Deer Hunting On The Fly
Conservation areas contain a lot of edge cover, but if you hunt public land, it's important to get as far from the roads and accesses as possible. You can pinpoint secluded areas on the maps that the Conservation Department publishes for all its conservation areas. You can assume that the easily accessible lowlands and ridgetops are going to be crowded, at least on opening weekend, but you can often have the remote highlands all to yourself. These areas may not have a diversity of cover, but their diversity of topographic features often serve as travel routes and funnels.
For example, I was hunting on a large public area in central Missouri last fall when I became intrigued by a tall ridge overlooking a major river bottom. I had to bust through about 30 yards of thick cedar brush, scrub hardwood and greenbriar at the base of the ridge, but the cover opened closer to the summit. The ridgetop was shaded by a canopy of tall oaks and hickories, and visibility was excellent. That ridgetop connected with another ridge running in two other directions that funneled into three separate valleys. From the air, this convergence of ridge lines would look like a thin three-leaf clover. Deer sign was everywhere, but I saw no evidence of humanity.
I didn't stay long, and frankly, I was thankful I didn't kill a deer up there because I'd probably still be trying to get it back to the truck. Still, it's a great spot because it contains ample food and provides easy access to several different types of areas. Not only that, but its remoteness offered refuge from the hunting pressure in the lowlands.
Always look for that patchwork/edge effect when you're looking for a potential hunting spot. When you find it, you'll find other sign, such as tracks, rubs and scrapes. Set up at the intersection where two or three different types of cover meet, and you'll eventually encounter deer.
The Right Stuff
Unless you're hunting a large corn or grain field, most of your shots will be less than 200 yards. If you're hunting ridgetops and creek bottoms, most of your shots will be less than 100 yards. Therefore, select your armament accordingly. A 7mm-magnum rifle with a 10-power scope is way too much firepower for most Missouri hunting situations, and it might even be counterproductive. Select a gun and round designed for short range work, such