Bowhunting Public Land by Boat


A boat is the secret weapon for many successful public-land bowhunters. A boat is great for accessing some of the more remote areas of public land. It’s also perfect for accessing stands silently and scent-free.


Sometimes, whitetail deer are around easily accessed areas. When using a boat, you can access the back side of the area, and keep from alerting deer of your presence. This allows you to hunt pressured deer by delivering you and your hunting equipment away from where other deer hunters access the area. By hunting these areas and accessing them 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. I have actually located areas that seem to have whitetail deer that haven’t been pressured at all. These deer will move throughout the day, and boat-access locales are perfect stand locations for public land bowhunters. These areas can offer many days of good hunting as long as good scent control is adhered to, and the location is only hunted when the wind is right.


Using a boat can open up more opportunities for your hunt. Sometimes, especially 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’s also a way to locate other stand locations.


Search new areas by beaching your boat and quietly entering the woods’ edge. Once in position, use either natural cover to conceal your movements, or carry your own blind setup. You can use bungee cords and/or rope to hold leafy material stretched between two trees.


There might be times when you want to hunt from your treestand. This will slow down your midday run-and-rattle plan. However, if you enter the tree line and see scrapes and rubs all around, 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 later for a more traditional stand hunt.


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


The advantage of the run-and-rattle technique is covering ground. With the boat, you can hunt several areas during that midday lull. With this in mind, your rattling sequence should be short, so 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. And get ready, as an aggressive buck can quickly be on top of you. He will be hunting you, so be careful with your movements, especially if you are on the ground.


Hide behind a large tree if one is available. Your rattling session in a particular spot should only last 10 to 15 minutes. If the area has a lot of sign, then sit a little longer. This type of hunting locates those aggressive bucks that might present you with a shot, while you wait for prime time to hunt your stand locations. 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. Buck sightings are common; getting a shot is another story. But your chances for arrowing a buck with the run-and-rattle technique far outweighs your chances while napping back at camp.


Using a boat for public land bowhunting is a great way to hunt less-pressured areas. A boat can also work great on private land where navigable waterways are available.


There are many opportunities out there for the boat deer hunter. Once you experience the effectiveness of hunting by boat, you will begin to look for areas that allow its use. Whether setting up stand locations away from the crowds, or running and rattling for hidden whitetail bucks in your area, a boat is your answer. It can add another dimension to your deer hunting strategy this season. Remember to pack a sandwich, and good hunting.