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Can You Hunt Wilderness Areas

author
Earl Hamilton
• Tuesday, 19 January, 2021
• 9 min read

Wilderness areas offer some of the wildest hunting experiences and often shelter the healthiest game species populations, as well as the largest trophy individuals. Motor vehicles, game carts and any other mechanical devices, trail cameras, and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or drones used for scouting are all prohibited in wilderness.

wilderness act areas 50th celebrating anniversary re national
(Source: rockymountainwild.org)

Contents

Many hunters prefer a primitive and more challenging hunt that wilderness areas provide. Wilderness hunting includes elements of primitive outdoor skills and challenge on a fair-chase landscape.

Hunters should acquire the appropriate hunting license(s) and tag(s) from the state agency. In limited situations or locations, you may be required to obtain a special hunting permit from the federal agency in addition to a state issued license.

In addition to knowing, and following, all federal and state regulations pertaining to hunting, it is the responsibility of the hunter to be aware of, and follow, any applicable federal regulations associated with hunting activities on federal lands (e.g. use of tree stands/blinds, traveling off designated routes or trails, camping, collecting of firewood, use of dogs, etc. Be sure you are in good physical and mental shape to enjoy your wilderness hunting adventure.

Test your equipment and dial in your target shooting and calling skills before your trip. Maximize the safety of other wilderness visitors by avoiding popular destinations and trails.

Familiarize yourself with federal and state regulations on where it is safe and permissible to discharge a firearm (including archery). When hunting off-trail, be sure you have current paper maps and a compass with you in the field and the orienteering skills to use them properly.

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(Source: outdoors-international.com)

Ensure you have the proper gear to stay warm and dry, as well as pack out your animal. Pack out spent brass, and keep your hunting camp clean to avoid attracting predators.

Know the rules for tracking, and dispatching, wounded animals in areas (both inside and outside wilderness) where hunting is not allowed. Not only is it illegal to cache equipment in wilderness, it can impact the experiences of other visitors.

Share the wilderness hunting experience with the next generation by mentoring a young hunter. Since 1964, every President has enacted bills passed by Congress to add additional areas to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The uniquely American idea of wilderness protects wild and natural landscapes ranging from alpine to desert, forest to grassland, and other environments of the United States. It has long been used for science and education, providing sites for field trips, study areas for student research, and serving as a source of instructional examples.

The appeal of wilderness for recreation is strong, and wilderness areas are seeing steadily increasing use from people who wish to experience freedom from fast-paced industrialized society. Until Congress makes a decision to add or end consideration of a WSA, the BLM manages the area not impair its suitability for designation as wilderness.

elk concentration winter hunting areas summer maps hunt
(Source: startmyhunt.com)

When I first reveal to people that I am a hunter, far and away their first question tends to be “But where do you go?” They aren’t asking because they’re trying to cajole me into giving away my favorite deer spots. They’re asking because they are genuinely puzzled by the notion that there could be quality hunting a reasonable distance from our metropolitan area.

And for city dwellers who don’t spend their weekend gallivanting around the backcountry, the wilderness can feel downright mysterious. The unfortunate part for hunters and other recreation seekers is that these lands are managed by a number of different departments and bureaus that are further divided by state, region, or district.

In fact, if you don’t know what type of land to search for, you may miss out on some very good local opportunities. In fact, National Parks have some of the most stringent general regulations of all public land.

I began to find out just how restrictive they could be when I was planning a California road trip a couple of years ago. I already knew that off-road vehicle travel is usually completely prohibited in National Parks, but I was somewhat surprised to find out that backcountry camping may be limited to designated sites only, and you could need permits (which may be limited in number) to go certain places or do certain activities.

All the National Parks that I’ve come across do not allow dogs on hiking trails. For one, there tends to be a decent web of forest roads that provide access to “deeper” backcountry for those with 4×4/high clearance vehicles.

hunting lodge winter wilderness tennessee lodges wild boar
(Source: wildernesshuntinglodge.com)

A lovely mule deer buck enjoys the marsh at the Mahler National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon. When I first heard about National Wildlife Refuges, the name itself made me immediately think that hunting would be prohibited there.

The word refuge does mean “a condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble” after all. National Wildlife Refuges, more so than the above three designations, seem to have good opportunities for waterfowl hunting due to the inclusion of marsh land.

Short for Bureau of Land Management, this may be a relatively foreign concept for those in the Eastern half of the country. On BLM land toucan often hunt, target shoot, backcountry camp, and drive off-highway vehicles in remote stretches of western country.

The BLM affords recreation seekers the most freedom of any public lands, and I love it for that reason. To be fair there are some potential downsides to less regulated use: BLM manages mining, mineral extraction, grazing, and energy production on their land, so it is less “pristine” than a National Wildlife Refuge or a National Park.

