River Currents: Bow Hunting on Public Land
Author: | Date: 9.11.2012
This coming Saturday, September 15th, the Wisconsin bow hunting season opens. Bow hunters have been waiting all spring and summer for what to many hunters is the “best time of the year.” They’ve read every hunting magazine that they can find, they’ve gone to all the outdoor shows, they’ve dreamed of the bow hunting season, and now it’s almost time to get into that tree stand or ground blind and put all that you’ve read and learned into practice.
But, as the years pass, it’s getting harder and harder to find a place to hunt unless you have your own land or a friend you hunt with has hunting land. One of the largest complaints that I hear is that people no longer have a place to hunt, so they have stopped hunting. We are lucky enough to have so many areas of public hunting land available to all. The Wisconsin deer herd has been moving south for decades from the forests of the northern half of the state to the southern agricultural lands. The days of “going north” to deer hunt are no longer necessary for most of us.
Bow hunters should be in for an average to good year with the state deer population somwhere around one million deer. This number is constantly changing, but a million deer is close to the real deer numbers. I think that the state would like to have the deer population around one million deer. There are still many opportunities for hunters to bag multiple deer from the CWD units in the southern counties of Wisconsin. There are many counties where for an added fee you can harvest an anterless deer. These areas are the Regular Units where an anterless tag is $12.00, the Herd Control Units where the anterless tag is $2.00, and the CWD Units where hunters may obtain up to four free tags per day. So, you can see there are numerous chances to harvest as many deer as you and your family use and need.
What I want to impress on hunters is that Wisconsin has lots of public land for bow hunting and all other hunting. Many hunters look down on hunting public lands because they are afraid of too many hunters, lack of game, and poor habitat. I drive by thousands of acres of state and regularly (every day) and much of this is great land for bow hunting. I’ll see some larger groups during the gun deer season and on the opening weekend of the pheasant season, but other than that there’s plenty of good land and habitat for all. Some of the larger deer that I see during the gun season are taken off public lands. The key to hunting most public land and especially the larger ones are to get back into the thick and dense areas where many hunters won’t go.
I’m next door to the Mazomanie and Blackhawk Units between Sauk City and Mazomanie. This land is in Dane County and borders the Wisconsin River. Bill Ishmael, a Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the South-Central region, says that “there are good deer numbers on most state-owned lands in southern Wisconsin. The Mazomanie and Blackhawk Units are no exception and hold good deer number.” Ishmael went on to say that, “Even though there are good deer numbers in all these units (70A and 76), but as seasons progresses, the deer move to more inaccessible areas away from hunters and hunting pressure. These deer will move into the marshy areas closer to the Wisconsin RIver and into private lands that border public hunting grounds. The best thing to do is get away from the crowds and hunt the out-of-the-way places and get back to the remote areas.”
This is why Mazomanie and the Blackhawk Units in the Mazomanie Public Hunting Grounds are such good places to bow hunt because they contain large areas of remote and hard to get at land that scares away the casual hunter. The Mazomanie Unit is part of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and is located 2 miles north of Mazomanie off Highway Y. The 4261 acres of land (3518 state-owned and 743 leased) have a mixed landscape of marsh, potholes, forests, lakes, streams, and river bottoms that all make great deer habitat.
The Black Hawk Unit is 6 miles north of Mazomanie or 3 miles south of Sauk City and borders Highway 78. The Blackhawk Unit is 800 acres of state land that is basically hardwood forests of oak and hickory. The area runs for a few miles along Highway 78 and includes the hills and bluffs of Blackhawk Ridge.
Between the two units, there is over 5000 acres of state land for the bow hunter to roam. Both of these Units (70A and 76) are in the CWD Unit, but this hasn’t scared hunters away since the beginning of CWD.
The Mazomanie Public Hunting Grounds are only 30 miles from Madison and less than 100 miles from Milwaukee. Though hunting pressure can be high during the opening weekend of gun season, it is rarely crowded for the bow season. A bow hunter can scout this huge area of hunting land and find many out of the way locations, have deer, and never see another hunter. The bow season runs from September 15th to November 15th and November 17th through January 6, 2013. There is also an anterless deer hunt for those with an unused valid tag from December 6-9th.
I’d suggest that bow hunters check out the Mazomanie Unit before hunting to get familiar with the land and to look for deer and deer sign.
Here are a few locations where you can start looking for a good bow location, but remember that deer tree stands can now stay up as long as your name and DNR number is on the stand. Do not damage the trees. Climbing spikes are illegal.
- All of Blackhawk Ridge (unit 76) along Highway 78 is good wooded land with an abundance of acorns (the heat may hurt the production this year) and other nuts for the deer to feed on. You’ll also find good trees for your stands with a good field of view. This is a good early season location.
- Across Highway 78 is the Mazo Unit (70A) which is mainly marsh close to the highway with scattered woods as you get deeper into the unit. Deer move back and forth across the highway to feed and bed down in the marsh area.
- If you turn left on Highway Y while traveling north on Highway 78, you’ll come across some railroad tracks about 1/2 mile down the road. There’s corn planted on both sides of th road where the deer feed and there’s plenty of trees for your stand. A little farther down the road is marsh and woods on your right that runs to the Wisconsin River. This again is a good location with many trees to put a stand in.
- Father west down Highway Y towards Mazomanie, you’ll run into Laws Drive and Conservation Road which will take the hunter back to some of the more remote areas that entail a walk of a mile or more. You’ll find wood, forest land, and marshes that abound with deer and other wildlife. This is a good location to hunt if there is pressure from other hunters and you want to get away and be alone! Stalking and walking can work here and again there are many trees for your stand. This land is tough walking, but it can be worth it.
- A little farther down the Highway Y is a driveway and the state dog training area on your right. Follow this road back to the parking lot. From there, you have access to all kinds of habitat and again you can get away from hunting pressure and back to those hidden locations.
This article should give you a starter on hunting public hunting ground in the area. Be sure to check the DNR web page (dnr.wi.gov) for more information.
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