Why Permanent Stands on Public Land Should be Illegal

By Will Brantley writes Brow Tines and Backstrap

St. Louis County Department of Lands and Mines photoSometimes it’s easy to get caught up in your own little hunting world and forget that folks in other states may do things differently than you. Maybe that’s why I was completely shocked when I saw this story in the Duluth News Tribune about the problems with some Minnesota deer hunters building elaborate permanent stands, clearing shooting lanes and even planting food plots on public land.

Now I have no problem with hunting from a shooting house, so long as it’s on private land. They're comfortable, and I've killed a pile of deer out of them myself. But where I grew up, it’s illegal, as it should be, to manipulate public ground. That means stands must be picked up, usually at the end of season, but sometimes at the end of the day. Certainly no nails in trees for wooden stands, no screw-in treestand steps, and no baiting or food plots. To my knowledge, chopping down trees to clear shooting lanes is a no-no, too (although I wouldn’t see getting a ticket for trimming a sapling here and there). For that reason, most public land hunters in this area rely on climbing stands.

Maybe those regulations seem tough. But the issues in Minnesota highlight what happens when you allow permanent stands, food plots and clearing of shooting lanes to occur on public land. Not only do you get eyesores like the one in the photo, but you begin running into “ownership” issues of public hunting spots. A guy puts in all that work building his stand, preparing his spot, and then finds another hunter legally sitting there on opening morning. You can bet the situation won’t be pretty.

This stuff unfolds all the time while duck hunting; hunters build blinds on public water, and in the process, feel justified in claiming an entire section of the marsh for themselves (you get the abandoned blind eyesores out there, too). In many places, the regulations state that if the “owner” of the blind isn’t set up and ready 30 minutes before shooting light, the blind then becomes first-come, first-served to the public.

Of course, if you’re an out-of-towner sitting in that blind 20 minutes before shooting light when the owner arrives, or hunting another spot the blind owner feels is too close, you’re probably in for a cussing. Long and short, it can be difficult for your average public-land hunter to hunt these areas—despite the fact that his licenses and stamps are helping pay for them. I see it happen time and again every duck season.

Waterfowl hunting is a different beast than deer hunting, of course, but the premise and problems with this issue are one and the same. When you’re talking publicly funded ground, where all hunters share equally in paying the bills, staking claim to a spot with a permanent stand isn’t fair. I think Minnesota would be smart to make it illegal. Tell me what you think.