Scouting Public Land Whitetail Access with a Kayak

By Brodie SwisherOctober 16, 2020

Despite the love/hate relationship that public land hunting often delivers, the fact is, some of the best hunting opportunities of the season can be accessed in hard to reach places when going public. And there’s no better way to access some of these hidden honey-holes than with a kayak. Here’s a look at some quick tips when it comes to scouting public land whitetail access with a kayak.

Check them out in the video below…

Scouting Banks

You can make quick work of scouting access opportunities and travel routes of the local deer herd by cruising the banks in your kayak. It’s a low impact approach to getting the most recent intel as you bounce from bank to bank looking for tracks, trails, crossings, and access opportunities to slip into the timber undetected.

This technique allows you to find potential ambush points, where to hang a stand, and where to dock your rig in relation to your set.

Scouting for access and deer sign along the banks is quick and easy with a kayak.

Check on Log Jams

The downside of hunting waterways  can be the obstructions you tend to encounter along the way. Creeks and rivers are subject to log jams, downed trees, floating logs and other submerged landmines that can swamp you in a hurry.

I’ll never forget the day an underwater stump sunk our boat in seconds. We found ourselves scrambling for high ground in a hurry while our gear floated all around us. It’s not the experience you want to have at 4:30 in the morning on the way to the stand.

Can you get up the creek or river to your potential stand site? You need to know ahead of time.

Time Your Route

The beauty of today’s hunting apps is that you can easily map out the route you plan to take and know the distance from your launch point to the stand location you’ll be hunting. But I still like to make a trial run to know how long a particular route will take. 

Sure, you may know that you can typically cover a mile in your kayak in under 30 minutes, but not all routes are created equal. Take water current into consideration. You can cover ground much quicker when cruising downstream than when going against the flow. 

Be sure to eliminate the surprises. Make a trial run ahead of time to know how long it’ll take you to access potential locations by kayak.

Do you know how long it will take you to make it to your stand?

Go Undetected

The beauty of accessing your hunting spot by boat is that it allows you to slip in undetected from the game you pursue. But when hunting public ground, I’ve found over the years, it’s equally important to go undetected from the other hunters in your area as well. This may mean a further boat ride, or launching from a different location than you might normally use to avoid the eyes of other hunters that might decide to jack your spot instead of working hard to find their own.

Think about where you park your truck, launch your boat and other clues that keep you from going undetected by deer and hunters alike.

Going undetected by other hunters can go a long way when maintaining access to a public land hot spot.

The Back Door Approach

Public land parking lots will often have their fair share of trucks from hunters all piling in at the same access. Hunters can be fairly easy to pattern. And you can bet that the local deer herd will have these hunters patterned as well. Deer quickly learn where the pressure comes from. They’ll adapt and shift to new cover that provides a better hide from oncoming pressure. That’s why back door access tends to be the best access for making a move on deer where they least expect it.

Deer travel edges, and the edges of cover along creeks and rivers are some of the best places to find them slipping along the back side of public land tracts. Don’t miss out on these opportunities. Learn to access these limited entry locations and you’ll punch more tags this season.

Back door access can be some of the best access of the season.

Final Thoughts

Access is king when it comes to getting the drop on deer that have no idea you’re in the world. Keep the tactics mentioned above in mind as you boat your way to more notched tags this hunting season.

Brodie Swisher
Brodie Swisher is a world champion game caller, outdoor writer, seminar speaker and Editor for Bowhunting.com. Brodie and his family live in the Kentucky Lake area of west Tennessee.
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