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Hunting Private on Public by Don Jacobs
The unmistakable sound of feathers slicing through the air, quacks and whistles
indicated ducks were in the air. Once shooting time arrived the invisible
flyers responsible for all the racket would be revealed hovering over decoys
that were set on public land. That is right I said public land!
The majority of my waterfowl hunting here in Colorado occurs in public land.
Day in and day out fellow hunters are baffled by our success rates on public
land. I would need to go back over 5 years to find a hunt where we never got
on the score board, this not only holds true with waterfowl but also upland
birds and big game. You are probably asking "How did you find these spots?"
Simply by dedicating a little time and effort.
How do you find these spots that are so productive? Like I said above you will
have to dedicate a little time and effort. Finding good public spots is no
different than finding a good private spot. You will spend time looking at
maps, taking drives, and glassing the area. Where the public land has an
advantage is you can get out and walk most properties without asking permission
in most cases.
Here are five quick tips to help you hunt privately on public land:
- The first thing I do is get out a map and locate the public areas. Once
you locate these areas spend a day or two visiting a few of them. The last
thing that you want to do is show up in the dark to hunt a property you have
never been to. Stumble out to find a dried up river channel or pond with no
waterfowl around. I always carry a note pad with me and make a few notes and
drawings about the area. Look for things that may indicate the property gets a
lot of pressure such as empty shells or trash in the parking lot. If a
property has multiple parking lots visit them all. This will help you weed
out some of the initial properties that get pressured.
- Size matters or does it? Don't Judge an area by its size. Although an area
may appear small and insignificant, it might hold the waterfowl that you're
looking for. A majority of hunters will look at the small SWA's as a waste of
time to explore. When in fact it could have small ponds or slough areas that
are a magnet for ducks. These features do not always show up on a map, so you
will have to get out and explore.
- Pressure can also work to your advantage when finding an area to hunt.
Waterfowl react in the same manner as any wild creature. They find a sanctuary
from the pressure where they can be relaxed. This can be a key to a great hunt.
As you find areas that are receiving pressure mark them on your map and make
notes. If they are large areas check all access points as you may find that
honey hole. The path of least resistance is where you will find the most pressure.
Look for areas where there might be a longer walk for access or some sort of
challenge to get there.
- Hunt in unusual places. Although many areas designated as public hunting
land hold a variety of wildlife, usually a predominate type of hunting takes
place there. It's true that some land makes it possible to hunt deer, ducks
and other types of game, but many were originally intended for or are more
suitable for a specific type of hunting. Don't be afraid to go against the
traditional usage of a public hunting ground.
- Mr. Warden can be an invaluable resource for your hunting success. Get to
know the game wardens in the areas you plan to hunt. Most of them are more
than eager to tell you about the wildlife in their areas and where the pressure
is at. More than once I have had a game warden put me on the birds. Just keep
in mind that they are in the field everyday and know most of the animals by
If you follow these simple steps I guarantee you will put more birds in your
bag. Enjoy your new found success and be safe.