Knowing Your Hunting Ground: Private Vs Public Land

Welcome to the first part of the Deer Hunting 101 Guide. I hope that this guide can give you an excellent overview about hunting.

The first question to ask of course is “Where do we go to hunt?”. This can be split into two categories, that is private land and public land. Both have their own benefits to hunt in. Here are some special characteristics each type of hunting land has.


Private land

1. Having less hunting pressure

Private lands typically have less hunting pressure than public lands.

Hunting pressure occurs when the game animal – in this case, the deer – faces disturbances in their natural activities which causes them to hide in places that are hard to reach. Hunting pressure depends on the number of people that hunt in that area. The more people that deer encounter, the more they learn how to avoid us in the future because they sense danger. Hence, in private lands, there is less hunting pressure because the private landowner has the right to provide hunting rights to whoever they choose and keep all others out.

2. Leasing hunting property

Of course, not everyone is so lucky to have been handed the rights to private hunting property passed down from their families. But fear not, because it is possible to lease hunting land! In fact, leasing land for hunting has become increasingly common each year. This means paying the private landowner for hunting rights for a specific amount of time and the terms and conditions agreed upon.

Leasing rates are usually counted per-acre, so the cost depends on the size of the land as well as other factors like the popularity and accessibility of the location. Landowners may also charge in terms of length of lease such as daily, short-term or long-term hunting land leases. Long-term land lease is the most common and most beneficial to the owner and the hunter. This is because the contract lasts from around one to three years. This allows the landowner to gain continuous profit without worrying about different tenants and allows the hunter to adapt to the hunting surroundings.


Public land

1. Getting a greater sense of accomplishment

Hunting can be more rewarding in public lands than in private lands.

Hunting deer in public land gives a greater challenge to the hunter and thus a greater sense of accomplishment when you succeed. Most hunters who have hunted on both private and public lands confess that bagging a buck – that is, killing a male deer – on public land gives off a greater feeling of satisfaction. This is because as mentioned above, there is more hunting pressure in public lands. Therefore, being able to get a good buck from a place with more hunting pressure is certainly more rewarding than getting it from a place where you were the only few ones around. The most important key to succeed is to have persistence!

2. Understanding the different types of public land

There are different kinds of ownership for public lands, which are local, state and federal ownerships. The National Wildlife Refuge System has allocated millions of acres of public lands for conserving wildlife and managing wildlife-dependent recreational uses which includes hunting. There is at least one wildlife refuge located in each state and one within an hour’s drive of most major cities so that it is not difficult to access.

Lands owned by local government units may not be as well-known compared to state and federal ownerships. This is good news because they will have less hunting pressure.  Contact your local public lands management office to find out more about it and ensure that you are hunting in the appropriate places.

Lands owned by the state government are typically state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas. These are well managed for public hunting purposes. Each state will have its own policies and regulations that you will need to find out about.

Lands owned by the federal government are managed by the U.S Fish and Wildlife service and the Bureau of Land Management as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of them are open to public hunting as well and have tournaments occasionally.

There are also programs that open private lands to the public. For example, the Public Access Lands for Sportsmen (PALS) program in Virginia has opened more than 32,000 acres of private land for public use. Managed Forest Land (MFL) which is privately owned is also available to the public for hunting in many cases which requires you to obtain a public-land tag.

You can learn more about these comparisons here.


Final Verdict

Hunting in either public or private lands will have its own benefits as well as challenges. What is important to apply in both type of lands is to do your research well to prepare yourself. This includes getting a map. Federal agencies would have included details of public lands such as the roads and trails in the maps. You will also need to scout your hunting area before the hunting season so that you can somewhat familiarize yourself with theenvironment and prepare yourself for the hunt.