Dealing with pressured WMAs

One of the biggest complaints about hunting public land is that there is too much pressure from other hunters. At times, this can be true depending on the WMA and the season.

The either-sex gun hunts are particularly crowded. I can remember hunting at Sherburne WMA when they had the lottery hunts many years ago. They would draw 2,000 hunters to hunt the either-sex weekends. That sounds like a tremendous amount of hunters, but for 44,000 acres it wouldn’t really be that bad if – and this is a BIG if – the hunters would spread out over the entire acreage.

But that, of course, is not how it worked.

Much of the hunting area is difficult to access due to having to use a boat or walking 45 minutes (or more) deep into the woods. So the majority of those 2,000 hunters piled up at the more easily accessible areas.

Once, my Dad and I had scouted out a spot that we thought was deep enough in the woods to not have to worry about too many hunters being close by. We showed up early, checked in with the game wardens and drove over to park the truck. As we were getting our gear ready to hunt, one truck after another pulled up to our “secret” spot. When we began the trek into the woods, there were six or seven hunters following us in! Kind of deflates you before the hunt even starts.

So as the years went by and I gained more experience in those situations, we began to strategize a little differently. For instance, one thing we noticed is that on those either-sex weekends, we got chances to shoot deer that probably we would have never seen on a “normal” day. The reason? When the shooting started, the deer were on the move – big time! So this was actually a nice byproduct of the hunting pressure.

One thing I did not like however, was trailing a deer you had shot with so many hunters in the woods. Most guys will ascertain that what they are shooting at is actually a deer, but it only takes one yahoo to shoot at movement. Scary thought, huh? Be sure to wear you hunter orange because, besides being the law, it could save your life.

Another way of dealing with that type of hunting pressure is to hunt through the middle of the day. Most guys go in early and come out early (around 9 or 10 o’clock) to eat lunch or take a nap. Then they head back in about 2 pm. So you have several hours with the woods mostly to yourself. I have also seen quite a few deer that were moved just by the hunters leaving or coming back in.

So if you prepare to hunt the whole day, you increase your chances of taking home a deer.

Depending on the WMA you choose to hunt, the best advice I can give is to try it out, see what and where the pressure is, and use that knowledge to strategize for the next day. Good luck and be safe!

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