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How To Use Waterways To Your Advantage When Deer Hunting On Public Land

How To Use Waterways To Your Advantage When Deer Hunting On Public Land
September 23, 2022

Eric Clark | Okayest Hunter 

One great way to hunt deer on public land is by accessing it from a waterway. This can help you separate yourself from other hunters and increase your odds of seeing deer. Here are some tips on how to use waterways to access public deer hunting land:

  • Look for areas where deer might cross a river or stream to get to their bedding or feeding areas. These funnels can be great places to set up a stand or ground blind. You can even place trail cams to provide intel on deer using the area.

  • You can use waders or hip boots to walk upstream to get to your hunting spot quietly and with minimal scent. If you're quiet enough, you might have a shot at a bedded deer in an oxbow.

  • You can also use a canoe or kayak. Whenever I use my canoe, it's a great excuse to invite a hunting buddy to make the paddling easier. Then we can divide and conquer different areas and double up on our ability to capture more intel.

I've used my canoe and chest waders at least one hunt (if not more) per season. There are several hunters that leverage waterways to access public hunting land. However, it's still significantly less than those trekking to their hunting spot by foot, so you'll see fewer hunters overall, even if you still see a few.

Last bow hunting season, I waded up steam and put a good shot on a doe. Unfortunately, it wasn't a good enough shot since we sadly never recovered her. Less than two oxbows or river bends into my wading into the stream, I kicked up a doe. It was at that point I realized I had to be much quieter. From there forward, I got ready to draw at every turn in the stream and didn't make a sound the whole way up. It helped that my path was with the current.

I've also learned that your scent will get carried in the water by hunting either in the stream, river, or nearby its banks. Knowing this, in addition to the fact that deer seem to enjoy the safety and security oxbows offer, it can make for a great hunt and reduce the number of other hunters you're seeing.

As a bonus, the drag-out will be much easier if you harvest a deer. You can toss the deer into your canoe or strap it to your kayak! You can float your deer with a tow rope even if you're hiking upstream. This can have a big advantage early season in terms of rinsing your meat and keeping it nice and cool until you get to a place where you can pack the chest cavity full of ice.

So the next time you go deer hunting on public land, consider using a river, creek, or stream to give yourself an advantage. It may just be the thing that puts venison in your freezer this season!

Paddling upstream in search of deer is a great way to get away from other hunters and increase your chances of success. But what if you don't have a boat? No problem! You can use waterways to your advantage even if you're wading.

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