Every year we see pictures of giant whitetail bucks taken on public land. How can this be? Where are they? If you are restricted to hunting public land for whitetail, many variables are out of your control. But, there are many strategies and tricks to get you on the trail of public land giants. Anthony Amalfitano has shot more mature whitetail bucks on public land than anyone I know. So, I asked Anthony what is his secret is to harvest big bucks year after year.
If you are a new hunter or have been hunting for years, these tips will help increase your chances of shooting a mature whitetail buck on public land.
Know Where to Find Public Land
It is crucial to know where land boundaries fall for public and private property. How do you find land? The easiest way to view public land is by using HuntWise maps. You can look at landowner boundaries, including state, federal, and all other public lands. Some public land maybe “landlocked.” You can easily find the right of way/easement access to get into this land on HuntWise Maps.
Scout in Multiple Ways
The modern hunter is accustomed to digital mapping technology. Desktop and mobile apps like HuntWise give hunters the ability to view land boundaries, topography, and satellite imagery. However, you will find many places that look good on maps, look good to other hunters, too. So get out there and walk around a little or a lot. Find the hidden spots you can’t see on the maps. Put game cameras out to see what deer are in the areas.
Make the Tree Work For You
When you find an area that has a lot of deer traffic, make the spot work for you. Don’t choose a spot to hunt just because there’s an easy tree to hang a tree stand. Certain factors force deer movement like blowdowns, ditches, creeks, fences, and more. Try to identify these spots and make the movement work to your advantage. For example, find a tree 15 yards off a path of travel. Keep in mind the direction you place the stand from the deer path. Only hunt that spot when you are downwind from the direction deer are most likely to be. Even when you find a prime location, it isn’t going to be much good if they smell you before they get close.
Avoid Other Hunters
Mature bucks made it their old age by avoiding hunters. That means, in order to get a chance at them, you need to go where other hunters aren’t. Sometimes, that means hiking farther than other hunters will go. Think about all of the big bucks living in pockets of glorious public land miles from the nearest road or trail. Another strategy is identifying land that borders private property. Sometimes, avoiding other hunters means getting creative about where you hunt. Many hunters don’t think to hunt the pockets of public land in their suburbs.
Anthony Amalfitano, with his 2017 Public Land Michigan Whitetail
Try Different Hunting Styles
Hang-on tree stand setups and tree saddles are all the rage right now but don’t forget, pre-set stands, climbers, ground blinds, spot and stalk, and wearing ghillie suits on the ground. They all are effective if utilized smartly. Try them out! Just remember to leave public land cleaner than you found it. If you pack it in, pack it out!
Identify Where Deer Spend Time
When you are out scouting public land, look for three things: bedding areas, food sources, and travel paths. When looking at bedding areas first, look for the thickest areas of cover that provide a safety barrier. When looking for food, look for growth, or is it a hot patch of dropping oaks. Deer trails are usually pretty easy to spot. Are the bucks heading to places on private ground or to an opening at dusk? Hunt accordingly. Hunt where the deer are.
Do Your Homework
Study maps, learn the rules and laws, learn how deer use various terrain. Prep gear ahead of time and use trail cameras to see what deer are in the area and what times they are moving.
Stand Height Tips
Try to blend into the canopy or surrounding cover. A good rule of thumb is to place your stand higher in open hardwoods and lower in swampy wetlands. If tree stands aren’t for you, or you are hunting with a firearm, you can also try a pop-up ground blind.
Play the Wind & Check HuntCast Predictions
After all of your preparation, hunt strategically. The HuntWise app uses an algorithm that takes into consideration: barometric pressure, moon phase, weather conditions, and time of year to predict the best times to get out and hunt. Make sure you are scent conscious and wind conscious. Hunt the right spots at the best times. Before you head out, make sure you know the wind direction, and remember that you can check HuntWise to compare your hunting spots by the wind. Once you are out there, be aware of the direction the wind is taking your scent and try to keep the wind blowing in your face.