By Wade Bourne
on public land can be either a dream or a nightmare, as two hunts that I experienced several years ago on a local wildlife management area (WMA) clearly illustrate. The first hunt took place on opening day and began with a traffic jam at the boat ramp. Word had gotten out that the area was loaded with birds, and vehicles towing duck boats were backed up several hundred yards from the water. By the time our turn came to launch, shooting was well under way and all the available hunting spots had been taken.
The second hunt took place later in the season, on a weekday. A heavy downpour the night before had caused a creek to spill over its banks into an adjacent field of uncut milo. We were the first hunters to arrive the next morning, and claimed the best spot. Mallards
came from every direction, swirling over the field and dropping into our decoys without hesitation. My hunting partners and I took turns shooting only greenheads, enjoying a spectacle that would rival the finest morning on a high-dollar duck club.
These two hunts were poles apart in terms of success and enjoyment. How can public-land hunters avoid the frustrations we endured in our first hunt and enjoy the rewards we relished on the second? Following is practical advice on how you can maximize the public hunting opportunities in your area. Doing so will require more than a token effort, but those who work the hardest usually profit the most.