Do you hunt private lands or public, and why? This question comes up on web forums and social media discussions all the time. For me, it’s both.
I started out hunting public lands exclusively until I managed to acquire permission on a small chunk of private. I bounced between public lands and the private parcel frequently but focused most of my time exploring public lands to avoid burning out the little slice of private I was privileged to hunt. I never once thought of public land as my only option, because to put it plainly – that’s silly.
Seeking permission to hunt private land can be a struggle. Through the years I’ve been fortunate to have received some “Yeses” along the way, but more “No’s” than I ever cared to count. If you put forth the effort now, you’ll be rewarded later- it’s true, and I’ve proven it year-after-year for the last twenty years.
To be fair, the question should be answered with the long-term in mind, as the short term is subjective to intermediary situations. The recent loss of permission to hunt private land and too little time in-between then and now may force your direction toward public land for the meantime, but strictly hunting public land for the long term is a personal decision.
To suggest that hunting public land is the only option when thinking long term is false and misguided and often written and said with a negative tone, as if there’s some animosity behind it. If you hunt private by permission long enough, eventually you’ll get burned. A friend or family member of the landowner finds out there’s an opportunity to hunt and you just might lose your spot, sending you on a wild mission to find an alternative option. Combine the repetitious “No’s” with the loss of a place you had envisioned spending your season hunting and the recipe for crabbiness has been concocted.
Lately, the popularity of public land hunting has been gaining steam and deservedly so. Hunting public land is tough, especially in the proximity of heavier populated cities with pressure elevated beyond much comparison. However, with the popularity seems to be a crutch, something to lean on when the going gets tough. A serious hunter doesn’t scapegoat a challenge, instead they push themselves harder and march on until they find the results they’re looking for.
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A consistently successful public land hunter never considers their success worthier of respect than that of a consistently successful private land hunter, but a struggling public land hunter over the course of several seasons begins to throw shade at the other side of the line fence. Don’t take it from me, just visit social media and online forum discussions on the topic and hear it from the horse’s mouth.
Being a public land hunter doesn’t mean you’re “in the club,” it just means that’s the path you’ve chosen to steer yourself. Respect is earned through hard work, well thought out decisions, and success from determination – it has nothing to do with the property lines surrounding you when it happens. If you struggle to fill your tag on an annual basis, that’s for you to overcome, and you owe no one an explanation – so don’t use public land as your excuse and expect to be excused, because no one cares.
The author with a buck he took on a small “ask for permission” piece of private land.
Human nature drives individuals to compare themselves to one another, and in hunting it’s very much the same. Don’t be fooled, deer are as wise on private land as they are on public – remember, they don’t have the OnX app on a smartphone to show them the property lines. So, is hunting on private land easier than hunting on public land? And is success earned on public land worthy of more respect than the success earned on private?
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Private lands are owned, leased, and granted entry by permission-only. If you can’t afford private land, alternative options exist to lease or seek permission to hunt by a handshake and a case of beer. If you’re tired of hearing “no” and you’ve been burned one too many times to muster the desire to ever go back, that is a choice you make. The beauty of a choice like this is that you can always change your mind.