Pennsylvania public hunting lands also hold outstanding bucks
There’s been a long-held popular belief that if any deer hunter seeks a truly trophy sized buck, he or she had better stick to hunting private lands, especially one where a sizable food plot exists.
Even I — who did most of my deer hunting on public land in younger years and still occasionally hunts deer on public land — held much the same belief., although I saw some really nice bucks in that time frame, and many times observed firsthand racks on harvested bucks that were impressive.
Many of us believed that a true trophy whitetail, one that could score high in organizations such as Boone and Crocket, simply would never be taken on any public land open to hunting. We thought that hunting pressure killed off bucks before they grew big.
Over recent years, that particular belief has certainly been put to sleep as pictures of hunters with true trophies taken on public land have popped up for viewing everywhere.
In fact, the well known photo of the Cory Gulvis buck, which may be a new state record, was shot this year with a traditional bow deep into public land. That photo alone should dispel any belief that big bucks can’t be found on public land.
I have a friend who took the impressive buck shown above the first Wednesday of this past rifle season deep in public land. He also has plenty of photos of other huge bucks taken on the trail cameras he has spread throughout public land well before any seasons opened for deer hunting.
If there is one common word spoken by hunters who have harvested these huge bucks on public land, it is the utterance of the word “deep” — as in “deep into the public lands” they hunt.
The few hunters I have spoken with who have harvested these trophy-sized whitetails where anyone properly licensed may hunt, generally express the same strategies and work required to have a chance at these big guys.
They stress the need for scouting, and not just scouting right before deer season, but scouting throughout the year. Many of these hunters will hike deep into public forests in early spring looking for antler sheds. Often, there is some small amount of snow on the ground, which helps them in a search for bedding areas, which often are near a deposited shed.
At these spots, they visualize the best places to find the predominant wind direction, and where to climb a tree, if indeed they are using treestands. They also mark spots where gun hunting may offer the best chance to intercept the big buck that left his shed antlers nearby.
As the year moves along, they may visit the places occasionally to determine how wild food sources are progressing, foods such as acorns hanging on trees, wild fruits and vines and other mast sources. They attempt to determine if bucks will move from a bedding area to another because food is farther away, or if they’ll move because seasonal changes will require movement to where the food is at that time. They search for water sources, and how dry conditions may move these deer, also.
They know that most likely there will not be other hunters around because these spots require a long walk to reach — which is the main reason these bucks have moved to these places and grown huge racks in the first place.
My friend in the photo, left the edge of public land at 4 in the morning to get to his spot at daybreak, shot his buck at 7:30 a.m., and reached the edge with the buck in tow where he entered in darkened woods. It was that far from any road.
It is by no means an easy endeavor to seek a trophy buck on public land. It requires a hunter to be in good physical shape, possess a knowledge of the places they will hunt, and a good understanding of how the deer living there move about under different conditions.
But if you’re willing, in shape and determined, you too may pose for a photo with a public land buck that is simply amazing.