Public Land Scouting Tips
“Hey y’all, we’re K.C. and Tyler and we are THE ELEMENT! We scout and hunt public land all over the country all while filming the experiences and recording podcasts when we can get a spare minute or two on the road. We love the adventure aspect of traveling to new places to hunt and learning about the wildlife we can hunt there. From the plains states of the Midwest to down home here in Texas, we can’t get enough of public land hunting!”
Q: How do you choose what public lands you’ll hunt and why?
A: From a broader perspective, it’s usually by access and availability. We’ve got to have deer to hunt (densities and resources), tags in our pocket (draw or over the counter), and enough land to feel like there are multiple good spots. Once we get all that squared away, we hit the OnX and start to dissect the maps and home in on what we believe will be good hunting locations. We’re usually looking for places that are far from roads, far from big towns, and places that have adequate resources for deer to exist.
Q: What is the best way to scout public land?
A: “Best” is tough and pretty subjective. We’ve found that different techniques work in different situations. Of course, trail cam data is huge. We get cams out around September when the velvet comes off and bucks shift their ranges. Also, you can’t replace boots-on-the-ground scouting: pre-season, during season, and post season are all super valuable and allow us to paint the bigger picture of a whitetail’s life and patterns.
Q: Are there things that you are typically looking for when scouting a new piece of public ground?
A: Other hunters for sure. If there are a ton of stands, trail cameras, or foot traffic, I’m going to look for something better. If there’s not, it’s time to bail in there and look for sign. Big rubs are always cool and can tell you there are bucks in the area, but we put way more weight on scrapes and food sources.
Q: What kind of stand locations are you looking for on public land?
A: Creek Crossings, Hub Scrapes, Doe bedding. We have a ton of good info on this topic in our “Public Pins” podcast series.
We’re saddle hunters for the most part, so we can hang in about any tree. The more important thing in hanging in a location is not what tree is easier, but what tree will get you a shot at the deer you want. We do like to find trees that have a fork about 12-15 feet high. This really helps with concealment.
Q: What tips can you offer for hanging cameras on public ground?
A: Hang ‘em high! One year we had 6 stolen in a month. Also, hang them at a 45º angle or looking down the trails. The trigger doesn’t activate dead center, so the angle is advantageous, and it’s the perfect mix of not spooking a deer with a camera in their line of sight while also not missing a deer because it passed quickly on a trail 90º from the camera.
Q: Do you have to hunt public ground different than private ground?
A: Somewhat yes, but we don’t approach it that way. Every piece of ground is different and should be treated accordingly. The details that make up that deer’s daily habits mean way more than if it is public or private ground. I think where it is different for us is that we are traveling a lot to hunt public land in different states. This means hard stops to our hunts, which translates to needing to be aggressive when it’s appropriate. We call it being “Knowledgeably Aggressive.” Using all the info you have from scouting, trail cameras, weather data, and hunting to make the right moves.
Q: What does it take to be successful hunting public land?
A: A positive attitude is irreplaceable. We say, “positivity kills” and it absolutely holds water. Never put your head down or give up before the hunt is over.
Q: What else would you tell someone looking to hunt public land?
A: Do it for the right reasons. Hunting is cool and hunting is meant to be fun — at least the way we do it. Public land deer are awesome. Private land deer are awesome. So, hunt what you have available. There’s no “style points” awarded at the end of the season, so hunt what makes you happy.
If you’d like to watch a heart-pounding hunt where K.C. of The Element grunts in an awesome public-land buck, click here!
If you are serious about learning all you can about predators in your hunting area, it is recommended to run trail cameras throughout the year.
Learn how trail cameras help conservation groups study and manage wildlife and human interactions along the Wasatch Mountains outside of Salt Lake City.
If you want to be the hero of this year’s Super Bowl party, then check out this recipe for delicious venison cheesesteak siders!