So this year will be first time deer hunting on public land as well as my first year archery hunting. I have bit off a lot! If you’re like me you know how to hunt in your stand or blind on your family land or the same place you’ve been since you started hunting. But not in the big, deep woods of Northern Minnesota. In Minnesota, to be able to harvest multiple deer the hunter has to move around the state to find different zones to hunt it. Fortunately, I live in an intensive zone where a hunter can harvest multiple deer.
It took me some time to find a place to hunt, I don’t know a lot of people that live in the area subsequently not knowing a lot of land owners either. I used the MN DNR recreational compass map to find a few plots of public land open to hunting in my area. I decided on one specific area because the nature of the terrain is rough. I like this area for two reasons, 1) I’m always up for a good physical challenge and 2) I figured the rougher the terrain the less hunting pressure the deer will have. I guess we will have to wait a few weeks to find out if number 2 is correct.
First thing I did was identify the terrain on the land. Google Earth does this well. As a military guy I like looking at a good old fashion topographical map. The website CalTopo is a free source a hunter can go to and see a lot of different types of maps for some online scouting. After looking at the area I want to hunt the topography tells me it’s a giant hill/ridge with a power line running through it. I used other online mapping sources to check out water sources in the area. One map showed a small stream flowing below the hill. I marked that as a place I definitely want to check out. The DNR provided a breakdown of the different types of forest on the land, I made note of that as well to check that out.
Finally Saturday morning came around and I got to get out on the ground and do some scouting. My first scouting note was to make sure I don’t drink 6-9 beers the night before (take hunting seriously guys), these hills are the real deal. While walking up the hill I found a few bedding sites. These sites will pop up where the deer feel comfortable. On the north, east and west side there is thick brush, anything that comes through that brush will make a lot of noise. On the south side it’s relatively open with a little blow down in front of the bedding area. This allows the deer to see any danger moving their way. The grass was high, probably waist height giving enough concealment for the deer to not be seen. I stumbled up to two beds with two significantly smaller beds in close proximity. This tells me it’s a few beds for doe and yearlings. I made note of this on my GPS and moved on trying not to stay in the same place too long.
Finally on the top of the hill I found a game trail that runs north to south along the ridge line. I walked the trail into the woods and found an old ATV trail which is very overgrown and has not been used recently. This can act as a highway for deer. Deer are generally lazy when not pressured, if they need to walk up a hill they will take the path of least resistance. As I walked this trail I kept my eye out for old rubs and possible scrapes along the trail. I found a few but nothing too frequent. I noted a few tall birch trees that would support a tree stand. I’m beginning to think a climbing stand may be the only way to go in order to get it all the way back up in there. I also noted a few large rocks or good sized bushes I could hide behind and use as a ground blind.
As I walked the ATV trail I paid close attention to the trees. In the big woods there aren’t any food plots or agriculture around for deer to feed on. Food is virtually everywhere. I made notes of several red oak trees along the trail. It’s important to note when the acorns will fall off the tree. Acorns on the ground = big woods food plot.
On my way out I scouted up and down the power line clear cut looking for more red oaks. The tree map from the DNR told me there should be a concentration of red oaks on the south east corner of the area. I walked down there and noticed that although there are more red oaks there than in other places within the area there isn’t a strong concentration of them like I was hoping.
Before I left I made a plan for next week. I will go down again in a few days to check it out. I’m going to look for stronger concentrations of red oaks. As well as alternate game trails running east to west across the top of the ridge. I will bring my stool and sit for a while in some specific areas which may be good areas to set my ambush. I’m also going to explore the south side of the area more this weekend to find more alternate sites in case I show up on opener and the parking lot is full of hunters. Once this trip is done this weekend I do not plan on going back to the area until bow opener (September 19). I don’t want the animals to feel pressured at all. I can’t control if other people go to this area and walk around but at least it will be one less person walking around looking for good ambush sites.