The Five Cardinal Rules of Hunting Public Land

By Beka Garris
On Instagram @bekagarris |

If you frequently hunt public land, I am sure that you have had your share of mishaps and run-ins with other hunters. You’d like to think that as hunters, we are all on the same page and therefore will be respectful of others and the area we are hunting… but this is not always true. Whether you are hunting deer, turkey, small game or something else, there are Five Rules that every hunter should follow. I like to think they are common sense, but it seems they are not for some.

Public Land Hunting with Beka Garris

1.       First Come, First Serve. You pull into a small lot at 5:00 in the morning, and see that there is already someone parked there. You walk in to the woods and arrive at your favorite tree, only to discover someone else is hunting in it. Sure, it’s easy to get angry or frustrated but lets be honest…it’s public land and they have as much right to be there as you do. If they got there first, simply be respectful and back off. Find another spot to hunt, or move a safe distance away so you won’t be disturbing them while they are hunting. On multiple occasions I have arrived at a little pull off area to find someone else already there, and I have simply kept driving. It’s tough to do if you’re hunting a specific animal but I consider it common courtesy.

A big guy seen while hunting public land

2.       Know Your Target And Beyond. This one should be common sense, but every year you read about someone getting shot by a fellow hunter because they never actually identified their target before pulling the trigger. If you see something moving in the brush and you think it’s an animal, don’t just blindly shoot. If you hear a gobble coming from behind that tree, make sure it is in fact a turkey and not a fellow hunter.

Hunting with a Bear Kodiak and 3Rivers wood arrows

3.       Personal Space. This is one of the biggest issues I have run into while hunting public land. Although it wasn’t a huge issue during deer season, I had a lot of struggles during this past turkey season. If you know someone else is hunting in the area, or if you accidentally stumble into each other, make sure you move a safe distance away and let them continue on their hunt. Don’t make loud noises or angrily confront them, and don’t decide to park close enough that they can’t get into their vehicle on the way out (someone actually did this to me.) And lastly, don’t take advantage of their location if they are calling/sitting over bait/ etc and set up to cut off anything that comes their way. Keep in mind, the road less traveled is always best. Going the extra mile and taking the time to go deeper into the woods  will also eliminate the chances of running into anyone else.

4.       Don’t Steal. Although I have never been a fan of leaving stands, blinds, or cameras in the woods on public land… I know many people who do. It can be tough to constantly pack in and out, especially if you don’t live close to the area or if you only hunt on weekends. If you find someone else’s hunting gear in the woods, just leave it alone. Chances are, they’ll be back for it.

Beka with her beauty of a turkey from hunting public land

5.       Be Courteous. Just because someone is hunting the same area that you are, doesn’t mean they are intentionally invading “your spot” or that they even knew that you were there. If you meet another hunter in the woods, whether you got there first or they did, be polite and courteous instead of confrontational. Most hunters are great people and they are out there for the same reason you are… and they certainly don’t want to run across other hunters any more than you do.