt. (Photo: Mark Kayser)

Whether you’re hunting predators in the vastness of Western Bureau of Land Management acres or hunting a Pennsylvania state forest you can assure yourself of higher success by rating your public land.

Like the Expedia rating you’d give to a hotel room after a stay, establish a checklist of criteria and rate each on its merits for providing a great experience. Start with the one thing that can be a true game changer: access.

A sure way to limit your success is hunting an area that is too accessible. Access could be determined by being too close to a major population center or by hunting an area crisscrossed with roads. Either encourages more users to join you in the field and that equals hunting educated predators, especially later in the fur season. Scour hunting apps and maps to investigate the road building eagerness of land managers, plus use Google Maps to see how close city centers are to the area. Even if both of these barely get passing grades an area may still have hope. That hope lies in the ruggedness of the terrain.

Terrain roadblocks can be an eliminator for many hunters who forget to use their elliptical in the off season. Most Americans are overweight or worse yet, obese, approximately 70 percent or more. In the hunting world the percentages may go down a bit, especially when you’re talking about diehard hunters, but rugged terrain can still help you leave the majority of air-gasping hunters close to the trailhead. Search for sheer country, deep canyons, thick timber and rushing creeks which can all work alone or together as roadblocks.

If terrain is lacking don’t give up hope. Government land managers could be helping you out even when an extensive road system courses through an area. Today, more than ever, management agencies are implementing road closures, seasonal closures and motorized vehicle restrictions to benefit habitat, and wildlife. These closures make out-of-shape hunters think twice about hiking beyond the norm. By donning a pack and going on a multi-mile hike you’ll have many areas to yourself even if they are near populations of people.

After you’ve located an area that is remote your next rating should focus on your quarry. Does the area look like home? Do your research and locate properties that consistently provide refuge, food and water predators prefer. Most important of the three is cover, especially if there is moderate hunting pressure in the area. Plus, cover not only protects a bedded predator, it provides habitat for prey giving predators the opportunity to hunt at home.

Even if prey is elsewhere, most predators can hunt at night, but they will require refuge during the day to lay up for the next nocturnal jaunt. Also be mindful that a property may attract predators at different times of the season. A habitat area that holds a few coyotes in the warm seasons may attract more as winter game animals migrate to it for the protective benefits.

A final consideration to assessing the location of a public land parcel is the surrounding property. As more and more private property is sold, and managed for wildlife it creates sanctuaries throughout the country. That increases the odds that some of these properties abut public lands you may be researching.

As you scout look for clues that an adjoining property is under wildlife management and keep your ears open for chatter on who’s doing the best job on attracting, and growing the most wildlife. Every predator in the neighborhood will be monitoring a nearby private property even though they may be using more rugged public property as their launching base. This opens up unlimited opportunities to ambush and call predators from across the fence.

Rating your public areas simply increases your odds of hunting a productive area. That puts you one step closer to a V-Max ending.


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