Don’t avoid public-land whitetails

For a better chance at a nice, public-land buck, carefully set up closer to its bedding area.

Offseason scouting, tactics need to reflect pressure WMA deer face

More and more hunters are looking past public land in favor of joining hunt clubs and leases. It seems they are more willing to spend a lot of money to hunt on with others on a few hundred acres of land rather than spend $30.50 for access to hundreds of thousands of acres of WMA land.

Donald Ray Turner of Nichols is not one of those hunters. For the past 38 years, Turner has hunted public land almost exclusively.

“Public land deer in South Carolina are the hardest deer in the country to kill,” said Turner, who has still been successful year-in and year-out.

According to Turner, public-land success boils down to just a few things.

“I do a lot of scouting in the offseason,” he said.

In January, Turner begins trying to identify bucks for the next season.

“It takes a lot of effort, hard work and lots of boot time to find and kill big bucks on public land.” he said. “I hunt where other people won’t go. You have to be willing to hunt where the bucks are coming from, not where he is going to.”

Unlike a lot of hunters, Turner likes to set up close to bedding areas and get the bucks as soon as they reveal themselves, leaving their sanctuaries.

“I mostly use lock-on stands, but lately, I have been using my climber more and more because it is so mobile and does not leave scent in the woods,” he said, citing a climber’s mobility.

One key thing Turner points to is the tendency of hunters to hunt from daylight to about 9 a.m.. and then again in the last two hours of the afternoon.

“Big bucks are sensitive to those disturbances and know when hunters are entering and leaving the woods,” he said.  “Bucks are beginning to move during off times, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Hunters who are willing to sit later in the morning have a far better chance than not, Turner said.

“The longer I sit there, the more confident I get that a big buck is going to show.”

About Pete Rogers 162 Articles
Pete Rogers of Taylors, S.C., is employed with the USDA Wildlife Services and has been a sporting writer and photographer for over a decade. He has a real passion for trapping and enjoys sharing his outdoors experiences with his wife and five children.

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