Decades upon decades have come and gone since Louisiana has opened more than a million acres of its land to the public hunter. Hundreds of thousands of hunters have tread the marsh mud, palmetto jungles, piney woods, and cypress swamps of these lush wildlife habitats. The Wildlife Management Areas and National Wildlife Refuges between the Sabine and the Mississippi Rivers have seen giant after dark horned giant fall to hunters young, old, primitive and technologically advanced. These hunters who have successfully filled tags year after year have one of 2 things in common.
I have already got quite a few undergarments in some pretty tight bundles over what the internet know-it-all think I'm going to write about. "Problem with hunting public land today", quoted one gentleman assuming that I'm going to spill the beans and lead someone straight to "his" deer stand. He's partially right. I'm about to tell you what needs to happen to kill record book Pope and Young bucks like you see on the cover of statewide magazines, or the argument starters in internet forums as to whether or not its been photo shopped... again!
"Insert any WMA name here ain't what it used to be", said a hunter last season that has hunted Tensas NWR since its inception in the early 80's. "The rifle lottery hunts and internet have ruined it. People get all excited because they see deer on the road and then expect to see them in the woods. Or the gun hunters come in here and shoot the first thing with brown hair and 4 legs they see."
"I'm successful here because I've hunted it for nearly 30 years. I've walked hundreds of miles and sat in stands for days upon days."
That's the problem with the internet. No one posts about their bad hunts. All you are seeing is the few good deer that come out of these places. When thousands of people hunt a targeted WMA, and let's say 10 good deer come out of it, the odds are NOT in your favor.
Any public land hunter that has been doing it exclusively since well before Al Gore created the internet will tell you he is successful for 1 of 2 reason. Probably a little bit of both.
1- HE HAS BEEN HUNTING THERE HIS ENTIRE LIFE
2- HE HAS SPENT MORE TIME WALKING AND SCOUTING THAN HE HAS SHAVING, SLEEPING, AND EATING COMBINED.
Being successful on a piece of public property is no easy task. Can you say you have done both of those things at the WMA you're interested in frequenting this fall? In fact it's much harder than on a lease or piece of private land. Not only do you have to fight the thousands of hunters that have been lead astray by the erroneous thinking that public land has tons of deer, but you've got to outwit the deer that have been spooked by them without the use of shooting lanes, feed, trail cameras and in some cases modern rifles.
What I'm going to suggest to you, the hunter that's looking for a piece of free land to hunt, is find a land owner that doesn't hunt. His property is your best bet. If you're just starting the WMA chase the race is practically over. Just look at the increase of out of state trips booked each year. If our WMA's were as good as you've been told we would stay here and not bother with Kansas, Kentucky, or Illinois. Don't ask anyone for advice.(It will be a lie) And most importantly, do your own homework. Scout, study and put in the time. The lie you've been told about the success rate on our public lands is far from true. It sells permits, magazines, and has overcrowded our public hunting lands to the point of what some would argue is no return. Most hunters use it because its free and there's no other choice. And those that are successful have been hunting that property their entire lives.
If after reading these articles you do decide to give it a try keep this in mind. Keep what you learn and know to yourself or your circle of trusted friends, or you will have every Tom, Dick, and Harry in every tree around you for half a mile. With that being said, it's almost June. Time to do your homework!