Every year, KC Smith travels from his hometown in Texas to states across the country in pursuit of public land whitetail deer. And every year it hits a few tags. These are his top tips for traveling white deer hunters.
Set realistic expectations
While every whitetail fighter dreams of scoring a 200-inch trophy on public land out of state, Smith said you can’t count on such an opportunity and should adjust your expectations.
“I don’t think too much about trophy potential,” he said. “I actually want to go up there and have a good hunt and kill a really respectable deer in public.”
If you can accept that states with over-the-counter tags and limited public access mean a lack of age rating, you can even have success on a 3-year-old in a place like Texas.
But the unpredictable challenge of hunting whitetail deer on public dirt just isn’t for everyone.
“It takes a certain valor to be a traveling public land hunter,” Smith said. “You have to be able to enjoy what you’re doing, appreciate the landscape you’re in, appreciate the animals and love it.”
Pick the right time and place
Smith plays the point game in Iowa, but he prioritizes states with high beacon availability and over-the-counter beacons.
“I’d rather spend my time researching over-the-counter states and finding something good than spending a ton of time thinking about stitches and how to draw.”
It focuses on the current season, putting the boots on the ground in the spring or summer as much as possible, as crops and access points can change significantly from year to year.
“The scouting of the same year is extremely valuable,” he said. “Being on the pitch is invaluable. You can’t map that.
Smith considers population density and how it affects the amount of public land in a state. He says hunters underestimate the amount of land available to them, and you can still find pockets of deer in states with low density but lots of public access.
In the fall, he hits the archery opener in states like South Dakota where he rarely comes up against another archery hunter. Hunting for public lands in various states will help prepare you when you finally draw that dream tag.
“Go look for places where you have to find signs rather than interpret signs,” he says. “Go practice in a more drawable or over-the-counter state, it’s a similar habitat, and learn how deer interact there – it won’t be too different in Iowa or anywhere you go.”
Push the limits
Smith says that while conventional white-tailed deer wisdom dictates specific dates and locations for the best opportunities, those rules don’t always ring true in all areas.
“There are so many arbitrary, imaginary lines that we place on ourselves that animals don’t care about,” he said. “Don’t let human boundaries affect your deer hunting, in every sense of the word ‘limit’ – except property lines.”
Deer will cross roads and even major highways, and not just during the rut. Smith also believes that there is much more than pre-rut, rut, and post-rut activity, and the exact timing can vary from deer to deer.
“Any time in November, you can have a dollar that wants to hang out with his buddies, you can have a dollar that’s running around being crazy in zombie mode, and you can have a dollar that’s hanging around hanging out with that girl in s’ ensuring he is within five feet of her all day,” he said.
Learn on the fly and adapt
Although Smith uses tools like online tracking apps and cellular trail cameras, he doesn’t rely solely on their information and changes his strategy when traveling to hunt public land on a tight schedule.
For example, he’ll find a public farm lot and hook a camera up on an obvious trail where he’s sure deer travel at night. If he takes pictures of a shooter, he will determine the direction he is moving and direct him 800 meters away during the day.
“I try to be knowingly aggressive,” he said. “You make the most aggressive move you can get away with and it will always be a smart move”
But if the game plan fails, Smith says you can’t be afraid to scrap scouting days and start all over again.
“Being able to adapt, learn and change is super important. You can’t fall in love with a particular place because honestly it’s not that you love it and think it’s a “It’s a great place to kill a deer. It’s that you’re proud and you think you’re smarter than the environment around you,” he said. what it takes to maybe find a deer”
If you’re hunting where you have access to the entire state, as opposed to a single area, set a time limit on an area and pull the plug if you’re not on a good deer with a set number of days .
Smith says you should never waste precious time for the sake of your ego and always be prepared with a solid backup. And that plan B should be very different from your plan A, not just a different place in a similar habitat.
No matter the end result, you will learn a lot.
“It’s about accumulating knowledge,” he said. “And the way you do it is an experience.”
For more travel tips for hunting white-tailed deer on public lands from KC Smith, listen to episodes 446 and 507 of the Wired To Hunt podcast.
Feature image via Captured Creative.