Going Public to Punch Late Season Deer Tags

By Brodie SwisherNovember 24, 2015

Have you burned out your private land honey-hole? Try going public to punch your next deer tag. Here’s how and why…

When you hear other hunters speak of public land hunting for deer, it typically comes in waves of negativity and disgust. Let’s face it, public land hunting gets a bad wrap. But the reality is, there’s likely a ton of excellent hunting opportunity to be had through public land tracts in and around the areas you hunt.

The last deer tag I punched was on a buck I killed the day before Halloween on public land. It was in a location that I had previously encountered deer every sit of the season. The hike in to the stand was quick, the shot was sweet, and the drag out was simple. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought about my buddies who like to hike in a mile or more to get away from the crowds. My tag was punched, and I could nearly see my truck from the stand.


I shot this buck in a public land pinch-point as he was headed to feed in an Ag field just before dark.

Overlooked Hidey-Holes

We live in a world dominated by outward appearance. However, we know that it’s really what’s on the inside that counts. The same holds true when scouting for hunting ground. Learn to look past the outward appearance of a piece of property and look to the inside to see what it truly holds. I killed the buck mentioned above on public land that I’ve had all to myself for years. Other hunters drive right by it. I hunt it strictly during the archery season so as not to reveal my stand location while wearing an orange vest during gun season. It’s a place that honestly looks like a mess. It’s not the picturesque spot that you’ll see in hunting magazines or on TV. But what it lacks in curb appeal it makes up for in being a place that deer frequent. The deer don’t live there, and when you see them they aren’t staying there long. But it’s a transition point they pass through between crop fields to bedding areas. A stand in these types of overlooked hidey-holes will help you punch more tags every year.

The right stand in a public land transition point can be one of your best sits of the year.

The right stand in a public land transition point can be one of your best sits of the year.

Small Tracts Hold Great Deer

Sure, we’d all love to be hunting thousand-acre tracts of prime hunting land with limited access to the public. But for many of us, that’s just not a reality of life right now. So key in on the right 5-10 acres, and you’ll discover that incredible deer hunting opportunities abound, even on a smaller plot of land. Look for public land funnels and pinch-points between private properties. You’ll typically find that the deer are often traveling the public land as they commute from bed to feed and back home again. One of my favorite hunting spots while I lived in Montana was a little chunk of public land that was sandwiched between a private farm and the Bitterroot River. The deer used it every day,…and they were super easy to pattern.

Tap In To Archery Only Public Lands

Nearly every state across the country offers the opportunity to hunt archery-only public lands. National Wildlife Refuges, state lands, school trust lands, and smaller tracts that are close to, or within, the city limits are typically all fair game. And many of these areas remain open long after gun seasons have come and gone, making for some killer late season opportunities. Capitalize on these locations that are free from pressure from gun hunters. You can bet the deer know them and will be there.


Refuge land, state land, and wildlife management areas all hold great deer. Many of these places go unhunted year after year.

Not Everyone Is Hunting Public Land

The biggest gripe I hear on this topic is that “everyone” hunts public land. And I’ll be honest, I like to hear the hunters in my area say that. Here’s the deal. A lot of people think that “everyone” is hunting public land, so they don’t mess with it. And the bottom line is that, in many cases, nobody is hunting the public land. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had the woods to myself while hunting public lands. In fact, I’ve yet to encounter another hunter on the public land I hunt so far this season…that is, other than hunters driving past.

Sure, there are places that are loaded with hunters. I finally gave up on one 80-acre tract of public land that I found with over a dozen stands hanging on it. Three of the treestands were within 50 yards of each other. That’s ridiculous! But that’s not the norm. The truth is, more people fall for the myth that public lands are swamped with people and avoid them altogether. Not everyone is hunting public land.

So if you’ve burned out your favorite private land stands or are simply looking for some fresh stands sites for some great late season bowhunting opportunities, go public to punch your next deer tag.

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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