Uncle Sam’s Bucks, Part I

Scott Bestul |

And the rest of my whitetail hunting—about 50%, most years—is done on public land, owned by the county, state, or federal government. I collectively call these land holdings “Uncle Sam’s property”.

I have also learned that whitetail hunting on public ground is not only not bad…It can be very, very good.

Before you start questioning what planet I call home, let me say this. I’ve hunted the stereotypical public spots we all envision; the ones with the shot-up road signs, the littered-and-crowded parking lots, and the throngs of hunters. Back in my teens, I hunted a public area where duck hunters sky-busted waterfowl buzzing at tree-top level over my deer stand. And pheasant hunters routinely clamored through bedding areas of the bucks I was chasing. So I know all about Uncle Sam’s dark side.

Yet I continue to hunt public ground, and consider doing so a kind of merit badge. One part, of course, is that it takes me back to my roots as a high school kid who had no other options. But I also realize that public land can still offer good—and sometimes great—hunting, provided I’m willing to do a little extra work and research. Finally, I’ve discovered after over four decades of hunting, that these days I’m seeking a challenge as much as I’m searching for a buck when I roam the deer woods. Public land can offer challenge in a big way, and since I live in a neighborhood where state wildlife areas are abundant, I find myself scouting and hunting them often.

The buck in the photo above is a fine whitetail my trail camera captured on public land near my home. He’s no world-beater, but he’s an awfully pretty buck; one that I’d be proud to tag. If, like me, you’re not the owner of a whitetail paradise and are looking for a reasonable opportunity at a good buck on land you can hunt for free…Well, tune in for my next blog, where I’ll offer some tips on making that very dream happen.


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