Wow. So where do you start with this one. We hunt, and guide a bunch on both public and private land here in East Texas. Both have their advantages, and disadvantages, and both are completely different animals. For the sake of the title we will talk about Public land today.
Public land is vast, often encompassing thousands of acres if not 10’s of thousands. This benefits the hunters in many ways. First, you don’t have to rub shoulders with other hunters if you don’t want. I know many of you are chuckling under your breath at that statement, but it is true for the most part. It is false however, if you think you can go out to public land, and you want to get there just before shooting hours. It is also false, if you want to hunt an easy to get to area, where average numbers of birds show up daily. See, public land is work, and the harder you work at it, the more enjoyable it is hunt. If you treat public land like private…. i.e. like it is yours… you will be sadly frustrated almost daily. First, and foremost don’t hunt the weekends!!! Wednesday’s are almost always the best. Nothing like having 20,000 acres to yourself to hunt. Fridays, work also, but you will have to share with some others that are trying to get the three day weekend also.
Let’s say you have to hunt Saturday’s and Sunday’s. These can work also. Having a bunch of hunters out on large property is not such a bad thing always. Yes, you will lose some birds to the guy that set upwind of you, but you will also gain more opportunities from the guys that miss, and keep the birds moving. Also, the one’s that are impatient, or can’t take the weather. See, when they leave early they always kick up birds. This has to benefits to you.
First, obviously the birds are back flying, and the spot they thought was safe, turned out to be not so safe.
Second, You competition is no longer in the game, making your spread more appealing.
Another benefit in my opinion to public land is feeling like you had to hunt to make it happen. To be successful, you spent hours studying maps, more hours scouting, days making setups, days making your gear indestructible (public land will still destroy it. :-), and then all your efforts come to a head with a bunch of ducks.
Probably my favorite benefit to public land is the people. No, I don’t mean the weekend warrior duck dynasty guys. I mean the guys and gals that live, breathe, and sleep duck hunting. The ones you can call at midnight, and say “Man what do you think about trying this!” The ones that you will eventually, talk to every day of season for hours discussing strategies and ideas.
I could go on for hours on the advantages of public hunting, but I feel those are the main ones. Not let’s talk about the not so good stuff.
For the most part all the pluses, can be minuses also. I will explain.
Public land is just that, open to everyone. You have to approach it as such. Here in Texas if you build a blind or hide IT IS PUBLIC PROPERTY. So a word of warning don’t build the freaking best duck blind in the history of duck hunting, and show up 30 min before shooting time. I can tell you someone will be sitting in it. Don’t leave your empty shells in the blind that’s hot.
Pick them up…. OK, so a little strategy here. I don’t condone littering, but it might be a good idea to place those empties in another of your setups, that isn’t hot right now. One that would be advantageous for someone to sit in, and push birds your way. See some people think scouting is running out to everyone’s blinds and seeing how many empty shells there are in the blind. Then, they sit it the next day.
This can be a good way to find birds, but it is also a good way to get in a fist fight, or shot at also. We will talk about this later.
If you hunt private land, and find birds only tell your best closest hunting partners. I advise baiting them also. I don’t care if it’s your brother, if you want to hunt that spot. Tell them another spot is the spot, and see what happens. If they are true to you, they will call you, and ask if you want to hunt your spot on a certain day. If not they will tell you how good that spot was, with out even giving you an invite. This is invaluable information. Also, instruct them to tell NO ONE. Try this technique, and you will be surprised at how many people will screw you over ducks. Just think what else are they doing behind your back.
OK, disputes are going to happen. You have to KNOW the laws. You should know the game warden, and have his cell number in your phone. This does not mean call him every day. (boy who called wolf) If you hunt public often you will need him to save you ass some day, don’t waste his time on the small stuff. Just cause you know the game warden, don’t expect him not to write you ass a ticket. He will and should if you are in violation. So know the laws and obey them.
Here on Lake Livingston the laws are:
You cannot hunt within 200 yards of the 131 mean fee line. This is an imaginary line of where the normal pool of the lake is at. It protects private property owners from hunters being too close. Now publicly owned lands it doesn’t apply. Islands, and such are all fair game if they are owned by the state, city, or such. If you are hunting flood waters, don’t get out of your boat, and used bismuth or tungsten. Law says that if you can get to it by public water it, it is public WATER. The land under it is private, though. So if they take a magnet out and get some of your steel shot, you just received a ticket for littering ($250.00). Didn’t happen to me, but did to a friend of mine. $20.00 a box shells seem cheap compared to that.
