Ask The Biologist

Go the Distance

Go the Distance

By Bob Humphrey

To beat the pressure on public land, get off the beaten path.

QUESTION: I hunt in Oconto County in Wisconsin. It’s made up of a lot of tall hardwoods and pines but does have some diversity. I’ve put 10 miles on foot scouting and cannot locate any deer. The land is heavily pressured. I tried getting off the paths and going way back into the woods, but nothing changed. Please help.

ANSWER: I’m not sure of your situation, but public land in the eastern U.S. often suffers from a lack of diversity unless the land is actively managed and the forest periodically harvested. That could be part of your problem, although I suspect hunting pressure plays a bigger part.

I once encountered a similar situation on public land in Massachusetts. My first step was to pull out topo maps of the area (we didn’t have internet satellite imagery back then) and look at topography and access points. I then eliminated areas close to access points since they get the most human activity.

Next, I studied topography, looking for places that might be the least accessible to humans, but ones that would provide good travel routes for deer: saddles, benches and the like. Then I hiked up into the hills to look for sign and cover.

When I found dense, shrubby cover around a perched pocket wetland, I knew I was close. A little more effort turned up several trails leading into the dense cover. I hiked back up before dawn the next morning and let other hunters do the work of moving deer in my direction. It was a long drag out, but well worth the effort.

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