Skip to main content

How to Find and Access Public Land for Hunting – Backcountry Essentials Primer

With the right gear, a little time spent researching on the Internet, installing a smartphone mapping app and making a few phone calls, any hunter can tap into America's public lands and have an opportunity to be successful.

How to Find and Access Public Land for Hunting – Backcountry Essentials Primer

Hunting the backcountry means accessing America’s vast network of public lands. From federally managed national forests, wetlands and grasslands to locally owned state parks and wildlife management areas, public lands provide an immeasurable wealth of hunting opportunities for any hunter willing to put in the scouting time and boot leather to get away from the trailhead. Whether the game be big or small, upland birds or waterfowl, millions of hunters rely on these lands to experience the outdoors and fill their tags every year.

Pick anywhere on a map of the United States, and that spot is likely within a short drive of public lands open to hunting. Finding a place to hunt public lands begin right here on your computer. Also, that smartphone in your hand, loaded with the best mapping app, gives you an advantage the previous generation of hunters never had. Use it to your advantage.

With some basic Internet searching, you’ll find federal, state and local governments have easy-to-find, detailed maps and information on the hunting opportunities in your area. Begin with the U.S. Department of the Interior for a general overview of the types of public lands open to hunting. This includes lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation, among other federal offices.

For more localized info, drill down to state game, fish and park departments and natural resources management district offices. Once you’ve found a promising location, pick up the phone and call the wildlife biologist or resource information specialist assigned to that area. They can give you real-time info on game populations, hunter activity and other insight that’s invaluable come opening day.

Consistent success on public lands does require careful planning that accounts for the patterns of both the game and the hunters pursuing it. In peak hunting season, you’ll be sharing the woods with other hunters. In today’s world of online information and social media oversharing, there aren’t many hidden honey holes anymore. But don’t let that deter you. With millions and millions of acres of public land, there’s plenty of country for every hunter in America. While finding your own secret spot may not be easy, it’s is worth the time and effort.

Fenix HM61R Headlamp

Fenix HM61R Headlamp

The Fenix HM61R rechargeable headlamp is a great multi-functional light that is not only a high-performance headlamp, but also a great right-angle detachable flashlight, when removed from its headband—which includes a magnetic base and belt clip for continued hands-free use. The HM61R headlamp has eight lighting modes, including a red light, that are easily accessed via the large side switch. Powered by an included high-capacity 18650 battery, this light can emit light for up to 300 hours on Eco mode. Magnetic rechargeable with a battery level indicator and IP68 rated waterproof and dustproof. This multi-use light is the ultimate hands-free lighting tool.

Buy Now

HuntWise – The Ultimate Hunting Toolset

HuntWise – The Ultimate Hunting Toolset

In remote regions and rough terrain, the HuntWise app offers the ultimate hunting toolset for navigation and mapping in the backcountry. Built for multiple digital platforms: iOS, Android and Desktop. Click here to learn more and to setup an account.

Buy Now

Kenetrek Bridger Ridge Light Hiker Boots

Kenetrek Bridger Ridge Light Hiker Boots

What’s in a name? The Bridger Ridge Run ranks as one of the most technical, grueling trail races in the world. It’s 20 miles of brutal up and down on the most unstable terrain imaginable. We designed our Bridger Ridge Light Hikers to take the brutal beat down of the Ridge Run head on, and keep on trucking. When a lightweight, yet incredibly supportive boot is high on your priority list, enter the Bridger Ridge Hikers. Weighing in at just over 2 pounds a pair (depending on model) you will barely even notice these boots on your feet during long hikes. Available in both High and Low versions depending on the levels of support needed. The Lows are perfect warm weather boots and with a good sock will stretch into three seasons, while the High has a waterproof, breathable Event Membrane to keep you dry in wet conditions. Designed and tested right here in our backyard - Bozeman, Montana. Retail price for Kenetrek Bridger Ridge Hikers start at $150.

Buy Now

Kryptek Bora Jacket

Kryptek Bora Jacket

The Bora series is designed to keep you warm against wind and moisture without over-heating. Fabricated with four-way stretch material, every cut line of this series allows for maximum movement and full range of motion. This abrasion resistant shell features a windproof and water-resistant laminate and Schoeller’s revolutionary fabric technology c-change. The c-change fabric has the ability to actively react to contract or expand to conserve or dump heat based on your bodies changing temperature and moisture levels. Shivering and chilling are effectively prevented. The Bora series is one of our most advanced products to date.

Price: $359.99-369.99

Buy Now

Leupold BX-4 Pro Guide HD Binocular

BX-4 Pro Guide HD Binocular

With a lightweight build and unquestioned optical clarity, Leupold’s BX-4 Pro Guide HD binocular is meant for backcountry hunters that demand performance. Specialized lens coatings – the same ones that have been applied to the award-winning Leupold VX-5HD and VX-6HD riflescopes – allow hunters to glass longer during the early predawn hours to well past dusk. The Twilight Max HD system combines exceptional light transmission and glare management to provide vivid, bright, high-contrast images that will deliver relentless optical performance in low-light conditions. An open bridge design and durable aluminum body is both comfortable to hold and lightweight enough for easy carrying. The redesigned body armor has a texture that’s designed to allow for a sure grip in any conditions. No optics are more lightweight, rugged or clear than a Leupold – and no binocular will serve you better in the backcountry than the BX-4 Pro Guide HD.

Buy Now


Worldwide Trophy Adventures – Utah Elk Hunt

Worldwide Trophy Hunters – Utah Elk Hunt

This veteran outfitter has been offering quality hunts in Utah for years. These hunts take place in northern Utah’s pristine Wasatch Mountains, all on large tracts of game rich private land. Typical elk here are 5×5 and 6×6 bulls. Archery and even some rifle hunts begin in early to mid-September during the bugling season and run through mid-November. Book your hunt with Worldwide Trophy Adventures or call 1-800-346-8747.

Price: $9,500

Buy Now

Current Magazine Cover

Don't Miss

The Essentials Gear Box.

Our editors have hand-picked these essential pieces of gear to make you a more successful hunter when you hit the game trails this season.

Learn More

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Petersen's Hunting Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save.

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Petersen's Hunting App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Petersen's Hunting stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Petersen's Hunting subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now