If you have private land to hunt power to you. However, if like many of us, you either hunt public land-only or some combination of the two you have to deal with pressure. No place in the country knows pressure like we do in Michigan. An estimated 750,000 deer hunters descend on the woods of Michigan every fall. While the largest number of these are rifle hunters, we do also experience significant bowhunting pressure as well. It’s easy to declare the situation hopeless. Many Michigan public land hunters settle on killing spikes or does every year and incessantly complain about there being no large bucks on public land in Michigan: this could not be further from the truth. While there is not an abundance of 180-inch bucks like you’d find in Illinois, Wisconsin, or Iowa, we do have a plethora of hunters every year who take beautiful mature deer on public land. You just have to be able to work harder, hike farther, and get to the places other hunters don’t. Here are a few ideas on how to do this.
Waders And Boats
People don’t generally think of waders and small watercraft as deer hunting gear, but they can give you a great advantage. The average hunter is going to set up somewhere within a few hundred yards of their truck or a nearby trailhead. They’re going to avoid going anywhere that is difficult to access. Streams, lakes, and rivers are all going to prove to be a barrier to someone who is not prepared to cross them. Getting a set of lightweight waders to hunt in can allow you the option of crossing water up to 3 or 4 feet deep to reach a more remote spot. Many high-level deer hunters are also utilizing kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft to access hunting locations via boat that cannot be accessed by land or are too far away when on foot. Crossing water may not be the way you hunt every time, but having the option can greatly expand your opportunities to find a mature buck on public land.
Saddle hunting is another tool that can improve your ability to hike further back on public land. By switching to a saddle versus a portable tree stand, you can greatly reduce the weight and bulk you have to carry in on your hunt. Mature bucks are smart and are going to avoid areas that lots of hunters are using. They will also avoid any areas that people usually use such as parking lots and trails. Generally, the older a buck is, the higher the chance that he will only go near areas people use during the night. To catch him during daylight hours you need to travel back on a property further than other hunters do. Lightening your load and stand setup with a saddle can help accomplish that.
Hunting Areas With Good Visibility
Some spots you hunt will be deep and far back. You may be in some dense underbrush and surrounded by forest. Generally, when you are in a spot like this you will have some information that a deer is using the area. However, when hunting a spot you have less info on, it may be beneficial to hunt an area that you can see several hundred yards away in. While you may not get lucky on your first sit and stumble into a good buck, the visibility can allow you to scout a larger area with binoculars and learn more about how deer are utilizing the landscape. Valuable intel can be gained while glassing that could tell you exactly where to set up for your next hunt.