By: Charlie Killmaster, State Deer Biologist

How to Hunt – Hunting Etiquette for Public Lands

Step 7– Head to the check station and read all available signs. This is where you will find current information about any issues that have come up since the Guide was printed.

Step 8– Public Land Etiquette. There are no designated spots on public land, with only a few exceptions (such as blind areas on some waterfowl hunts or the island deer hunts). Because everything is “first come, first serve,” you need to do plenty of scouting in advance of a hunt and pick out several good spots (5 or more, preferably). This will save you a heap of heartache in the wee hours of the morning when there’s a truck parked in your only spot. It should be widely known, and accepted, that if someone beats you to an area, you gracefully bow out and move on. But that doesn’t mean walk another 100 yards and start climbing a tree. If you can still see another hunter from the stand, you’re probably too close.

Likewise, always expect the possibility that another hunter will walk in on you. In this case, politely flash your light—or whistle if it’s daylight—and the other will likely move on. There will sometimes be the occasion that someone is not aware of these common courtesies or simply doesn’t care; just remember that you have access to hunt 1 million acres of prime land for the nominal fee of $19. If it’s daylight and someone walks past you, don’t get discouraged, I’ve seen tons of huge bucks killed because a late hunter arriving in the woods jumped the buck out of cover, and he ran past the next guy that was already set up.

A good rule of thumb for avoiding other hunters is to stay away from trucks. Unless it’s a large parking area that is a single access point for hundreds of acres, you shouldn’t park next to anyone else and risk disturbing them.

Here are a few other little “Dos and Don’ts”:

Don’t skybust (shooting at high-flying, distant birds). You will not kill a duck or dove from 100 yards away. Wait until you think you could hit it with a rock.

Do sight in your rifle.

Do bring a deer cart. It will make your life much easier—unless you’re Paul Bunyan or a glutton for punishment. Hand trucks and dragging tarps make adequate substitutes for the budget conscious like myself.

Do bring a climbing stand (w/ harness). Mobility is key to being successful, and your risk of having a stand stolen is higher if you leave it in the woods.

Don’t cordon off spots with signs and tons of flagging tape that you have no intention of picking up when you leave. This is litter, and there are no designated spots. In fact, some hunters will target those spots thinking they are better and try to beat you there.

Don’t gut your deer and throw the guts or carcass on the roadside or campground. Gut it where it drops, or drag any unusable parts into the woods 30 or 40 yards away from other hunters.

Don’t knowingly try to cut someone off to a bird when turkey hunting. There’s nothing worse than working a bird and have someone run in and spook him. If you hear 5 owl tooters and crow cackles all honking at the same gobbler, it’s best to move on to another spot.

A few other little odds and ends.

-Dove dates are typically only listed for WMAs that have dove fields. You can still hunt doves on other WMAs when small game dates and state dove season coincide.

-For small game animals not specifically listed, they may be hunted when WMA small game dates for the area you are hunting and state season for that animal coincide, unless otherwise specified. This generally applies to rabbits, quail, squirrels, woodcock, snipe, grouse, waterfowl, foxes, bobcats, crows, alligators (quota only), marsh hens, and raccoons.

-You can only kill bears on WMAs that specifically list a season for them.

-Coyotes and feral hogs can be taken during any open season only with the legal weapons for that season, unless otherwise specified.

-Nongame, unprotected species may only be taken during small game dates. This generally includes armadillos, groundhogs, beavers, starlings, English sparrows, and pigeons. You’ll have to resist the temptation to blast an armadillo with your 30-06 during deer season.

-Bicycles are great tools for accessing remote areas for turkey and small game seasons.

-You can’t take ATVs off-road, so they don’t do you much good even where they are allowed.

You should already know all the information in Step 8 since you read the General WMA Regulations 3 times.