Hunting Public Land By Boat

hunting public land by boat

Tips For Hunting Public Land By Boat

Sometimes deer are actually around easily accessed areas. By using a boat you can access the back side of that area and keep from alerting deer of your presence. A boat also allows you to hunt pressured deer by delivering you and your bow hunting equipment away from where other deer hunters access the area.  I have actually located areas that have whitetail deer that were not pressured at all. These deer will move through the area throughout the day and are golden to the public land bowhunter. These areas can offer many days of good hunting public land by boat as long as good scent control is adhered to and that treestand is hunted only when the wind is right.

  • A boat is a secret weapon for many successful public land bowhunters.
  • Hunting public land by boat allows you to access some of the more remote areas of public land.
  • Hunting public land by boat is a great way to access stands silently and scent free.
  • By hunting public land by boat you can take advantage of other hunters pushing deer to you.
  • Using a boat is a great way to access areas that get little or no pressure throughout the season.


Using a boat can open up more opportunities for your hunt. When the weather is warm and you know that the deer have bedded for the day, you can take a run and rattle approach to your hunt. The run and rattle technique is not only a great way to bag a good buck but it is also a great way to locate other treestand sites as you are essentially scouting while you hunt.

You want to search new areas by just beaching your boat in several different areas and quietly enter the woods edge. Once in position you should use either natural cover to conceal your movements or carry your own blind setup. You can use bungee cords and rope to hold leafy material stretched between two trees. There might be times you might want to use your treestand. This will slow down your midday run and rattle plan but if you enter the wood line and see scrapes and rubs all around then you might want to spend a little more time in this location and a treestand is your best bet for harvesting a whitetail with a bow. You could also mark the spot as a place to hang a stand and return for a more traditional stand hunt.


hunting public land by boat
Run and Gunning for whitetail deer is most effective when hunting public land by boat Ken McBroom

Once you are set up just inside the wood line, start your rattle sequence. A good rattle sequence to start with is a very light sparring sequence of about 5 seconds. A buck could be bedded very close. Don’t overdo that first sequence. Being too aggressive initially could send that bedded buck into the next county. Of course aggressive rattling initially could bring him to you on a string but why take a chance when a light sparring sequence could bring him to and is less likely to spook him.


The advantage of the run and rattle technique is covering ground. With a boat, you can hunt several areas during that midday lull. With this in mind, your rattling sequence should be short. The time between that initial sparring sequence and a more aggressive rattle sequence might only be 5 minutes. If the sparring sequence didn’t produce any action then get aggressive. Be ready. An aggressive buck can be on top of you quickly and will be hunting you. You have to be careful with your movements when you’re on the ground. I try to always use a large tree to hide behind. If one is available.


Rattling sessions in one spot will only last 15 minutes. If it has a lot of sign then I’ll sit a little longer. This type of hunting is to locate aggressive bucks. These bucks may be bedded for the day, but will get up to check out a fight. This might present you with a shot in the middle of the day. This is great for hunting the midday while you wait for prime time to hunt your stand. If you spend too much time in one spot you defeat the purpose of hunting several spots so keep moving. This technique is not an easy one but can be exciting as buck sightings are common but getting a shot is another story but your chances for arrowing a buck with the run a rattle technique far outweighs your chances while napping back at camp.


Using a boat for public land hunting is a great way to hunt less pressured areas. A boat also works great on private land where navigable waterways are available. There are many opportunities for hunting public land by boat for deer hunters. Once you experience the effectiveness of hunting public land by boat you will seek out areas that allow for its use. Whether setting up stand locations away from the crowds or running and rattling for those hidden whitetail bucks in your area a boat is your answer. It will add another dimension to your deer hunting strategy this season. Remember to pack a sandwich and good hunting.


Hunting public land by boat has one benefit that stands out to most people and it is a good one. A Boat will allow the public land hunter to reach remote areas of the property they are hunting. It doesn’t take much to get away from other hunters. Sometimes it’s distance. Many hunters don’t want to walk too far. A half-a-mile is the general rule that I use to get away from the majority of hunters. While a half-a-mile doesn’t seem that far it becomes more difficult once you’re in the woods. It seems further when in the dark and negotiating gullies and creeks along the way. Even when the hike in isn’t hard like an old logging road or hiking trail, you will be surprised how many hunters won’t walk that far. That’s a great thing for you if you are the hunter that pushes past the pressure.

A remote area conjures up a grand oasis of humanless traffic with endless streams of giant bucks milling about willy nilly. Whooh! Back to earth. Just because you make it to a remote area of public land does not guarantee you easy hunting. In fact in some cases, while you might be dealing with deer that are comfortable in that remote area, they are also going to be hypersensitive to intrusion.

