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    Hunting Private on Public by Don Jacobs

    The unmistakable sound of feathers slicing through the air, quacks and whistles indicated ducks were in the air. Once shooting time arrived the invisible flyers responsible for all the racket would be revealed hovering over decoys that were set on public land. That is right I said public land!

    The majority of my waterfowl hunting here in Colorado occurs in public land. Day in and day out fellow hunters are baffled by our success rates on public Colorado State Wildlife Area limit of ducksland. I would need to go back over 5 years to find a hunt where we never got on the score board, this not only holds true with waterfowl but also upland birds and big game. You are probably asking "How did you find these spots?" Simply by dedicating a little time and effort.

    How do you find these spots that are so productive? Like I said above you will have to dedicate a little time and effort. Finding good public spots is no different than finding a good private spot. You will spend time looking at maps, taking drives, and glassing the area. Where the public land has an advantage is you can get out and walk most properties without asking permission in most cases.

    Here are five quick tips to help you hunt privately on public land:

  • The first thing I do is get out a map and locate the public areas. Once you locate these areas spend a day or two visiting a few of them. The last thing that you want to do is show up in the dark to hunt a property you have never been to. Stumble out to find a dried up river channel or pond with no waterfowl around. I always carry a note pad with me and make a few notes and drawings about the area. Look for things that may indicate the property gets a lot of pressure such as empty shells or trash in the parking lot. If a property has multiple parking lots visit them all. This will help you weed out some of the initial properties that get pressured.

  • Size matters or does it? Don't Judge an area by its size. Although an area may appear small and insignificant, it might hold the waterfowl that you're looking for. A majority of hunters will look at the small SWA's as a waste of time to explore. When in fact it could have small ponds or slough areas that are a magnet for ducks. These features do not always show up on a map, so you will have to get out and explore.

  • Pressure can also work to your advantage when finding an area to hunt. Waterfowl react in the same manner as any wild creature. They find a sanctuary from the pressure where they can be relaxed. This can be a key to a great hunt. As you find areas that are receiving pressure mark them on your map and make notes. If they are large areas check all access points as you may find that honey hole. The path of least resistance is where you will find the most pressure. Look for areas where there might be a longer walk for access or some sort of challenge to get there.

  • Hunt in unusual places. Although many areas designated as public hunting land hold a variety of wildlife, usually a predominate type of hunting takes place there. It's true that some land makes it possible to hunt deer, ducks and other types of game, but many were originally intended for or are more suitable for a specific type of hunting. Don't be afraid to go against the traditional usage of a public hunting ground.

  • Mr. Warden can be an invaluable resource for your hunting success. Get to know the game wardens in the areas you plan to hunt. Most of them are more than eager to tell you about the wildlife in their areas and where the pressure is at. More than once I have had a game warden put me on the birds. Just keep in mind that they are in the field everyday and know most of the animals by first name.

  • If you follow these simple steps I guarantee you will put more birds in your bag. Enjoy your new found success and be safe.

    Don Jacobs

...much more to come
The Pup Jake

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