Outdoors: Finding a private spot on public land
by Charles Johnson
Special to The Star
Nov 27, 2013 | 1008 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hunters can use maps of wildlife management areas to find their private spot. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
Hunters can use maps of wildlife management areas to find their private spot. (Photo by Charles Johnson/The Anniston Star)
A good piece of public land is probably only an hour’s drive away for many deer hunters across the state.

Other hunters may have the same general location in mind, but there are methods and tactics to find your own private spot. Here in the Cotton State there are over a million acres of public hunting land available for hunting. Each year, deer hunters are successful in filling their buck tags from private land.

Every hunter wants a little piece of land all to themselves. A place to hunt where nothing is disturbed and no one else is around. Most hunters think this could only happen on private property. However, with proper planning and some scouting hunters can find a secret spot on public land.

Some of the main tracts of public land hunting in the state are on National Forests or state Wildlife Management Areas. Alabama has four NF areas and 36 WMA spots available for public hunting. The NF encompasses some 667,000 acres in 17 different counties. On the WMA side, there are over 800,000 acres of land open for hunting.

Area recon

One of the first steps in locating a secluded hunting spot is to do some reconnaissance. Pick up a topographical map or visit Google Maps on-line and select a couple of areas you want to hunt. Look for locations that are away from normal hunter traffic. Main roads and trails are the first places other hunters will visit. Study spots that are off the beaten path.

“I begin looking for old, grown up logging trails,” said Donnie Maddox of Munford. “In the National Forest, there are usually some old roads or trails from logging operations years ago.”

Over several hunting seasons Maddox and his brothers have figured out where and how to hunt deer on public land. They have been hunting deer in the Talladega NF area for many years. With the amount of public hunting land available, there are more than a few spots hunters never visit.

Locations that have a lot of deer sign close by to easy access will also have hunters waiting in line to hunt the area. Maddox mentions that any easy-in, easy-out trails will attract deer hunters. The serious hunter will want to focus on area less frequented by other hunters. This means locating areas that are not as easy to reach that lazy hunters will avoid.

To locate a prime secret spot hunters will need to strap on their boots and do some field recon. First look for areas where hunters have parked their vehicles. This will give you some idea where not to hunt. Most hunters will only walk a few hundred yards from their vehicle.

Next survey spots other hunters may overlook. These spots may appear as nothing special at first glance. Thick vegetation or trees next to a road will deter most hunters. A quick check to the other side may reveal a prime parcel for hunting. Also, deer will use the thicker cover to avoid the busy roadway.

“To find a secret spot you have to get back off the road away from people,” Maddox said. “Sometimes I will walk in for 30 to 45 minutes to reach my hunting area.”

Maddox advises you not park your vehicle close to the area where you are hunting. In some cases, he will park on the other side of the road or 40 to 50 yards or more where he enters his area.

A detailed map and knowledge of the area is important when seeking out a private spot. Otherwise a long walk may put you a few yards from another popular community hunting spot.

Smaller parcels

Not all of the public land in the Cotton State is on large tracts. Some of the WMA lands are smaller parcels and other hunters may overlook or avoid them because of their size. Savvy hunters will survey some of these down-sized lands to locate a private spot.

On these smaller parcels there may be fewer roads for vehicles and therefore lazy hunters will avoid them. In some cases, roads or trails may be gated off and closed. If hunting behind these areas is legal, take a hike and check these sections for an out-of-the-way spot.

Savvy hunters will look for the property corners near the outside boundaries.

Property lines for WMAs and NF are usually marked clearly. These areas a less frequented by other hunters. Most hunters won’t travel to the far edges of a management area. Try to find a spot on the back side where few other hunters travel.”

Look for roads that are dead ends. Most hunters won’t take the time to drive to the end and then have to turn around. These locales could offer up a private spot or two beyond the end of the trail.

Extra effort

Hunters searching for a secret spot will have to be creative and put forth a little extra effort. Some natural barriers may deter a majority of hunters. There could be a section of a creek that is too deep to cross for timid hunters. A shrewd hunter will don a pair of waders to forge the creek and have a section of land all to himself.

Another feature most hunters could see as an obstacle is a large lake or river. A savvy and determined hunter will launch a canoe or small boat to traverse to the opposite shore. There the hunter will be rewarded with a place few others have set foot.

Obviously, good looking hunting areas are sure to draw in many folks. Savvy hunters can skirt the outer perimeter to locate areas that are a little tougher to get to. Steep hills, deep ravines and swampy areas may require some extra effort to reach a prime hunting spot.

“One of my best spots is over a steep hill near a main road,” said Maddox. “It seems no one wants to walk up that hill, but there are deer on the other side.”

Sometimes hunters will overlook the obvious hunting spot. Some folks will pass up the plot of land behind a parking area or road intersection. It could pay off big time to check these areas for deer sign. You never know, you could have your own secret spot in plain sight.

Charles Johnson is the Star’s outdoor editor. He can be reached at ChrJohn7@aol.com.
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Outdoors: Finding a private spot on public land by Charles Johnson
Special to The Star

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