I keep in mind once I determined to focus my efforts primarily towards searching whitetails on public land. I’d grown enamored with the thought of searching deer that confronted decrease strain and had greater probabilities of reaching maturity, and I wished to sort out several types of terrain and learn the way deer journey by means of environments completely different than these round my dwelling.
Public lands have been the perfect answer for my state of affairs, since I wasn’t in any monetary place to purchase or lease floor in a number of states. However public land searching was nonetheless a little bit of a thriller to me as a result of there wasn’t a lot whitetail-focused data accessible on the time. Briefly, I seen searching public areas as a “Western” factor that belonged nearly completely to elk and mule deer hunters.
These early days have been wonderful, although. Searching strain for whitetails was low. Deer numbers in most areas have been satisfactorily excessive. Trophy potential was actually good, since I’d see extra 4-year-old bucks in every week in some locations than I might anticipate to see in a lifetime round dwelling.
I wish to exhibit a little bit of hesitation in compiling this listing of ignored and underrated states, partly as a result of I’ve seen main modifications to deer populations since I first visited these locations. Searching strain has elevated exponentially, and the general high quality of the expertise has waned because of this. The great ol’ days of public land deer searching are doubtless over. However there’s nonetheless some enjoyable available—you simply must look in locations others haven’t but.
I additionally hesitate as a result of one of many nice joys in this sort of searching is discovering one thing that others haven’t. By broadcasting a few of these hidden gems, I’m nearly making certain they gained’t keep hidden for very lengthy. However, paradoxically, that is additionally why I take pleasure in studying a majority of these items: the invention a brand new favourite place is an expertise value sharing. Listed below are three nice public land deer states which have been flying below the radar.
To be able to wax poetic about West Virginian whitetails, I need to lay some groundwork about Ohio whitetails first. I’ve spent quite a lot of time mountain climbing the hills of southern Ohio seeking a mega-giant buck, and whereas I’ve by no means really killed a buck there, I’m probably not embarrassed by that reality. Searching these Ohio hill nation bucks will not be simple. However contemplating the a whole bunch of path cam footage of world-class bucks I’ve captured in Ohio, the overwhelming majority of which have been taken on public land of typical deer over 170 inches and non-typicals that flirt with the magic 200-inch mark, I’d say Ohio has severely massive whitetails.
However Ohio faces an issue that West Virginia doesn’t: Ohio public land whitetail searching will not be a secret. It was a recognized vacation spot once I first began searching there, and the visitation again then was nothing in comparison with what it’s now. As we speak, I anticipate to run into loads of hunters it doesn’t matter what a part of the state I hunt or how far again into the hills I hike.
West Virginia is completely different. It has a lot of the identical Appalachian terrain and is much more rugged in lots of spots. This habitat makes bucks powerful to kill however it additionally helps them reside longer. With a seemingly infinite provide of browse, acorns, and mineral-rich soils, these bucks develop substantial antlers.
West Virginia has one thing else Ohio doesn’t: a bow-only space within the coronary heart of that harsh terrain that features a number of counties. It’s no secret that killing a deer with a rifle is a bit simpler than with a bow, so these areas see loads fewer hunters.
There’s loads of public land to be discovered within the Mountain State. You’ll want good legs and wholesome lungs to sort out most of it, however the alternatives are appreciable. Tags are simple to get they usually come at a cut price worth for nonresidents—about $160 apiece.
Oklahoma isn’t precisely a sleeper state today, however I believe it’s nonetheless ignored in quite a lot of methods. That may doubtless change due to an enormous uptick in folks searching Kansas and the still-growing curiosity on public land searching.
For a time frame, Kansas was an almost-guaranteed draw yearly, and plenty of models had whitetail tags to spare. Three years in the past that began to vary. Candidates started failing to attract and leftover tags dwindled. This yr, a report variety of candidates entered the Kansas lottery. It appears the times of leftover tags are gone. In truth, I’d predict we’re two to 3 years from most models requiring at the least one (if not two) choice factors to attract.
This may make neighboring Oklahoma extra enticing. The terrain in Oklahoma is similar to that of Kansas and the caliber of deer rivals Kansas in lots of areas. That open nation options a lot of cattle, few bushes, and whitetails that can roam a really good distance on a given day within the rut.
Deer tags in Oklahoma are roughly half the price of these in Kansas and are presently accessible with out an utility or lottery entry. On high of that, in Oklahoma, hunters can even take two bucks as a substitute of 1. After all this all might change if extra hunters begin flooding in.
Public land isn’t considerable within the Sooner State, however some areas have sufficient to work with. Leasing land is a typical observe right here, so entry to non-public could also be a bit harder for many who choose to knock on a door.
For some time, Indiana appeared poised to be the “subsequent massive factor” in deer searching. The state adopted a one-buck rule and a few searching figures sang its praises whereas displaying footage on TV. However that focus was short-lived and the Hoosier State will not be practically as well-liked now because it as soon as was. That’s positive by me—I believe Indiana is without doubt one of the greatest, most ignored choices for anybody who desires to hunt deer within the Midwest.
To start with, Southern Indiana has an unbelievable quantity of public acreage. The massive blocks of hardwood ridges present habitat much like Ohio and Missouri. Among the terrain is fairly rugged, and agricultural floor is scattered all through.
There are many deer and a few stud bucks, however they most likely aren’t fairly on par with Ohio due to the season construction. The state’s gun season rolls in through the prime of the rut in mid-November, a surefire strategy to knock again the age construction of the buck inhabitants.
With that stated, Indiana nonetheless provides you a greater likelihood at a buck of three years or older on public floor than many different states can supply. Hunters should purchase tags over-the-counter and gained’t spend an excessive amount of cash on them, lower than $200 for the one buck you might be allowed to kill.
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