You cannot hunt or fish within 200 yards of another hunter or blind. Don’t push this, you can get a ticket for hunter/ fisherman harassment. Trick, when you get to your blind take your phone out, open up your maps program, ping your spot and screenshot with the time and date visible. This can prove you were there first. Another way, is to video with your phone, your buddies phone front page with the time and date on it, then video the blind and spread a little. Again, just good to have proof in case the law shows up.
Blinds must be 200 yards apart here. Take a range finder, and check before you build one. Also, blinds are the most disputed things. If you build one, do so with the whole intent that you are doing it for the betterment of the community. Not just for yourself, mainly because it is not yours, as soon as you put it on public land. Knowing this, and understanding this is of the utmost importance. I know, I know, I was once like you guys that are not agreeable about others hunting my blind. If you can’t get over this, then get to your blind by 2am or go find private land to hunt. He is the reasoning here. I have 18 blinds on lake Livingston. If I was the only guy that was able to hunt all my blinds, then I would be screwing the public out of good spots to hunt. This not right or fair. Conversely, if while I was building/ maintaining one of my other blinds, and someone got a blind up in a spot I intended to put a blind, I should still be able to hunt that spot. Now the law says I cannot move or tamper with their blind, but I can hunt it. I also cannot build another blind within 200 yards of that blind. This does not mean I cannot hunt it, and it also doesn’t mean that the owner of the blind now owns the 200 yard circle around the blind. It means that if someone beat you to a spot you should tip your hat to them, and carry on.
This is a really tough concept to swallow, but it is the law, and it is a fair law. Now, if you are hunting on public land in an area that someone else prepped, if you are a small group, and they are a small group, I would extend the offer for them to join up with you. If they refuse, then you should stand your ground with the law. I have no place for bullies, and feel any should be dealt with accordingly.
A WORD OF CAUTION. PEOPLE OUT HERE ARE ARMED AND DANGEROUS, PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SHOT, AND I AM SURE THEY WILL AGAIN, OVER DUCK HUNTING. WHICH IS ABSOLUTE STUPIDITY!!!!
That being said if someone comes up on you. Two of you exit the blind, and start recording with your phones. Don’t wait till it gets heated. One person do the talking, and do it in a mellow tone. The other just video the situation. Know the law. Explain the law, and offer to get their number, so you can call them when you expect to hunt that area. (to avoid future conflict) Now, this can back fire, and if they beat you to the spot, when you called in advance, then courtesy will have to go out the window, the next time.
Now, if you are a hot head, and roll up threatening/ bulling people expect to get shot. (not condoning this) But understand you are an armed individual riding up on other armed people in the middle of he night. If you have a death wish this is a good way to get shot. I personally, would never ask someone to leave my spot, but I have many spots…. because I spend many days, and hours scouting. That being said, I would never leave a spot, that I had a right to hunt legally, even if it meant calling the game warden, and no one getting to hunt that day.
Furthermore, for you hot heads…. I know guys that if they get rolled up on, and asked to leave a blind they do on the spot without confrontation. They also return that night, and remove said blind. Which in is self isn’t legal, but neither was the hunter harassing either.
When, I do run into people sitting my blinds, I do take a minute, run up on them. Introduce myself, and ask them to leave it as nice as they found it. I often will give them tips as to be successful at that blind… as the more success they have, the more often they will call me to book a trip at a later date.
Don’t set you decoys the night before “holding” your spot. It is not legal here, and it’s a good way to lose all your decoys….. or pay the state to get them back.
Here in Texas the more the better is often the rule. I have an old timer that lives by the rule 10dz they can’t pass up. 4dz will work, and in the right spots 1dz or less is the key. Just remember if the birds want to be there, you don’t need very many. If you are trying to pull birds in, you need a bunch. Know your birds your after, and know what they are doing that time of year. For example, don’t set your best mallards out opening day, with their bright full plumage. You birds will flare. Likewise, later on in the season make sure you set lonely hens, and work your calls accordingly.