By Chris Eberhart
Let’s face it most of us will never have access to big private manicured deer hunting acres. And, as private property is daily getting locked up tighter and tighter, becoming more and more expensive to both buy and lease, the problem of hunting access is getting worse by the day. This doesn’t mean that finding hunting permission is impossible, it just means that the vast majority of the big good pieces of land will be locked up tighter than a drum. There are basically two solutions to this. One is hunting public land, which is the saving grace of hunting in the U.S. The other is focusing on finding access to small overlooked parcels.
I’ve focused on finding tiny tracts for a couple decades now. Here are some examples of some of the best tiny spots I have hunted.
Once I got permission on ten acres in a buffer of woods between a subdivision and a major highway. The buffer happened to be the only real daylight path the local deer herd had between a brushy bedding area on a lake at one end and a big cornfield at the other. There weren’t a lot of deer there, but some surprisingly nice bucks, that cruised a big wooded and oak laden planned community at night that left lots of space between the houses. You could never hear a deer coming because the roar of the highway was nearly deafening, but you could at least keep yourself occupied counting cars to any number you chose. A couple nice bucks fell on this piece, and it remained a great spot until the cornfield sprouted houses.
Another great spot I landed permission is perhaps not a small parcel, in fact it was big, tallying about three hundred acres. But it seemed small real fast once you counted the total of ten trees on the entire property. The rest was all field. And the trees weren’t even connected to a woods. One brushy fence line crossed about half mile through another field, along the edge of a small exurban settlement, out into the property where I had permission and ended at a small round patch of trees. It was virtually an island in an ocean of corn. The little round patch had a few nice trees to hunt out of, a couple of rock piles, some old farm junk, and a couple apple trees. Every year that the farmer planted corn this spot was scrape central. It was one of my best hunting areas for several years, until it too was developed.
One area I hunted belonged to an industrial park and consisted of about twenty acres of woods. There were small factories and businesses all around and a subdivision bordered the woods on the other side. It too served as a buffer, between the businesses and a residential area. The woods was full of walking trails, and for the deer to get there they had to cross a road, cross a cemetery, and cut through the yard of an office complex. Right in the back corner of the property though was a small, super thick, bedding area that always held a mature buck. I had some interesting encounters at the edge of that bedding area, and not only with deer. It was interesting to see how the deer reacted to people walking their dogs, or using the trails. Often they would just stand in cover, perfectly still and let people walk right by. This spot was solely for morning hunting, and as soon as the leaves dropped not a deer set foot there. I lost my permission at this spot because some kid broke his leg riding his bike on the place, and his parents sued the landowner, who then locked the doors for everybody.
Yet another spot I hunted, and actually killed a really nice buck on, was ten acres of public land literally surrounded by houses, with a walking trail along one edge. This piece was without a single tree more than ten feet tall and was so thick that deer literally walked through tunnels. It was pure bedding. At night the deer moved out into the neighborhoods and a bit farther away to some crops to feed. There was some other hunting pressure there, but not as much as you would expect simply because there wasn’t a single tree you could have placed a stand in. It was ground hunting or no hunting. And hunting whitetails from the ground is a tough proposition anywhere. Sometimes you have to be adaptable in order to hunt at all.
The list goes on, and on, because hunting permission is always lost and gained. The point is: if you are looking for places to hunt check out even the tiniest patches of land. A lot of these are so small and marginal, as far as deer use goes, you can sometimes get permission. But because they are overlooked you might be surprised to find a big buck there. Just last year my brother was driving down the road on his way hunting early in the morning when a nice buck crossed the road in front of his truck. On a whim he pulled into the house on the property on the way home and asked for permission. The lady at the door, and owner of property, gave him permission on the spot, and told him he was the first person ever to ask for hunting permission on her fifteen acres. The surrounding farmland is all leased and locked up, but the fifteen has a creek bottom that the deer seriously use. It is a great overlooked spot.
One thing about hunting small pieces of property though is that you have to adjust your hunting specifically to the time of year deer are using the place. There will be a best time to hunt for each piece, and it might not be the standard, rut is best hunting. Some pieces might be early season only, or even only good for the first day or two, before they dry up. Others might not get good until the lead starts flying in gun season.
A spot I hunt in Michigan is like that. It has a few deer on it during regular bow season, but as soon as gun season opens the deer population seems to quadruple. The deer seek the protection of the small cedar swamp surrounded by a subdivision, where gun hunting probably isn’t such a good idea.
Small spots can produce big bucks. Oh yeah, the deer in the accompanying picture fell to my arrow on a ten acre piece.
Chris – BowhuntingWildFood.com