Planning a Hunting Trip on Public Lands
Kevin Felts 11.09.18
Spread across the nation are millions of acres of public lands open for hunting. However, as inviting as those lands may be, there are other people who are also hunting the area. To help prevent accidents let’s take a few minutes and talk about planning a hunting trip on public lands.
We are going to start off with a public hunting lands permit. These are typically bought when the person buys their hunting license. Here in Texas, when someone buys a public hunting lands permit, the State of Texas will mail out a book that has maps and regulations.
Once we have the maps and regulations in hand, we may want to obtain a USGS TOPO map of the area. These can typically be bought online, or at a local blueprint company. Blueprint companies may sell USGS TOPO maps to surveyors, pipeline crews, powerline crews… etc. The place where I buy my TOPO maps, they tell me their main customers for TOPO maps are work crews listed earlier.
Now we have a map showing where the public hunting lands are at, and a detailed TOPO map showing creeks, steams, hills, elevations… etc. Once we have all of that in hand we scout the area. Depending on location and regulations, motor vehicles may not be allowed on public land. The public hunting lands I visit, you either boat in, or walk in. Along a nearby river there is a section of public hunting lands that is only accessible by boat.
When we have an area picked out we want to scout let’s drive, or boat out to the area. Besides looking for wildlife we are also looking for people. Something my uncle does, if he sees a vehicle parked next to public hunting lands he wants to hunt, he leaves a note on the windshield with his phone number and name. Hopefully the other hunter will call and the two will discuss where they plan on hunting. That way there is no conflict.
While boating just before, or during hunting season, I make a mental note of where boats are pulled up to the bank. Typically, hunters will pull their boat up on bank, then walk no more than 100 yards straight into the woods. So if I see a boat on the bank during hunting season, I try to give the hunter as much space as possible.
Some people may hang a plastic bag from a tree with their name and phone number written on a piece of paper inside the bag. That way if someone else wanted to hunt the area they have a way to get in touch with each other.
Once we have made every effort possible not to crowd other hunters, we scout and plan the hunt – In another article we talked about scouting dried up creek beds before hunting season. Using the TOPO map we may be able to get a good idea of how the land is laid out.
Last but certainly not least is hunter safety. Even though we have taken efforts not to cross paths with other hunters, it still may happen. States have different regulations on wearing blaze orange. Be sure to read and follow those regulations, not just to follow the law, but to make sure you are not shot by some over zealous hunter.
Long story short, try not to show up on opening day, park the vehicle, and walk blindly into the woods before dark. Planning and communication could save yourself, and other hunters, a lot of frustration after hunting season opens.