Having the right gear when hunting public land can be the difference in having a season of successful hunts or a season of short hunts because your feet are freezing and you're tired of only seeing squirrels. Growing up, I lived on Turkey Creek which spoiled me to some of the best public duck hunting around. As a result, I was never too interested in going with my Dad and Grandpa to sit in a cold tree and freeze to death to probably see nothing. Finally, 8 years ago after a friend kept insisting that I go bowhunting with him, I reluctantly I went. Needless to say I can count on two hands how many duck hunts I have made since that first deer hunt.
A Little About Me
I was fortunate enough to have some early success and have been hooked ever since. I never thought anything could beat a group of green heads working into a cypress break. Boy was I wrong! Nothing beats the rush of drawing back on a whitetail buck and hearing the shwack of the arrow passing through. Then the sound of him busting through that palmetto and crashing is enough to give me chills! A passion for bowhunting began to grow in my soul. Being alone in the woods just me, God, and His creation chasing after one of the most elusive big game animals on the North American continent. I even love the countless hours shooting in the heat of the summer getting prepared and the time spent with family and friends. I loved it all.
Gotta Start Somewhere
For the most part I had to start from scratch when it came to hunting whitetails. There where a lot of things I didn't know about bowhunting public land. I learned a lot of them the hard way, by doing them myself and figuring out what worked and what didn't. At first, I thought I didn't need any fancy equipment, just my dad’s old Mathews Q2. His old heavy climber and my duck hunting camo would surely make me good to go too. That was enough to get me started and is what I was using when I killed my first ole’ slickhead. That being said you don't need much to get started or even to put together a successful hunt or two. To be your most efficient year after year and able to walk long distances and sit longer hours, which you'll find are the life blood of a successful hunt on public land, many of my tactics and equipment had to change.
Public vs. Private
Hunting public land is very different than hunting a lease or club. There is very limited ATV access. You can't use permanent stands or cut shooting lanes. Not to mention the added hunting pressure which forces you to sometimes walk up to 3 miles or more just to get away from other hunters and previous hunting pressure. I’ve had several friends who are good bowhunters on private land come hunting on public with me and by the time we got to the stand they where panting in exhaustion and ringing wet with sweat because they had made one or both of these mistakes: they had on the wrong clothing (usually cotton) and they were packing a heavy stand and tons of gear. A lot of extra work and forethought goes into hunting public land. To me it’s well worth the reward when you finally connect with the buck you've been looking for.
In my early stages of bowhunting I didn’t feel like I needed special clothing just to hunt in. For warm weather just any old camo shirt and pants with some boots would do. For cold weather basically the same thing but just layer up as much as I needed to stay warm. When bowhunting on public land it is extremely important to be able to stay dry and comfortable while still being able to draw your bow. The more comfortable and the better prepared you are to battle the elements, the longer you will be able to sit in the stand. Thin, breathable,non cotton layers are key to this. Most people who are consistently successful at killing mature deer on public land have one thing in common: They put in extra time in the tree. You can't kill them if you're not there. You also can't kill them if you are there but shivering profusely or have been sweating like a pig and stink to high heaven. A lot of you are probably like me and get to hunt mostly on weekends. Regardless of the forecast you have to be in the woods.
Increasing your odds is the name of the game. Pack the proper gear, light and easy to carry. Wear the right clothes to keep your body temperature regulated and sweat to a minimum. Soon you too will find yourself out of the stand and taking photos behind a big Louisiana public land buck, no matter the weather.
Chris' Equipment List
Bow- Mathews Chill-R
Stand- Summit Viper Elite/ Millenium M100 with Wild Edge Stepp Ladder Stystem
Camo- Sitka Optifade Elevated 2
Essentials- Thermacell, Garmin Alpha 100 GPS, Face Paint (non oil based), SafetyHarness
Chris Williams- LABH Contributor (Winnsboro, LA)