Greetings all, I'm new to the forum and fairly new to hunting in general. From browsing the forums I've managed to glean quite a few interesting and useful pieces of advice. I figured I would make this first post and kill two birds with one stone by introducing myself and initiate a request for some sage advice from the veteran hunters on here.
I'd like to ask if anyone has any pointers they can share about identifying blacktail hunting areas on public land. I've been out hunting the last two years in my home state of Washington and have still not discovered any hunting areas worth returning to. My first attempt to find a hunting area was up on larch mtn in southwest Washington. I had been up there many times to go shooting and knew there were deer up there. I'd even startled a deer the week before while scouting. Unfortunatly, everybody else seem to know that as well and when deer season arrived everybody and their mother was up there too. I ran into another hunter on opening day saying that he spooked a deer in exactly the same spot I had seen the deer a week before. After spending another day or two up there I resolved to find a better hunting area. Between all the shooting from hunters zeroing their rifles on opening day and the ATV traffic I figured that any deer smart enough to lick their own ass would be at least 100 miles from there.
This year I moved up toward the mount Baker national forest area. I had similar experiences here as well. I scouted an area and determined a few areas that might hold deer. Thinking I had found a good location I went up to hunt and had the same ATV and crowding experience as before. I had even less luck finding a hunting area away from the crowds because of the early snow. I later learned from hunters at the shooting range that I frequent that the deer move down closer to the residential areas the week before the modern rifle season begins. This leaves me with one of my current quandries.
I've used google earth and the WDFW gohunt tool to try and scout for hunting areas but for the life of me I can't determine what land is public & legal and what isn't. Many times I've gone to an area that looked promising and turned away empty handed because of no hunting signs. Could anyone provide a suggestion on how I can find out which land is public, which is private, and which is legal hunting area without wasting gas?
I also need help identifying hunting areas from aerial photograph. I've read quite a bit about identifying land next to foodplots from deer hunting literature but none of this seems to apply to dense woods in national forest areas. What terrain features should I be looking for when hunting blacktail on national forest land?
Would it be best to talk to a wildlife manager about these issues? If so, who should I talk to and how should I approach them? Are they generally very helpful?
Thanks for all your help. This forum seems pretty open to new hunters and I'm delighted to be a part of it. If even a small and inexperienced part.