When it comes to getting away from hunting pressure during the rut, the key is timing and putting distance between yourself and other hunters. Deer, especially mature bucks, will typically only tolerate a small amount of human intrusion. They are going to find areas where hunters aren't, so that means you need to as well. Stay creative and separate yourself from the masses to get close to a pressured public land buck this fall.
Sometimes the battle with beating the crowds on public land during the rut can simply be doing what others aren't willing to. I've had a lot of luck over the years by getting back in thick cover well before daylight.
Too often, hunters make excuses for not getting set up early enough or needing a break and sleeping in after a few days. Of course, it depends on overall hunter volume on the particular piece of public, but parking lots and pressure consistently seem lighter in mornings than afternoons. It may sound too simple, but pay attention to the number of vehicles. Chances are you'll see a noticeable difference between morning and afternoon.
Double down on your morning hunts and, if you can, hunt during the week. We all try to make the most of our weekends, but if you're working a job where you have a few weekdays off, can use some vacation days, or capitalize on a second shift off hours, you could be beating the crowds and leveraging some excellent rut action while everyone else is waiting for the weekend.
Thicker Isn't Always Better
When the rut cranks up and hunters flock to the timber, ridges, and draws, we tend to want to crawl back to the deepest darkest hole we can find. Too often though, we end up huddling around these thickets together and pushing big bucks out.
Remember, bucks like isolating a doe during the rut. They don't want other deer around, let alone humans. Look for subtle areas other that hunters will walk past or won't even consider.
Thick areas can still be great spots to ambush a cruising buck, but open areas or small patches of cover can be dynamite during the rut. Look for a cluster of trees jutting out into a field, grown-up areas around old equipment, waterways, and low spots in open fields that hold water and grow taller vegetation. Bucks like to use their eyes in these open areas to fend off other bucks and, of course, human intrusion.
One of the best ways to leave the crowds behind during the rut is through hard access. Earlier in the season when the thicker habitat is still holding the most deer, you might be able to have some good hunts and get away with accessing through the typical walking trails and established access routes.
However, once the pressure turns up and the rut is on, bucks find places people aren't. Your best chance will likely be to approach your setups from routes that aren't getting used.
Wading creeks or rivers, using a kayak or canoe, or climbing steep terrain can be incredible tactics for getting into those hard-to-reach places that bucks gravitate to when hunters push into the timber and field edges. You can leave the competition behind and enjoy great public hunting when the bucks are on their feet in daylight by putting in a little extra effort for your access and going where others aren't.