Why Scout Public Land When You Have Your Own Hunting Property?
Deer hunting on public land isn’t exactly known for being a great strategy for shooting mature bucks.
Those woods are crawling with brown and downers. Especially in my home state of Michigan.
If you scout hard enough, you can find areas on public land where there’s very little hunting pressure during the bow season. But on the opener of firearm season, the mitten state looks like a pumpkin patch from the air.
70% of the yearling buck population gets annihilated. The bucks that do survive the gauntlet, are a lot tougher to see and kill the next Fall. It’s like they almost become a different breed of animal.
That’s why in MI, most guys really want to have their own hunting property. Obviously the more acres you have, the more ability you have to attract deer to live on your property to keep them out of the sights of 650,000 hunters. Especially if you transform the habitat into a whitetail resort.
But there’s one guy in MI whose family owns hunting property in one county, but yet for several years he would go deer hunting on public land in a different county in order to shoot a mature buck.
His name is Clay McNitt.
The county in which he hunts public land for mature bucks is Leelanau. Not exactly a big buck county with its sandy soils and harsh winters in the snow belt along Lake Michigan.
So why Leelanau?
Because in 2003 antler point restrictions (APRs) were put in place there which means hunters could only shoot a buck if it had at least 3 points on one side.
The result….in less than 10 years, Leelanau leads the state in the percentage of 8 point and larger bucks harvested. Before APRs it was near the lowest.
The fact that Leelanau was producing trophy bucks was not well known around MI because its hunters didn’t boast and brag about it on social media. Even though they tried to keep their fortune under their hats, the word got out and hunters were coming in from all over the state.
So a group of hunters petitioned the MI DNR and NRC to expand APRs to 12 neighboring counties around Leelanau and got the necessary yes votes via the DNR survey to start APRs in those counties as well which started in 2013.
That’s why in 2015 I decided to buy a 50 acre piece of property in one of the 12 counties.
So now not only can I transform the deer habitat on my 50 acres into a deer factory, but I can also scout and hunt on nearby public land and still have a good chance of seeing and shooting a mature buck without over-hunting my own property like so many landowners do.
In fact, I think some landowners are on their property scouting and hanging stands at the wrong time, checking trail cameras, and over-hunting their property so much that their property becomes more pressured than many public land areas I know.
And if their property is a typical wide open high-canopy woods with little cover enabling them to see a long way while hunting, it makes matters worse and they’re likely to see very few deer during the hunting season. Unfortunately many of these landowners blame their neighbors or the DNR for their lack of deer sightings.
Here’s a short video of my son-in-law Joel and I scouting on public land last week in search of even more hunting spots to ensure we don’t over-hunt our new 50 acre piece.