Michigan Public Hunting Land…Where Should You Start?
As the cost of buying and leasing hunting property continues to go up, more Michigan deer hunters are turning to hunting public land. As a huge proponent of deer hunting public land I get asked frequently “how do I find the best public hunting land near me?”
There are a lot of Michigan public hunting land options and it can be tough to know where to start. There are 8 million acres of public hunting land in Michigan and additional thousands of acres open to hunting that are owned by counties and private corporations.
In this article, we’re going to break down your public land options, show you resources that list public hunting land and provide you with a couple public hunting land tactics that will help you see more deer and less people. If you’re obsessed with big bucks (we can relate) check out our 3 Tips for Finding Mature bucks on public land.
Michigan’s Mi-Hunt Website
This searchable map (think Bing Maps) shows the vast majority, but not all, of Michigan’s public hunting land. It shows satellite and map views and topographical overlays, from huge national forest parcels down to 20 acre Hunter Access Program properties… one stop shopping for the Michigan public land deer hunter! Definitely a helpful resource. To see all of the Michigan public hunting land near me, I check out the DNR’s Mi-Hunt’s website.
Michigan State Game Areas
There are game areas throughout the entire state, all of which are shown on the Mi-Hunt map. Some are absolute zoos and not for the faint of heart on opening day of firearm season, but it is possible to find game areas where you’ll run into fewer people, particularly during bow season. It’s tough, though… more on that later. Here’s a link to the Michigan DNR’s list of Michigan State Game Areas.
Commercial Forest Lands
Commercial Forest Land properties are privately owned timber land that the state leases for Michigan sportsman to hunt and fish. They are not well publicized, and in most cases not well posted so are overlooked by many Michigan hunters. Check out a searchable map of Michigan Commercial Forest lands.
Hunter Access Program
Michigan’s Hunter Access Program land is a great opportunity for the public land hunter to access privately owned properties, many of which include crop fields. An advantage to hunting HAP ground is there is a limit to the number of hunters allowed on each parcel at any one time. Check out Michigan’s Hunter Access Program.
There are public hunting land parcels that are not listed or have been removed from the Mi-Hunt website due to the neighboring private land owners complaining about trespassing and other activities that do not reflect well upon Michigan sportsman. You can find these unlisted properties, but you need to be creative. I’d suggest using a hunt mapping app like OnXMaps to find these spots. Very helpful mapping tool.
Please remember, when you are on Michigan public hunting land, treat it like it’s yours, because it is. Don’t litter, and mind property boundaries.
Michigan Public Hunting Land Tactics…How to Avoid the Crowd
It is possible to find Michigan public hunting land that has little to no pressure. From the bow opener through the first week of November I rarely encounter other bowhunters on the public land that I hunt and am accustomed to seeing relaxed deer on their feet throughout the day. How do you find these spots?
Use MiHunt to identify the pieces of public land you’re interested in, and then use Google Earth to pick them apart. Look for clearcuts, swamps, marshes and most importantly hunter access points. Any pieces of thicker cover, even if they’re only a few acres in size, and are a half mile from a hunter access point are worth investigating. Also look for isolated pockets of thick cover at road intersections, along highways and adjacent to parking lots. Most hunters overlook small pockets of cover close to roads and where they park their truck. Deer figure that out quickly and will bed where hunters don’t tread. On several occasions I’ve found mature bucks bedding in small marshes just down wind of parking lots.
Boots on the Ground
When you find a spot that looks promising, dive in and go straight to that area. Stick your nose into EVERY pocket of thick cover. On Michigan public hunting land mature bucks will bed on a table sized hump in a cattail marsh and watch/smell/hear hunters walk by all day. That’s how they survive.
Investigate any parcels with large ditches or creeks. If they’re knee deep or better, most hunters won’t cross. Don’t be ‘most hunters’. Bring waders or drag a tree across it… but get to the other side.
There you go. Hopefully we were able to turn you on to resources for finding Michigan public hunting land that you didn’t know existed and gave you some tactics to execute to find lightly pressured public hunting land spots.
Shoot us your comments or public hunting land tactics you use to find lightly pressured land. We’d love to hear them.
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See you out there!