By Mark Kenyon

Never stop learning. It’s one of the most important principles I adhere to as a deer hunter. Whether it’s reading about new ideas, watching videos, interviewing more experienced hunters or testing new ideas myself – I am always, always looking to learn more about whitetails and how to hunt them. And if if you share the same goal as me, to consistently kill mature deer, this kind of mindset is pretty much a requirement.

That said, this year I’m planning on taking this idea of continual learning to a new level. Fall 2014 is going to see me launch a new personal project, testing new tactics for hunting whitetails, and using public land as my testing ground.

The Need For New Testing Grounds

I’m a big proponent of trying new tactics and ideas for whitetails, but when it comes to my “prime” hunting spots on private land, I tend to like to play it relatively conservative.

When it comes to many of my private land hunting areas, I’m very particular about creating “low pressure” environments for the local deer. I’m borderline obsessive about managing any and all human intrusion into these spots, I’m meticulous about my scent control when heading into these areas, and I severely limit my visits outside of and during the hunting season – all in effort to keep the deer as comfortable and undisturbed as possible. The benefit of this is that I’m afforded more daylight encounters with mature bucks during the season, on the occasions that I do head in for a hunt.

When I hunt my private properties is another important piece of the puzzle. I’m only hunting these private spots when conditions are ideal. I’m not interested in pushing into these spots unnecessarily if the wind is a bit off, if temperatures are too high, if the time of the year or day is wrong, etc. One of my umbrella philosophies when it comes to hunting mature deer is that I look at each hunt as a gamble, and before deciding to hunt a spot I need to consider the risks of hunting it (leaving scent, entry/exit, wind, etc) and weigh that against the potential rewards. If conditions are not positive enough to give me a high likelihood of an encounter with a mature deer, I’d rather avoid pushing in and possibly hurting my chances in the future.

On these days when conditions dictate that I not hunt in my high quality private spots, I have two choices. I can either not hunt at all OR I can head out to a lower potential, lower risk location. And that’s my plan for 2014. When a situation like this pops up, rather than just not hunting at all, I’m going to head to my “low risk” testing grounds – public land.

Why Public Land As A Testing Ground?

So why use public land as a testing ground on these “off days”? Simple. Public land is already getting pounded by other guys, so the risk of screwing conditions up on these spots are minimal. These areas are already getting hit pretty heavily by by other local hunters using the usual hunting tactics, so my hunting on these less than ideal days isn’t going to really hurt me in the future. My likelihood of success in these spots obviously will be relatively low, but by heading in with those expectations and the goal of simply trying new things and learning from them, I can still have some form of “success”.

My Goals

Speaking of, with this project, what will success look like? Specifically, I’m looking to do two things.

First off, the biggest thing I’m trying to do is get some experience trying some new, more aggressive tactics and then understand how they seem to work or not work. As mentioned above, I’m very particular about when and how I hunt on my private properties – and in most cases, I’d prefer to hunt those spots carefully and very strategically. Trying some far flung, super aggressive tactics on these carefully managed properties is not always the smart choice. That said, I’ll feel much more comfortable testing these ideas in a low risk public land area, and feel that I’ll be able to gain valuable knowledge and experience while doing so.

As I alluded to earlier, I’ll be going into these public lands with relatively low expectations, but at the same time – I just may get a crack at a buck, and that certainly would constitute as success as well. The strategies I plan on testing are different than what most hunters are doing on public land and much more aggressive. That being the case, I think these are exactly the kind of strategies that could work best in places like public land. So who knows, if these tests go especially well, I just might fill a tag too.

Regardless though, hopefully I’ll learn a thing or two about these strategies that I can apply to my hunts in the future, whether on public or private land. And of course, the plan will be to share all of these experiences and lessons learned with the readers of Wired To Hunt.

Tactics To Be Tested

So with that all being said, what exactly am I going to be trying on public land?

Mostly I’m going to be much more aggressive.  I’m going to hunt close to bedding areas. I’m going to head in for “run and gun” set-ups and sneak in close to likely sanctuaries and out of the way corners. I’m going to push the limits and see if I can find any mature bucks on public land, and if so, how close I can get to their haunts.

I’m also going to try some ad-hoc bump and dumps. By this, I mean I’m going to simply head into a likely big buck haunt on public land on a random afternoon and push right into it. If I bump a buck or find sign of a buck bedding area, I’m going to set up right then and there and hunt, maybe even returning to hunt the next morning as well. If you want more details on the “bump and dump”, check out this article –> “How To Pull Off The Bump and Dump“.

In addition, I’m going to try a bunch of different ideas with mobile set-ups, using a climber or sticks/stand to move around, follow sighted deer movement, explore new areas, and see what I can discover.  I’m sure there will be plenty of other ideas that will come up along the way, and pretty much anything will be fair game. Basically anything that I’ve been interested in, but deemed to risky to try on my main properties, I’ll be putting into action on these public land hunts.

Final Thoughts

This fall I’m going to stick with my focus on hunting smart on my private properties and looking for quality hunts instead of just a high quantity. But I’m also going to make sure I still get in the woods plenty, but using “off days” to test a few new tricks on public lands. In short, I’m going to move around a lot, be aggressive, and try whatever new and crazy ideas I can come up with. It might be a total bust or I might learn a thing or two. Either way, you’ll hear about it.

Hopefully in the end Project Public 2014 will prove fruitful, whether that be in lessons learned or a buck on the ground.

Any thoughts on this idea? Have a specific aggressive tactic you’d like to see me try on public land? Let me know in the comments and I just might put it into action this fall!