Scout In Season
I spent a majority of my year hunting new property. I hunt both public and private land, but have yet to find a piece of ground I can depend on day-to-day. To cope with my ever-changing scenery, I have to be able to scout in season. The first place I start is with a good topographical map and aerial photos. I look for water, valleys, and fields. I look over the neighboring property as well. I ask myself, why a deer would be on this property? The answer to this usually gives me a place to start.
When I go in for the first time, I usually do not take a stand. Instead, I wear my Shaggie suit. I find a good starting point on my map and head for that spot. Once I am there, I start looking around for sign. I take a copy of the aerial photo and make notes about my findings. I move slowly, often stopping for 30 minutes to an hour in a good spot. I usually only cover a small area doing this, and most of the time do not harvest a deer, but I come away with a few ideas for ambush spots and have little or no impact on the property.
If it is a piece of ground I have hunted before but deer sightings are few, I take a different approach. In this scenario, I rely on my portable stands and trail cameras. I stalk into an area where I do not have a stand set up, find a spot that affords me a good view of a lot of ground, and hang my stand. My goal isn't to kill a deer from this location, it's merely to spot them. This helps me get an idea of where the deer are and what they are doing. Once I spot deer from this location, I take the stand down and the next time out, I hang the stand in the location of the deer sighting.
Trail cameras are pretty straight forward. I hang these in locations I'm not hunting, but may hold some deer. Trail cameras are a way for me to save time and energy on a spot with little or no deer activity. A trail camera in the right location can prove to be a vital tool in turning the season around.
If things are not working at the old stomping grounds, it may be time to look elsewhere. You do not have to abandon this location, but more options will up your odds of success. While new hunting grounds may not be easy to find, you can simplify this process by trying the following approaches.
Public ground is one viable option. If you're lucky, you'll have public land nearby. If not, you may have to put some miles behind you to enjoy some state-owned hunting grounds. Most conservation departments' websites will have loads of information on public land in their state. These websites offer maps and general information on the land, as well as laws and regulations for the site. If you don't have access to the internet, pick up a copy of your state hunting regulations and you will find the contact information for your state's conservation department and local offices. Pick up the phone or drop by their office and you will find helpful people that will give you all the information you will need.
No public land? Don't know any landowners? No problem. Private land can be obtained if you're willing to work for it. Most counties will offer platt maps. Platt maps are maps of your county that show all landowners and the size of their property. If you locate a piece of land that piques your interest, find out the landowner's address, put on your Sunday best and knock on their door. Introduce yourself, state your reason for visiting, be polite, and offer to exchange hunting rights for some manual labor. Be honest, tell them how many you will have in your party and if possible have those people with you. Be sure to get everything out in the open. If you plan to rifle hunt, get the OK. If you plan to hunt other game besides deer, for example, turkey, rabbits, squirrel, ect., get it all out so the landowner is not taken by surprise. If the landowner says no, thank them for their time, and move on to the next location. Be sure to leave your name and telephone number. You never know when a landowner might change their mind. If you're polite and leave a good impression, you may be the first person they call.
Another easy approach to find hunting land is to advertise. Put up a flyer explaining your needs at feed stores, coffee shops, gas stations, grocery stores, or other high traffic locations. Make sure to pay special attention to agriculture related businesses and other locations that will be visited by farmers and ranchers. Consider placing an ad in your local paper. Once again pay special attention to the publications that target farmers and ranchers.
An alternate route is the internet. Place an ad on Craigs list or other sites that allow free listings. Check out sites like Archerytalk or other sites with open forums. Some even have a classified section that will have landowners list land that they have for lease. Chance of one being in your area may be slim, but a slim chance is better than none.
Moving to a new location will change things up and keep things new. It may help relieve some hunting pressure off of your current hunting location and bring the deer back in. If you're lucky, you may stumble on a location that is deer heaven, and have your walls sagging from all the trophies.
Motivation is a major weapon in a hunters arsenal. Motivation is what gets us up at 4:30 AM and keeps us in a stand all day. A positive attitude, a motivated spirit, along with these simple tips and a little work may pay huge dividends.