Duck hunter

While the ideal scenario is to have your own county of hunting land where bucks have a safe haven to grow huge antlers and delicious back straps, that is typically not the reality. Many of us hunt public parcels to fill our hunting tags. With that comes many unspoken rules, but if they are not spoken, how do you know? Here are 4 simple ideas to keep in mind while hunting public land.

Hunters at Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska (USFWS/Flickr)

Pack it in, pack it out

This problematic issue has to be addressed when hunting public land, but sadly, many people overlook it. If you haul in a Snickers bar when you shoot some squirrels, bring your wrapper back out with you. If you pack in a paper bag lunch, bring the bag out. Yes, your bag will decompose, but that is not the point. People who are not mindful of litter on public hunting land are likely the #1 reason why we lose them or receive resistance when creating new ones. The litter makes the American hunter look bad in the public eye and can be damaging to the habitat. We all fight hard enough for our hunting and firearm rights the way it is. Do not give our opposition ammunition to talk negatively about us. If you pack it in, pack it out.

Hunters at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in western Kentucky
Hunters at Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in western Kentucky (Michael Johnson/USFWS/Flickr)

Be a courteous neighbor

Some public land gets hunted harder than others. You might hunt a public parcel that seems like your personal oasis. For the rest of us, it might feel like Black Friday when Wal-Mart has flat screen TVs on sale; standing room only. In either scenario, being a courteous neighbor can go a long way. If you see someone deer hunting, give him/her some space. Do not setup 50 yards away. It’s rude and you know it. But you planned to use that spot for the last month? Well, sorry to hurt your feelings buttercup, but it is public property. First butt on a bucket or butt in a tree stand wins. See a deer out of range run by with an arrow in his butt? If somebody comes stumbling along tracking microscopic flecks of blood, help a brother or sister out. They will appreciate the help and the quicker they leave, the quicker you are back to peace and quiet. As a hunter, you can never plan for other hunters crawling around your spot, but a pleasant perspective could go a long way. Be a courteous neighbor to all of your fellow sportsmen and sportswomen out in the field.

Wildlife refuge manager issues deer permits to hunter
Wildlife refuge manager issues deer permits to hunter (Tina Shaw/USFWS/Flickr)

Read the laws

Most men and some women have the bravado of… who reads the Owner’s Manual? Whether it is for assembling your Ikea furniture or reading up on the regulations for that public hunting parcel you are going to Saturday. Swallow your pride, and get educated on where you are hunting. Know the types of ammo allowed. Some places allow lead while others ban it and only allow copper. Certain public hunting land areas do not allow for tree stands to be placed overnight. They must all be temporary. Other places will not allow for screw-in tree climbers to protect specific species of trees. This might get you all in a huff, but remember you are a guest. This is not private property. You are hunting public land. So it is important to know what you are walking into when you step foot out there. Read the laws. Be an educated sportsman/sportswoman.

Generational hunters in field at sunset
Generational hunters (USFWS/Flickr)

Appreciate the opportunity

I am personally in the “out group” that does not own their own land. I am constantly analyzing topographical maps, playing out theoretical deer hunting scenarios, and deciding where is the best opportunity to harvest a deer. The fact of the matter is though, I am eternally grateful I am an able-bodied guy who can hunt. I have had my fair share of amazing harvests including deer, grouse and black bear by hunting public land. I have also had my day ruined multiple times. All in all, I try to keep the perspective to appreciate the opportunity of hunting. Someday I may not be able to. So for now, successful harvest or not, I appreciate the opportunity.

Main image credit: Tiny Shaw/USFWS/Flickr

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