Posts Tagged ‘#DIY Public Land Hunting’

DIY Public Hunting: Keep a lot of Options Open

Sunday, July 26th, 2015



Choosing a place to hunt can be a daunting task when you make the decision to try public hunting in another state, especially if you’re driving a long distance.

You can spend winter, spring and summer researching places to go. If you’ve never been to a place it’s going to be a shot in the dark. Although the aerial photos appear to show everything you’ve been looking for they don’t tell you if there are deer there and if the bucks are the quality of animals you want to pursue.

When you make the decision to try new areas you must start off by choosing a state. Look at the numbers on the DNR pages and eliminate regions of the state based on the amount of public land open to hunting. While you can focus on a tiny piece of public land that you feel might be getting overlooked the entire plan can fall through when you arrive and find out every local hunter in the county is hunting there. If there are no other options available within a reasonable distance you will spend a minimum of two days trying to locate another place to hunt.

By eliminating areas without a number of tracts of public land within two hours driving distance you can get rid of any potential problems that might arise when you get to your primary spot and the hunting isn’t what you expected it to be.

It doesn’t matter whether you locate a bunch of small tracts of public land or a few large ones, just make sure they’re all within driving distance of one another. This will allow you to hunt a number of places during the week without getting locked down in one place and burning it out. It doesn’t take much to wear your welcome thin with the local deer herd if you’re returning to the same place day after day.

You might find one place that is a couple hundred yards off the road and another one that is a few miles from the nearest road. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as you can avoid human pressure and find fresh sign. Fresh sign doesn’t lie. It will lead you to the water and at that point it’s your job to get yourself a drink.



DIY Costs: Dream Hunts are Affordable

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

The almighty dollar keeps a lot of people from doing the things they dream about. I was lying in bed in my dorm room 25 years ago while I was trying to attain a degree in journalism/communications. After finishing schoolwork I’d flip through magazines and imagine what life would be like in the big mountains.

When I read about elk hunting in the Rocky Mountains I figured the dreams had no chance of becoming a reality. Anything I could find pertaining to elk hunting spelled out B-I-G…….M-O-N-E-Y. The outfitters ranged from $2,500 to $4,500 all depending on where you wanted to go. There was no possible way I could afford that.

Upon graduating from college in 1991 my father took me on my first elk hunt in Colorado. We went out for the second rifle season and my father booked with an outfitter to put us in a drop camp. We would be packed in by horses and left in a tent to spend the week and fend for ourselves. Since we had no idea what to do it sounded like a good plan. Unfortunately, when we got to Colorado record amounts of snow had fallen over the past few days. Search and rescue teams were combing the mountains in order to find stranded hunters from the first rifle season.

With all of that chaos going on we decided to leave the outfitter’s place, swallow our deposit and hunt on our own. That morning we headed toward the nearest mountain range with public land. Not knowing where we were going we kept driving along dirt roads until we found a few National Forest signs with numbered roads. When we started up one of the rounds we spotted a truck buried to its axles. My dad got out and offered the two men a hand. They gladly accepted and latched a tow strap onto the bumper. As soon as their vehicle popped loose from the snow it ripped the bumper off my dad’s truck.

After a quick assessment we exchanged pleasantries and asked if they could direct us to a place where we could hunt elk. They pointed toward a mountain in the distance and told us what roads to follow to get there. A few hours later we were “in amongst them” as the natives like to say. There were elk in the timber right with us. We’ve hunted this same area since 1991.

So why did I tell you about that incident? It’s because we had planned on spending a significant amount of money for something we never needed. Since we had never hunted in the west we didn’t realize how much public land is available for hunting. There are millions of acres open to the public. Many of these pieces allow motorized vehicles and many do not. This allows you to pick a place that’s right for you. If you like to tool around on 4-wheelers and off-road motorcycles there are plenty of places to fill your fancy.

Finding a place to camp was fairly simple. We have always camped in the same general area. Camping doesn’t cost us a red cent. We bring our own 12×14 wall tent and haul an enclosed trailer. Our gear is neatly stacked in the trailer, so we have access to more than we probably need.

After pitching the tent every year we head to town to get our food. The amount of food we get depends on a lot of different things. I’ll get into that at a later date. Since there are usually four of us we split the cost four ways. We do the same for all of the gas purchased during the trip.

In order to make sure this is done fairly we keep a running tab in a notebook. If my dad gets the gas the first time he records it in the notebook. If Dave gets it the next time it gets recorded. If a toll is paid the same thing happens. In the end the notebook looks something like this for totals: Charlie $260 for gas; Dave $210 for gas; Todd $160 for gas and tolls; Brian $180 for gas; Dave $370 for food. So in the end all of the numbers get added up and divided by four. Everyone ends up paying the exact same amount. Any food, snacks, drinks or souvenirs are the responsibility of the person who wants them. This seems to work much better than trying to split things up evenly without actually recording the numbers.

By the time the week is done you will have to buy your license, food, and gas. Back in the old days tags only cost $250 which made the overall expense much less, however the entire trip can still be done for less than $1, 000 dollars if you limit your spending. The most expensive part of the week will be your license. If you hunt in Colorado you can buy your tag over the counter in many units and you can choose between an either sex tag or a cow tag. Cow tags will be cheaper, but it’s not much fun when a big bull lets a bugle rip when he’s standing 20 yards away in an aspen grove and you can’t shoot him. I’d suggest spending the extra money to get an either sex tag.

So, where am I going with this? I just want to make sure everyone knows they can do this hunt of a lifetime without spending piles of money. As long as you can take care of yourself and you like to hunt on your own you will be fine. This way you can explore different areas and not be tied to the one place an outfitter brings you. Most people also don’t know that a lot of outfitters guide on public hunting land that is open to you to hunt on without them. I’ve met more than one hunter in the woods who was hunting with a guide and outfitter and they were amazed to learn I was on my own.

