Today the average hunter struggles to find an affordable way to hunt. The constant battle to find hunting land is affecting the numbers of hunters heading afield every year. “The number of hunters in this country is declining, and the single most important reason is that’s it’s just gotten too difficult for the average guy to find a place to hunt. Ensuring access for hunters is a high priority at NRA. We have lobbied to expand hunter access and to provide federal funding to support state “open fields” programs which provide monetary incentives to private landowners who open their land to public hunting” states J.R. Robbins, Managing Editor, NRA’s Hunters Rights.
Despite vanishing lands there is help, you just have to know where to look and be willing to put in the time to research what is available.
State parks, Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, controlled urban hunts, and state organized landowner hunts can be a lifesaver for the budget-conscience hunter.
Nearly 317 of the 550 NWR’s nationwide offer some form of public hunting. Add to the list numerous Federal WMA’s and the countless state-run WMA’s, and the number of hunting options grows exponentially.
Many states offer special herd reduction hunts on private land. Landowners enroll in these programs to control the deer population on their property, which is good for the landowner and a great, yet often untapped potential for the hunter that is looking for economical hunting. Normally these types of hunts are for residents only, so spending a little time digging into your states DNR website may uncover some of these hidden hunting opportunities.
In addition to hunting WMA, NWR and parks, another alternative for leasing land is controlled state-owned land hunts. Many of these take place on military bases or school lands. Often these areas can produce some great results. There is virtually no pressure, as many of these areas are closed during the regular season. You have to plan ahead to hunt, plus you have to be drawn to hunt these areas, and most of the land is not easily accessible to the general public. An added bonus is these types of hunts are usually not heavily advertised.
As the deer populations continue to thrive, more and more cities and communities are hosting special control hunts. These hunts often provide a low-cost, close- to -home, alternative way to fill the freezer. Contact your city animal control officers, local DNR offices, or metro bowhunting organizations to find out what is available in your area.
A soft place to land
Hopefully you have saved some cash by opting to hunt public lands, but you still may need lodging. Whether you plan to camp, stay in an RV, or rent a hotel room, finding an affordable place to crash may be a bit of a chore since most public lands are located miles from a nearby city. Talk to the unit manager for local suggestions or contact the nearest Chamber of Commerce or State Board of Tourism for suggestions on lodging in the area you plan on hunting.
State DNR Web sites
Safety Tips for hunting public lands:
Understand all hunting regulations that pertain to that area. Often public land has additional regulations. It is your responsibility to know the law.
Obey safety zones.
Observe and obey legal shooting hours.
Keep firearms unloaded until you have settled into your treestand. Never climb a tree with a loaded weapon.
Hunters Orange- if it is required, keep the vest on at all times. If it is optional, wearing it while entering and exiting the area.
Wear a full-body safety harness when hunting from a treestand.
A majority of public lands have a mandatory check-in/check-out policy, be sure to do both. Let others know where you will be and when to expect you to come home.
If you come across a hunter that is not following the regulations, report them. Don’t take the law into your own hands.
Do not shoot over the horizon, or into thick cover. IDENTIFY your target before shooting.