In my experience, BLM land can be absolutely gorgeous and quite untouched by human activity. A wilderness designation affords the highest level of protection to wild lands in the U.S.

(Source: vegasdata.com)

In a wilderness area you won’t find any roads, permanent structures, or development of any kind. Vehicles are barred from wilderness entirely, usually including mountain bikes or other “mechanized transport”.

You’ll see fewer people in a wilderness area due to the transport restrictions. And there is one slightly confusing aspect for hunters: wilderness areas are not operated and managed by just one agency.

Being the case, it’s hard for me to present some unified picture of what a state park is like because there isn’t one. This rule can actually cause quite a bit of frustration for California hunters, and not just because we are barred from some beautiful wild lands.

For example, Nick and I ran into a situation a couple of years ago where we found a remote tract of BLM land that we thought might contain some hearty desert mule deer. The only problem was that it was designated wilderness, so we couldn’t drive into it, and it was surrounded by private land and California state park.

But it would be illegal to carry our weapons over the state land en route to the BLM wilderness. As parachuting in seemed like our best hope, we opted to abandon our quest to hunt that land.

hunting elk wyoming areas area moose river antelope ranch wy guided hunts outfitter bull
(Source: woodriverranch.com)

These sites should list which parks in your state provide hunting opportunities. Only Alaska outscores Nevada in the percentage of area being publically owned.

By contrast, in Iowa, only 1% of the state’s total land area is public. Nick moves rocks and fills in holes while I man the tractor.

We’ll happily trade farm work for hunting rights. But even if you don’t have any farmers, ranchers, or homesteaders in your social network, private land could still be a part of your hunting experience.

I’ve never done this myself but there are a slew of articles out there on the “right” and “wrong” ways to go about it. With so many independently managed lands at the federal and state level, and a vast network of private farms and ranches in between, doing a fully comprehensive search of your state or local region can be a bit of a nightmare.

The purpose of this post was to provide an introduction to the primary types of land you should be on the look out for, along with helpful links to point you in the right direction. While I haven’t covered every type of land you will ever encounter in the U.S., I’ve tried to hit upon the biggest and the best.

meara perspective
(Source: joanomeara.wordpress.com)

We’ll talk about maps, internet resources, apps, and good old-fashioned telephone calls. After traversing miles on foot, you settle into a hunting site with promising sign.

Depending on where you’ll be hunting big woods bucks, you may be able to simply walk out your back door to a remote area. You may be able to take an ATV down a trail to where you want to park it for the day, and then set out from there on foot.

Make sure you have good hunting boots and break them in before the season starts. The other thing about hunting big woods bucks is that the places they live are usually very hard to get to.

Not just because they are a mile back in the woods, but because they are often separated from the trail or road by a marsh, stream, or river. Make sure you bring waders or a canoe so toucan cross the obstacle and get where you need to be.

Navigating a mile back in the woods does require some basic woodsman ship skills. Otherwise, wandering around a remote section of woods could turn into a very long and potentially dangerous day.

bluff hunts campground llc
(Source: www.facebook.com)

Alternatively (and where legal), you could cut a small access trail or mark it with reflective pegs or flagging tape so toucan find your way back and forth easily. And the last thing you want to do is clue everyone else in on your plans to go deer hunting big woods bucks.

During typical tree stand hunting, toucan easily pack a lot of gear with and be comfortable all day. Toucan quickly alert every deer around on a calm morning if you’re not careful.

That would defeat the purpose of even having a tree stand for hunting big woods bucks in the first place. The Stalker Climber is a very lightweight climbing option by Muddy Outdoors that anyone who plans on tree stand hunting can appreciate.

It is crafted from lightweight aluminum and features sturdy backpack straps to haul it with you wherever you go. This versatility and ability to bring it with you on remote trips makes it one of the best tree stands for hunting.

You need to be able to see a good distance from up in the tree, and have enough openings to shoot through when the opportunity arises. The king of big buck hunting tips is to remain as invisible as possible, including when you’re scouting.

hunting trips alaska kodiak goat deer island
(Source: www.spiritofalaska.com)

Bear in mind, you’ll have to leave very early in the morning to get to a spot and get your stand hung before daylight in one of these areas. In order to do that and remain comfortable all day, be sure to bring along high-nutrition foods and snacks, as well as enough water.

And dragging a deer across the ground for a mile can ruin the hide and introduce debris into the chest cavity, compromising the meat quality. The Mule Game Cart by Muddy Outdoors is a perfect companion for a trip like this.

And if you manage to tag out while bow hunting big bucks, the game cart is rated to 500 pounds, so toucan haul the deer and your gear back out at the same time. As long as you don’t have to thread the cart through dense brush or tree cover, it’s a great option.

If you were wondering how to go deer hunting in remote areas, hopefully you’ll be more encouraged to try it now. It does take more work to hunting big woods bucks, but the reward can often be worth the effort.

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