Take the time to do your research, find places that look good, and Just Do It! You will not be disappointed. With every trip you’ll gain more knowledge and become more proficient with the tasks that need to be accomplished while you’re living the dream.


Clues for Reading Pressure on Public Land

Sunday, March 29th, 2015

This coming season I’ll celebrate 33 years of hunting on public land. While I’ve hunted a few parcels of private land over the years the vast majority of my hunting has been done on public land open to everyone including photographers, walkers, bikers, naturalists, hunters and anyone else who wants to use the land. I’m going to share the knowledge I’ve acquired to help any on you who plan on getting more in depth with your adventures on public land.

When you’re dealing with that many types of people it can sometimes become very frustrating. You might search for hours or even days to find a good place to set your stand. All of your hard work can culminate with someone walking under your stand shortly before darkness. The person will whistle a few times at their dog and angrily begin scolding it if it decides to ignore his/her commands.  This could go on for a few minutes or carry on for an extended period of time. Either way it makes you question everything you’ve done.

Depending on where you’re hunting this could be a regular occurrence or something you could never imagine. I’ve experienced both, so it’s a good idea to be prepared for any situation you might encounter. Throughout the Midwest a lot of public ground borders the properties of a number of different landowners, however, in the Northeast you could walk for two full days before seeing any sign of another human being.

With these things in mind you have to be realistic with your expectations when you choose where you’re going to hunt. If you’re hunting around a lot of private ground expect to be interrupted by a variety of activities. You might see kids playing along the fence line on the ridge above you. You might see someone cutting firewood. You might have a motorcycle or four wheeler rip past you right around the peak times. If it can happen it will. There’s no doubt about it.

When you encounter these things you have to remember that the deer are probably comfortable with all of the disturbances. If a deer inhabits an area it becomes conditioned to the surrounding environment. Many hunters think the pressure on public land makes deer a lot harder to kill. In some ways this is probably true, but in others you have to understand the deer are much more at ease with human interference because they experience it at much greater rates than deer on secluded tracts of private land.

Deer might act tense and on edge on public land. They will appear alert at all times. Any hint of movement will send them to the next county. They will wander around with their eyes looking up into the trees. If you jump one it will take off and never stop running.

If you run into situations like the ones described above it’s probably a good idea to search for a different piece of land to hunt. Try to find a place where deer aren’t skittish. Skittish deer are the hardest ones to kill.  If immature deer are on edge the mature ones will be even worse. When a mature deer becomes nervous it will find a new place to hide. No matter how hard you try to find them it seems almost impossible to figure out where they have gone. Occasionally you’ll stumble across a couple, but more times than not you’ll head out of the woods with your tail dragging between your legs.

Always try to observe the behavior of deer in the areas you’re hunting. The behavior will tell you a lot  about what you need to know, especially if the place is hunted hard. If you’ve never been there before you’re just guessing about the amount of pressure the land receives. The guesses can be misleading if you don’t see any trucks parked on the side of the road. It could just be the day you’ve arrived. The day before there could have been five or six vehicles in one parking area as well as others lined up on the shoulder of the road. But, the behavior of the local deer herd won’t mislead you. Pay attention to that detail and you won’t be led astray. Although I’ve killed some good bucks on highly pressured pieces of public ground I’ve had much better luck in less pressured areas. Next time I’ll try to hit on how to make an educated guess as to whether or not a piece of land you’re studying endures a lot of human activity.


A New Beginning: #DIY Public Land Hunting

Thursday, March 26th, 2015



I’ve been tossing around a lot of ideas lately and I believe I’ve come up with something I want to explore. I’m not sure it it will remain on this website or if I’ll transfer it to or create an entirely new place to host the information. No matter where it ends up I hope you follow along and pass the information on to anyone you believe could benefit from it.

I plan on exploring many facets of hunting on public land. I’ve been lucky enough to hunt across the country on a variety of public land ranging from my home state of New York to Colorado. Every piece of public hunting ground I’ve hunted has had unique features that attracted my attention. Without these features I wouldn’t have ended up in a lot of these places and the experiences I’ve gained might have gone in a different direction.

Fortunately, most of the choices I’ve made along the way have proven to be successful. While some of the choices were made on the go others were thought about long before hitting the road. Sometimes you have to change on the fly due to unforeseen issues and backup plans are a necessity in order to make the most out of a bad situation.

I can’t tell you where this venture is going to take us, but I hope I’m able to help you if you’re looking for more information about hunting on public land in your home state and states you’ve imagined hunting in for many years. I’ll touch on all of the topics associated with hunting public ground such as travel, lodging, food, hunting partners, hunting areas and gear. I encourage you to email me and ask questions. I would like this to be an open forum where we can all learn from one another. Please share this on your social media pages and in emails with your friends. The larger audience we build the more participation we will gain. If you have anything you would like to add to the discussion don’t be afraid to speak up. I hope you’re all as excited about this new adventure as I am.

I’m currently more than halfway through the writing of my third book. This book is going to be a little different than the last two books. This has much more “How To” stuff in it based on my experiences. It doesn’t necessarily mean my information is the gospel, but it does mean that all of the information I share with the readers is a direct result of things that actually happened. It won’t be your generic “A cold front is coming through. You better get in the woods.” or “The moon is overhead. The deer will move like crazy today.” Instead of following along the lines of the magazine articles I went out on a limb in some places and challenged some of these long term beliefs. In my opinion I don’t believe many writers use actual experiences to construct their articles. Instead they research what other people have written about. That’s why you consistently see the same information every year.

Please email me any feedback you might have. Thanks for joining the journey.


Todd A. Mead