John’s Note: There’s nothing worse than getting a call a week or two before deer season and you hear over the phone, “We’ve lost our lease.” You have memories that will last a lifetime from that hunting property. You understand all you can know about deer movement on that hunting property. You’ve been to the work day, and you’ve already put up tree stands and trail cameras. Now your hunting land is gone. So, how will you find a place to hunt on short notice, or, how will you hunt the changed land?
Most state-owned game lands receive heavy hunting pressure. However, if you use the highlighter technique and aerial photos to define where to hunt on these lands, you can determine the most-productive places to hunt where you most likely will see a deer and even have the opportunity to take a trophy buck.
My good friend, Bob Walker of Livingston, Alabama, hunted a WMA in Illinois, where he’d never hunted before and discovered a place like you too can hunt on WMAs. As Walker explains, “I walked the edge of a creek on this public-hunting land in Illinois. I had learned that the boundary of this public-hunting property had little pockets of land on the other side of the creek, although the map wasn’t marked like that. I thought, ‘Those little pockets of land on the other side of the creek probably get very little or no hunting pressure.’ I also decided that since crossing the creek was difficult, that not many people would be willing to cross the creek to only hunt 50 to 100 yards of land from the creek to the true boundary line.
“When I went across the creek for the first time, I thought that the public-hunting land over there might only be a 50-yard stretch of hardwoods from the creek to the boundary line. But after walking the boundary line, I discovered that in some spots the boundary line was 200-yards beyond the creek. I found a place where a bend of the creek was close to a soybean field that was on private land. Sitting in my tree stand, I even could see houses not too far away from this public land.
“The next morning before daylight, I crossed the creek and put up my tree stand in the location I had picked out the day before. I spotted a number of deer coming out of the soybean field that morning and walking down that thick-covered ditch that came from the public land and went out into the soybean field. I could tell to be in the right spot to get a shot with my bow that I needed to move my tree stand one more time – closer to the ditch, which turned out to be a little creek. I picked out the tree where I wanted to put my stand, came out of the woods before lunch and hunted another place that afternoon. The following morning I crossed the creek again and moved my stand closer to the funnel and the thick- covered ditch that ran from the public land out into the soybean field. Just as the sun came up, I saw a huge 12-pointer following a doe down the ditch. He came to within 24 yards of my stand. I raised my bow, came to full draw and shot the buck. That buck scored 160 points on Pope & Young (https://www.pope-young.org/).
I’ve learned that on many public-hunting areas, you may discover small patches of woods that are within the public-hunting area that don’t show-up on the map. There may be only an acre or less that’s not shown on the boundary map. Because these places are so small, most hunters won’t go to the effort to try to find and hunt them. Therefore, they become safe havens for mature bucks.”
Although no one likes to lose the land where he always has hunted, inevitably change will come. If you learn to benefit from that change, you often will discover new and better ways to hunt. Every time I lose a hunting lease, or someone clear-cuts the land I hunt, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I become as angry as a bulldog on a short leash. However, once the anger and the hurt subside, and I begin to study how to hunt when I don’t have a place to hunt, I’ll often find and bag some of the biggest deer I’ve ever harvested. By using these techniques you, too, can hunt and take large deer when your hunting land vanishes.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.
To get John E. Phillips’ eBooks and print books on hunting deer, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” “How to Hunt Deer Up Close: With Bows, Rifles, Muzzleloaders and Crossbows,” “PhD Whitetails: How to Hunt and Take the Smartest Deer on Any Property,” “How to Take Monster Bucks,” “How to Hunt Deer Like a Pro,” and “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows,” or to prepare venison, “Deer & Fixings,” click here on each. Or, go to www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks, type in the name of the book, and download it to your Kindle, and/or download a Kindle app for your iPad, SmartPhone or computer. You also can find John’s books on Nook at www.barnesandnoble.com.