How to Find Private & Public Hunting Land

All hunters want a good piece of hunting land. Finding it is not as hard as you might think. Between public land and private parcels, you can find places to hunt with a few tools and resources—and the courage to ask permission. Here are our tips for how to find a new piece of hunting land in 2021.

How to Find Public Land to Hunt - onX

How to Find Public Land to Hunt

More often than not, finding public land to hunt is going to be a little easier than finding private land, unless you’re considering paying for a hunting lease. With public land, the best first step is to consider how far you’re willing to travel to hunt. Create your “home range,” if you will. Once you have that defined, looking over that area with onX Hunt with the Government Lands Layer turned on will show you exactly what parcels are public versus private. US Forest Service lands are shown in green, and public state lands are shown in cyan.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search and located a few areas of public land you think might be good for hunting, review their hunting license requirements and restrictions at Hunt Central. There you can find the length and time of hunting seasons, tag pricing, special draw deadlines, and links to state wildlife agencies.

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The next step is to vet the public land you’ve found with a state wildlife agency. These agencies exist to provide valuable information for hunters. They can often provide stats on the animals taken in the area, what special licenses or permits are required, and possible points of access to help you make the most of your hunts there. 

When on the hunt for public land, don’t overlook lands managed by lesser-known arms of the federal government, specifically national wildlife refuges. These areas are overseen by the US Department of Fish & Wildlife.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is another excellent resource for public land hunting. Nationally, BLM manages 43 million acres of elk habitat, 131 million acres of mule deer habitat, and 23 million acres of bighorn sheep habitat, and unless otherwise posted, all BLM land is open to hunting.

How to Find Private Land to Hunt

How to Find Private Land to Hunt

The prospect of hunting on private land is something that excites anyone who’s spent cold, dark mornings unable to find a parking spot anywhere near their favorite piece of public land. Access to a private parcel is like having a golden ticket to a fictitious candy factory. Finding private land to hunt can be challenging, but isn’t impossible. Here are a few tips for how to start. 

Look for public access to private land. More than 20 states now offer programs where landowners allow hunters on their property in exchange for cash or incentives from state agencies. These popular programs have various names such as North Dakota’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen, Georgia’s Voluntary Public Access, Montana’s Block Management Areas, Kansas Walk-in Hunting Access, and others.

Thankfully, one of the largest landowners is often the one who will let hunters access their private properties—that landowner is typically a timber company. Timber lands that have been logged within the last 12 years are known to be excellent for hunting most species, and if they border farmland all the better. 

Any private land may be open for you if you just ask the landowner. onX Hunt shows contact information for private landowners all over the US. If you see a piece of private property that looks good for hunting, reach out to the landowner to see what he or she says. 

onX Layers for Finding Land to Hunt
onX Map Layers help hunters navigate public & private land boundaries.

Five onX Layers for Finding Land to Hunt

Looking for a quick and easy way to find new land for hunting? Get out your onX Hunt App or open the Web Map and check out these five different Map Layers for possible public and private properties before next season. 

  1. Government Lands Layer – The Government Lands Layer includes properties owned by federal, state, and tribal governments that may or may not be open for public access. Be sure of your access before you go.
  2. GMU / Hunting Units Layer – If you know the hunting unit or GMU you want to hunt, turn this Layer on to find public and private parcels within each boundary. 
  3. State-Sponsored Land Access Program Layers – As mentioned above, these are lands open to hunting but managed for access at the state level. 
  4. National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Wild Turkey Records Layer – Designed for turkey hunters, the NWTF Layer shows the distribution of all turkey subspecies, along with NWTF score / average / weight / beard and spur lengths for turkeys taken in highlighted areas. 
  5. Private Lands Layer – Arguably one of the most important Layers to use for finding new places to hunt. This Layer will show you landowner contact information and boundaries.
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Ryan Newhouse

Though raised hunting squirrels and whitetails in the South, Ryan Newhouse has spent nearly the last two decades chasing Western big game in Montana and writing professionally about his travels and the craft beers he’s consumed along the way. He loves camping, fishing, boating, and teaching his two kids the art of building campfires and playing the ukulele. And yes, he's related to Sewell Newhouse, inventor of the steel animal traps.