The millions of private Conservation Reserve Program acres many prairie and plains states have leased for walk-in public hunting can hold some great whitetails and mule deer. That’s no secret.

This means a season’s first hours offer a well-prepared hunter the best chance of tagging a buck on CRP land before the masses start pounding the public grasses. The key is to spend the few early mornings immediately before the season glassing such fields from afar and from on high. That may be from any slight ridge, in the branches of a stunted tree, atop a pickup’s cab, or even scaling a stepladder brought in for the occasion. (Don’t snicker—a few rungs up can greatly improve the view.)

Look for deer moving from neighboring crop fields to bed in the CRP. Once you pattern the buck of your dreams, one option is to be at the same lookout location at first light of the new season, and stalk in after you watch the buck bed. Once you’re sure you are within rifle range, a little rattling or grunting will usually get you a shot at a standing, calm animal.

The other possibility is to set up an ambush as the buck returns from a night of feeding. The primary challenge with this approach is seeing enough of the deer in the tall grasses for an ethical and productive shot. Again, a little elevation can make a huge difference, even if it means carrying in your own. Some nice CRP bucks have been shot by hunters standing just far enough up a stepladder to see over the tops of the grasses.

For more opening day tactics, click here.