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Brian Hicks on Using Hunting Pressure to Your Advantage on Public Lands


Editor’s Note: Brian Hicks lives in southeast Texas near Beaumont. He deer hunts about 200 acres of private lands and two different national forests each season. Both of the national forests that he hunts have heavy hunting pressure. Yet, each season he consistently takes older-age-class bucks that will score 120 to 150 on Boone & Crockett.

I like to know where everyone on public lands will be hunting each day of deer season. Although I can’t always know where everyone is hunting, I've been able to identify some places where hardly anyone hunts. I also like to know where the other hunters are, so I can hunt safely. 

Here’s what I've learned: 

  • The average deer hunter on public lands in east Texas where I hunt won’t hunt more than 300 yards from his vehicle.
  • He will hunt the place where he can see the most property and not hunt the regions where the vegetation is so thick he can’t see very well.

I also look for candy wrappers, cigarette butts, soft drink cans or beer cans and any other signs that a deer hunter has put up a tree stand or a ground blind in a spot. Doing this helps me identify where hunters are hunting. So, I try not to hunt in these same places where they hunt. 

Hicks4_llWhen hunters come into the woods, they're like seines or big nets that push all the deer out in front of them, because the deer either have heard, seen or smelled them. Deer are fairly smart animals. Often, they’ll move through thick-cover corridors close to hunters where the hunters can’t see or hear them. Many times I think deer may be within 50 or 100 yards of a hunter in a tree stand or a ground blind, skirting the perimeter of the hunter’s vision. I don’t think you have to be 2 or 3 miles away from where other hunters hunt. Often, I may only be 1/2- to 3/4-mile away from an access road, and I’ll see bucks that have been able to sneak through the areas where hunters are as the deer move deeper into the woods where I am. 

When I find places where hunters hunt, I try to think like a deer. “What travel corridor could I use to get around that hunter without him hearing or seeing me?” Wherever that travel corridor leads me is where I’ll put up a tree stand. Often I’ll find where hunters are hunting during the season. Then I’ll return and look there for the travel corridors that the deer have to use to stay out of the sight of the hunters. 

I don’t hunt any area on public lands less than 1,000 yards from a public road or any type of access road or path. I'm not saying that the hunters who hunt close to the road aren’t seeing and taking deer. Generally they are, but they're often taking younger deer and does. I'm trying to take the bucks that are mature and the bucks that most public-land hunters never see. Usually mature bucks on public-hunting lands will be the first bucks to move through thick cover to get farther away from hunting pressure. Those bucks are the ones I enjoy hunting. I try to be in these places before the bucks get there. 

Day 3: Increase Your Odds for Taking Deer on Private Lands

Tomorrow: Brian Hicks Hunts for the Bucks That Most Public Land Hunters Never See

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