(c) Jack Ballard
Late one November my son and I set out on a November deer hunt. Wanting to try some new country, I studied my maps at home, then picked out a spot on National Forest land where I figured we’d find the doe I needed for the year’s supply of venison jerky. About 10 miles from our destination, we veered from the highway’s asphalt onto a gravel road. Pulling to the side, I whisked out the map to re-check our route. As I did, I noticed the road passed through a small parcel of state land on a creek bottom enroute to the mountains.
We bounced down the gravel, admiring pale cottonwood trunks and snow-capped peaks looming above dappled swatches of emerald forest on the mountains ahead. Suddenly I spied three deer screened by willows not far from the road. One carried the rack of a dandy buck, so we stopped to peek. In the binoculars we admired his glossy coat and shining antlers. As we did, I realized we must be near the state land I’d seen on the map.
In fact, we were right in the middle of it. Those deer bounded away, but we decided to hike up the hillside, to at least take a look around. Less than an hour later we were packing a doe to the pickup. From above the road, I counted no less than seven pickups bumping on toward the mountain. Not one stopped, nor did we find evidence that others had recently hunted our little slice of paradise.
Though that experience was exceptional, I’ve had similar success on other small parcels of public land. In general, it seems the closer isolated segments lie to large blocks of public acreage, the more likely they’ll be overlooked by hunters heading for bigger real estate. When hunting public land, small parcels sometimes yield large rewards.