Tips for successfully hunting state game lands in Pennsylvania

Deer Buckinwoodsnew

By Shirley Grenoble

Many hunters, including my hunting buddy, Joanie Haidle, and I have experienced our favorite hunting spots vanishing because landowners are leasing that land to other hunters. Often, hunters don’t find that out until they make that a last-minute call or visit to the landowner.

This gut-jarring surprise results in the hunter going to a tract of state game lands, with which they probably are not familiar.

I lived through this: a buddy had invited me to hunt with him on opening day at his favorite place. I consented.

So, before daylight I found myself tagging along behind him since I had never been to this spot. I thought he would show me a  place that would be a good stand.

Instead, in the cold predawn he stopped and said “My stand is up this hill,” so I’ll see you later.” Yikes, I thought.

My years of hunting know-how and experience kicked in, so I knew what to look for: rubs, scrapes, acorns, tracks and most of all the kind of  bedding cover a buck would be looking for the first day.

I waited until it was light enough to see, then I started slowly still-hunting through the woods, watching for the spot I would choose for a stand. An hour later, I saw it:

A patch of hardwoods ringed by  thick laurel. I found a stump to sit on and just sat there and watched for another hour.  It wasn’t long until I saw a deer making its way toward me. I glassed it and saw it had  legal antlers. So I got my rifle ready and let it come closer.  My shot was true.

One of the shocks many new hunters experience when going to a public game land for the first few times is how many other hunters are also there.

But the truth is, it’s not as bad as we often think it will be. First of all, the other hunters are just as unhappy about seeing you as you are seeing them.

So if you fnd yourself in territory you don’t know, remember that you do know how to look for deer sign.

It is always a nerve-rattling sight to see a lot of hunters in the woods. But remember that most hunters select deer stands, not by the amount of deer sign nearby but by how far around they can see.

Those are not usually good deer stands. Deer don’t  hang round in the open woods much once the shooting and man-scent dominate. They head for thick cover as fast as they can go and that is where you want to be, on the edges of thick cover, if not inside it.
There won’t be a lot of hunters deep inside such places as a rule, but you can easily get yourself inside laurel tangles and the like. Look  for deer trails along the edges of cover.

There will be lots of brush to use as a background and downed trees to sit on where deer go in and out. Sneak quietly along one of them, and look for a good stand along the way. While inside the thicket, they will use the trails to move if they desire and you may just get a  good shot.

Such thickets are great for putting up a tree stand. Put it up several days before season begins so there will be quiet when you approach the stand at least an hour before daylight on opening day.

So many hunters fail to utilize the great hunting inside a thicket because they look so impregnable from the outside but are actually quite easy to reach via the nearest deer trail.

Deer  sneak around a thicket on well-used deer trails too. They do not like to push through the thick brush anymore than you do.

The trick is to be in your stand before the deer start moving in, which will be shortly after dawn. Stay alert and be religious about the wind direction.

Use binoculars a lot. They pick apart the brushpiles to reveal the flick of an ear, a part of an antler and so on.

Noiseless outer clothing is essential. Few things alert a bedded deer more than the scrape of a vine or briar against noisy pants. If you are walking slowly on a deer trail, lift the vine over your head rather than allow it to scrape against your clothing.

There will be a lot of hunters out there but most of them do not hunt in the places where deer go to hide. Once you learn how to weasel into those places where most hunters don’t go but most deer do, you will have the upper hand.

Categories: Whitetail Deer

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