Finding Public Land to Hunt
Well the fall hunting season is starting off great! Although I was not hunting today, I did purchase a leftover whitetail doe tag for the second rifle season on the plains of southeast Colorado, and I am excited about that! But even better news, my friend Rob just called me, he shot his first deer of his life about two hours ago with his bow, and he is extremely excited. He hasn’t recovered the deer as I am writing this, but I am hoping to get a text or email before I am done writing telling me that he has recovered the doe. Congratulations Rob!
The past couple of days I have been doing a lot of research and planning for fall and winter hunting for pheasant, chukar, quail, deer, turkey, duck, and geese. It’s been a lot more work this year doing the planning for a few reasons; first I want to find some new areas to hunt, second the floods here in Colorado have had a serious impact on some of the areas I want to hunt, and third I am trying to find times to hunt that will fit in with some other events I already have planned, at least for the coming month. It’s a lot of work, but I have some good trips worked out so far for deer, pheasant, chukar, quail, and I am trying to fit in another turkey hunt before the season runs out at the end of this month.
I’m pretty much an everyday guy like most people; I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on outdoor excursions, or a TV show and sponsors that would pay for me to take expensive hunting and fishing trips, so I have to do my research just like anyone else. On rare occasions I will come across opportunities to hunt private land, either by people I know, or by opportunities offered by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife, but for the most part I hunt all animals on public land, just like most of us. The challenge is to find productive opportunities on public land, and I thought I would share some tips about that topic.
First of all, it takes effort to find productive public land. You have to spend time studying maps, reading hunting forums, looking at past harvest statistics, and finding the inside information. You also have to spend the time scouting ahead of your hunt, even if it is only driving to the area and doing some glassing and exploring, looking for sign and animals. Once you find a promising area, you have to give even more effort and go the extra mile to get away from the majority of hunters, to take the more difficult route deeper into the wilderness, and be willing to go farther and work harder. All wild animals tend to learn from human activity, so don’t do what everyone else is doing, be willing to do more.
Don’t overlook the small areas, especially when it comes to waterfowl. There are a ton of small state wildlife areas in Colorado (or other types of public land) that may seem insignificant when you simply look at them on a map. But don’t discount these areas; often times they are placed in very strategic areas of surrounding private land. Just because a map shows a wide expanse of private land with a small pocket of public land nearby doesn’t mean that the small pocket won’t be productive. Often times those large areas of private land are farms, and the land is therefore farmed, meaning no habitat for wildlife, but a prime food source. What may look like an insignificant piece of public land adjacent to all of that private land will likely hold the natural resources that animals need, like water and shelter, and these areas are often overlooked by most hunters.
It is also important to pay attention to the areas that will receive a lot of hunting pressure, and look for areas close by that may be a little more difficult to get to. Often times areas of high hunting pressure attract a lot of hunters for a reason; they are easy to get to, and the habitat attracts animals. But that pressure will often push the animals or birds to seek shelter in the less accessible areas nearby. Take advantage of what other hunters are doing, and let them push the game to you.
Finally, don’t use preconceptions of certain areas to restrict what you may want to do there. For example, if a certain area is known for its excellent duck hunting, it doesn’t mean that the pheasant or deer hunting might not be good as well. Good wildlife habitat is generally good for more than one species, so have an open mind when it comes to your options. I did just that over the past few days when doing my planning, trying to think of how I can hunt as many species as I can with every trip. Of course that means bringing a lot of extra gear, but I am always willing to do that if it means I can hunt multiple animals and even fish on one trip.
So I have a deer hunt to prepare for in three weeks, and I have to sight in my rifle before then. I will try to squeeze in a turkey hunt before the end of the month, but I am not sure about that because of my son’s lacrosse schedule, and I have a baby grand daughter Isis that I want to spend some time with. Before I know it, it will be November, and then it will be pheasants, quail, ducks, and geese. Such an exciting time of year!