5 Top Public Land Deer Hunting States

The Best Deer Hunting Land For Free

By Tony Hansen

This is one of those entries that I’d rather not write. Why? Because I’m selfish.

Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. But finding good public land deer hunting isn’t easy. The list I’m about to unveil is one born of personal opinion based on personal experience.

There are no “secrets” left in the world of deer hunting. A decade or so ago, maybe. Before the advent of smartphones enabled with aerial imagery, before the flood of digital information, it was possible to find a place that few others had found. Those days are over.

Does that mean public land hunting is a waste? Hardly. I’ll hunt several pieces of public ground each season and I fully expect to hunt mature bucks while doing so.

It’s all about location, hunting pressure and management practices. Check out the list and you’ll see the common themes. And keep in mind this list is not in order of “rank” — all five of these are good and I don’t know that I could pick one over another.


Ohio is the state I hate to love. I’ve hunted Ohio for a long time. And I’ve yet to kill a deer there.

So why do I keep going back? Big bucks. Really, really big bucks.

Ohio, particularly the southern parts of the state, has a ton of public land and some truly giant whitetails live there.

The downside: That ground is hilly, rugged and covered in timber. This is not an easy hunt by any measure. You’ll likely encounter plenty of other hunters. You’ll need to hike into some hellacious country. And you just might bag a monster.

Tags are a bargain compared to other states as well.


Wisconsin has produced a ton of Booners. And it’s also faced some serious challenges in recent years with the DNR’s response to Chronic Wasting Disease.

But Wisconsin is a great place to hunt deer. There’s plenty of public land and no shortage of deer in most areas. You can hunt the big timber of the northern areas of the state or the famed bluff country a bit further south.

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Don’t overlook land enrolled in the state’s commercial forest program. These are private lands that are open to hunting.


Kansas almost didn’t make the list simply because it has so little public ground available. But the state’s kansasWalk-In Hunting Access program is just good enough to put it on the list.

Make no mistake, you will have trouble finding good whitetail ground to hunt if you have only public land to hunt. There are some great areas. But you’ll need to sift through a ton of barren land to find it. When you do locate that gem, don’t expect to have it all to yourself.

Kansas tags are expensive (nearly $500) and you have to draw, although the odds of getting a tag are quite good.

Kansas is an amazing place for big whitetails. As a deer hunter, you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once. Just know that the public land options are very limited.


I must make an admission: I’ve never personally hunted North North Dakota deer huntingDakota for whitetails. But I have hunted right on the edge of the state for both deer and turkeys and Tyler Ridenour did spend some time there a couple of years ago.

North Dakota has a great public land system that includes options for accessing private land.

You can hunt velvet bucks — a bonus. And tags are easy to get. North Dakota has had its share of issues with EHD and that’s knocked deer numbers down considerably in some areas so make sure you do your homework before heading out.


This one might surprise a few folks but it really shouldn’t.

Indiana reminds me a lot of Ohio but without all the publicity. The state’s semi-recent switch to a one-bIndiana deer huntinguck limit seems to be making a difference in herd makeup. Some really good deer are being killed in Indiana.

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Ridenour and I spent some time scouting and muzzleloader hunting in northern Indiana a couple of years ago. We were impressed by the quality of the public ground and the logbook in the area’s office that showed a number of mature bucks taken each season.

Tags are fairly priced and public land options are plentiful.


I’m sure there are some states you were expecting to see on the list. Here’s why they weren’t.

Iowa is one of the best big-buck states I’ve ever hunted. But bow licenses in the top areas require a 3-year wait and will set you back about $600. That’s a high price to pay and a long time to wait.

While there is a fair amount of public land, you’re going to have plenty of company.

Illinois is another highly-touted state. I’ve hunted it several times and each time vowed that I’d never return. Illinois is one of the most intensely-hunted states I’ve hunted. No, it doesn’t compare to the hunting pressure here in my home state of Michigan but it’s in the ballpark.

There is some great public ground but the hunting pressure is intense and tags aren’t cheap.

Nebraska very nearly edged out Kansas. Why? Because it has more public land, tags are over-the-counter and cost less.

But Nebraska just doesn’t crank out the whitetails that Kansas does. But, make no mistake, it’s a solid option if you’re looking for a great public land deer hunt.


Source:  AntlerGeeks.com

5 Top Public Land Deer Hunting States
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5 Top Public Land Deer Hunting States
Here are the top five states for the best public land deer hunting... Ohio, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Dakota, Indiana.

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