Accessing remote hunting on public land by boat can help get you to some laid-back whitetails. However, now you must practice hunting skills to get within range or you could run these deer out of the area. By the time you realize the deer are on to you the season or your hunt could be over. So use this access to your advantage but know that these remote deer are not stupid and will tolerate even less in their sanctuary before leaving or going nocturnal so be careful.hunting public land by boat


Access to your stand site is one of the often overlooked practices that many hunters seem to ignore. Now, I don’t just mean tip-toeing through the woods and spraying down with scent elimination spray before going to your stand. Accessing a stand site quietly and scent free begins with locating the spot for your stand site. So often it is tempting to throw up a stand right where the bulk of the sign is found. Sometimes this works out but often it just is not a good spot for access.

When you find sign and you’re in an area you feel is loaded with deer slow your roll. Slowly and methodically search the area for the best stand site for access. This could be along or at least near a creek. It could be that your best access route is straight up a bluff. I love it when I find that the deer are strolling past a steep bluff. I know that while my access may be more difficult the bluff will help me access my stand more quietly. Since the deer won’t be traveling the bluff, even a moderately steep one, then my scent will have no impact.


Sometimes we get caught up on the hunting pressure found on public land. If the public land is big enough then get away from the pressure. You really have two options well 3 if you decide to stay in there with the hunters causing the pressure. First you can go where the hunters ain’t. This is my favorite. I would rather hunt a smaller deer and fewer deer alone than to hunt a lot of deer or bigger deer that are running scared. This is just personal preference. I feel that hunting is a sacred thing and I want to hunt unpressured deer when possible. However, there are times when you just can not get away from the pressure on a particular public hunting area and you have to work with what you got.

You can actually use this pressure to your advantage, especially when hunting public land by boat. You can find areas that the deer want to be when the bullets or the arrows start to fly. If you know that there will be a lot of pressure when you’re hunting, do a little scouting beforehand. If you can’t put boots on the ground using an aerial map to find an area that you can access with your boat works great. Look for the thickest nastiest thickets on the property.

There doesn’t have to be any sign either just find the thick stuff. This area may be void of deer signs but rest assured the deer know about it and they will head straight for it to elude the pressure. Let the pressure push the deer to you. This can be tough when bowhunting but it will work. The deer will slow down when they enter the thick stuff so you can get a shot. A great place to set up is a small clearing that is in the middle of the thicket. The deer will often cut through it maneuvering the thick brush.


My first experience hunting deer from a boat was in Alaska. We flew out to a friend’s cabin and there was a 16-foot Lund skiff stashed in the treeline. We brought a small outboard on the float plane. It was the best 5 days of hunting I have ever had. We were hunting Sitka Blacktail deer and the boat was invaluable to locating the deer along the beach line. Although shooting from the boat was legal then, not sure about now, none of us liked doing it because it just didn’t seem ethical. Besides we all loved to spot and stalk anyway. The Lund was the best boat for deer hunting in that scenario but here in Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana where I use a boat to deer hunt I like a small flat bottom boat.

The best boat for deer hunting can be a personal preference for sure. While I would love to use a bigger boat sometimes because of the distance I want to travel my little 14-foot Jon boat with an 8 hp four stroke seems to be perfect for the deer hunting I do. The reason I like the smaller boat is its ability to access areas that a bigger boat just would not get into. The little 1436 Jon boat only weighs 125 pounds much lighter than most any serious boat. It has flimsy thin metal all around and is riveted. I have had very few leaks over the years and that’s after I flipped it several years ago after hitting a tree that was just above the surface at 19 MPH yes this boat will do 20 mph with me and my gear if I lean over once on plane.

This Jon boat draws very little water. It is also lightweight enough to drag up on shore while I hunt. Also, I can get it back in the water if they drop the level 6 feet while I’m hunting. Yes, that has happened more than once. The smaller boat is a little more hassle than having a bigger one but the ability to access more areas makes it worthwhile. As I grow older I might go to a bigger boat but for now, I’m going to tough it out. I am working on a trailer now to make it easier to launch and to be able to carry my truck camper and the boat. Before I used a winch in the bed of my truck and it works great. I even winched in the boat and a giant 8-pointer you see in the photo in this article without a problem.

I have to say the best boat for deer hunting is a personal preference but if you have any questions about why I prefer to use the smaller lighter boat as my deer hunting boat feel free to comment below.

European Deer Skull Mount

Deer Hunting Public Land

About Ken McBroom 306 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.


  1. Try using a “fox” call when deer hunting. Sounds like a baby crying. I have called several deer, including a 230+ pound ten point, that way. Sounds crazy but the deer can’t seem to resist checking on the sound.

  2. Hi Tom, Funny you mention this. During my time in Alaska and hunting the Sitka Blacktail deer I can tell you that the deer call used to call the Blacktail sounds like a squalling rabbit or something. I guess it is meant to mimic a squalling fawn but bucks come in to it big time especially during the rut. I love hunting the Sitka Blacktail and I am thinking about returning to my old stomping grounds to hunt them this coming season. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter and you will get any of the content I get from that trip. Thanks for your comment.

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