Spook Spann’s Secrets to Hunting Public Lands
Editor’s Note: Spook Spann, the host of “Spook Nation” on the Pursuit Channel for three seasons, has been producing TV shows for almost a decade.
I used to hunt public lands all the time before I got my TV show. Most of my whitetail hunting is on private lands now, but I do still hunt public lands out West when I’m mule deer hunting. I’ve discovered several different ways to hunt public lands successfully. You have to spend a good bit of time scouting and look for places that are difficult for the average hunter to reach. Most public land hunters don’t want to travel more than 1/2-mile from their vehicles or the road. So, if you’re willing to go further into the woods than the average hunter and get to remote spots you’ve discovered through scouting, you’ll increase your odds for seeing and taking more deer.
However, I’ve also been highly successful by finding places where deer travel and feed within 300 yards of a main road on public-hunting ground. Remember the first tier of public land hunters will be hunting the 1/2-mile area from the road. The second tier will be hunting much deeper in the woods than the first group. That means hardly anybody will be hunting in the first 300-yards from a major road on public lands. The reason most hunters overlook this region is they realize the deer can hear and see all the vehicles on the road, and they know hunting pressure will begin at the road and move away from the road. But deer pattern hunters just like hunters pattern deer. Deer realize that from just after daylight until about 10:30 or 11:00 am, there rarely will be a hunter within 300 yards of the road. They also know that in the afternoon from 1:00 or 2:00 pm until about an hour before dark, there won’t be any hunting pressure in that first 300 yards. So, they can move and feed in these areas during these times.
The deer are accustomed to seeing cars driving up and down the main roads and recognize that those automobiles don’t pose a threat. They also know hunters will park their trucks in places that have paths going further back into the woods, or where there’s a trail they can use to reach their stand sites. So, if you can find a place along a main road in a public-hunting area where most hunters don’t park their trucks and don’t walk into the woods, those are productive places to locate and take better bucks.
Most public-land hunters walk past the places where deer are holding to get further in the woods to find places where deer may move. So, my favorite two places to hunt are more than 1/2-mile from an access point to public land or within 300 yards of a main road on public land. I may walk 1/2-mile up a road away from my car to identify a thick-cover site where no one will enter the woods, and often that’s where I’ll find a buck. The number one rule on public land to find and take more deer is, “Stay away from the places where most people will enter or leave the woods.”
One of the classic examples of finding one of these kinds of spots was when I was hunting the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area that’s near my home. I found a place close to the road where three ridges ran together and dropped off into a hollow. There were numbers of white oak acorn trees down in the bottom of that hollow, and deer were crossing this bottom to get to another section of the public land. By reading the deer sign, I knew deer were crossing and feeding here, and then using a nearby cedar thicket to could bed and hide. So, I took a stand at this site and took a really nice Pope & Young buck. I’m sure everyone else who saw this spot just thought this area was too close to the road to have a chance at a buck.