I don’t know of any hunters, fisherman, hikers, or any other outdoorsmen, who aren’t constantly thinking about what is over the next ridge, or for that matter, what is over in the next county. As people who spend our time outdoors, we are constantly in search of new places to explore and experience.
For the past 6 months I have been researching a tucked away piece of public land. This tract looked difficult to access because it is surround by both private land and geographic boundaries that limit its accessibility. In doing some scouting in Google Earth, as well as with topographic maps, I noticed one remote gravel road that reached nearly into the piece of land that I wanted to scout, and hopefully hunt.
On Monday I finally had the opportunity to make it down to this piece of land. After following several gravel roads, I finally arrived at the final road which lead towards the land, only to find out that it was more of a four wheel drive trail than a road. My passenger car had no chance at making it any further, so I parked off to the side and laced up my boots. After a 1.5 mile hike up the “road” I finally arrived at the land that I had been scouting (from afar) for months. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint!
As soon as I began exploring I got into good sign – turkey tracks and several rub lines. As I continued to get deeper into the forest, and as the sun began to break over the horizon, the surrounding ridges sounded off with turkey hens yelping and gobblers responding. With only a few weeks until the opening of turkey season, there was no sweeter sound that could have been echoing through the trees.
As I continued to push deeper into the land, the forest opened up to a river bottom. The thick ridges and scrubby fields gave way to a somewhat open stand of trees along the river. I could not believe the level of deer activity that this river bottom was displaying. There were deer tracks upon deer tracks.
As I wrapped around a bend in the river, the river bottom gave way to some more scrubby fields, which also proved to be gold mine of deer sign. The deer obviously used this field as a transitional bedding area, keeping them close to both a water source and a food source.
Unlike the West, where there are massive expanses of public land, those of us in the Midwest need to be creative about finding public land. This land is an isolated, federally owned tract. It wasn’t a conservation area, or a nature area, or a managed land in anyway, which is one of the main reasons why most people aren’t aware of it.
Google Earth is your friend. Be willing out out hike most other hunters, and be willing to put your boots on in the off-season and scout. You don’t just stumble into land like this, you search to find it and work to get in it.