Sunday, February 20, 2011

Getting Permission To Hunt Private Land

Have you ever driven by a tract of land and thought, man, I'd like to have the opportunity to hunt there? I'm sure most of us know of property we'd like to be able to hunt, but can't because it's privately owned. In reality, the only thing standing between you and potentially new hunting opportunities is asking permission. I'm going to provide a few pointers that can help make that process a bit easier. 

You might be thinking, uh, Brian, deer season just closed recently and the next season is several months away. Why are you talking about this now? Well, seeking permission to hunt on private property is a bit like scouting - if you want to be ready for the upcoming season, you really need to start working now. Approaching a landowner right before the season is about to open is kinda like studying for a big test the night before. It's not the best way to go. Plus, this applies to any kind of hunting - not just deer hunting. Spring turkey will be opening in many states before too long. Now is the time to get on it. 

Here are a few tips that can help increase your odds of receiving permission... 

Start now and leave the camo at home. You should start making contact with landowners early in the year. It might seem like a minor thing, but asking several months in advance shows that you're thinking ahead and is more respectful than knocking on somebody's door two days before the season opens. This also gives a landowner time to think it over, if necessary, and get to know you better. Some people might be more open to the idea of letting you hunt on their land if they're not being asked to make a spur-of-the-moment decision. 

If you ask early and receive permission, this gives you time to scout and get to know the area well ahead of the season. It also allows you to set up stands or blinds depending on what you've discussed with the landowner. If you ask early and are denied permission, you can then move on to other prospects as opposed to wasting time right before the season opens. 

When knocking on a stranger's door for the first time, I highly recommend leaving the camo attire at home. I like wearing it as much as the next person and I'm not saying you should be ashamed to dress like a hunter. However, since you are meeting a landowner for the first time, I believe it's best to dress in your regular street clothes. Some folks are put off by camo attire and others may have had bad experiences in the past with hunters or poachers. You don't know how a particular landowner feels about hunting. If you show up in camo, it has the potential to create a wall before the person has a chance to hear what you have to say. The idea is to stack the odds in your favor and looking like an average Joe can be helpful for that initial contact. 

Always be polite and respectful. This really goes without saying. Your request should be made politely. Using "sir" and "ma'am" never hurt anyone even though it is less common now. If you are turned down it is very important to remain polite. Remember, you are representing hunters in general and you want to leave a good impression no matter what answer you receive. It has the potential to open doors later. If you receive a definite "no", don't argue or keep going back to ask again. It's part of being respectful.

Being respectful also means be mindful of the landowner's time and activities. Avoid knocking on the door during traditional dinner hours. None of us like to be interrupted during a meal. Try not to disrupt a landowner's work, particularly if they are a farmer or rancher. Time is money for these folks. If it's obvious the landowner is busy in the field or with livestock, think about coming back another time. 

Be prepared to give some information. In some ways, getting permission to hunt private property is a bit like a job interview. At least you should think of it in those terms. You may be asked what you do for a living, where you live, how long you've been hunting, if you've taken a hunter safety course, or possibly even for personal references. If you don't receive permission during that initial contact, ask if it would be okay to leave your name and number. This is especially important if the landowner is going to consider your request. 

Bowhunters can have an advantage. You may talk with landowners who are hesitant to allow gun hunting on their property. Maybe they have concerns about livestock, pets, or just don't want guns being fired on their land. If you are also a bowhunter, you may be able to secure permission to hunt that way. Some people don't have the same concerns about bows that they do with guns. 

It's not a one-way street. If you do get permission to hunt on private property, don't just be a taker. One of the nicest things you can do is offer to assist with work on the land. This is especially true with farmers and ranchers. I don't mean you have to be there every weekend, but maybe there is fence to be repaired or wood to be cut or painting to be done. Offer to donate some of your time in exchange for the hunting privilege. When I was in school, my brother and I helped a farmer bale his hay during the summer as our way of thanking him for allowing us to hunt on his land. It was hot, nasty work, but worth it. Even if the landowner doesn't need or want your help, you can still offer to give them part of your meat. For those who enjoy wild game, this is a nice gesture. 

Make it a point to stop by during the off-season and see if there's anything you can do and just to say hi. This shows consideration for the landowner and helps develop a stronger relationship.

Some definite no-no's. If you get permission for yourself, do NOT show up with a couple of hunting buddies in tow. Nothing will annoy a landowner faster than you presuming you have the authority to invite others. If you want to bring another person along, you need to discuss that up front and have it worked out from the get-go.

Don't litter or otherwise trash the property. Don't drive where you don't have explicit permission to do so. Don't leave equipment behind unless this has been worked out with the landowner. Don't endanger livestock or pets. And don't assume the permission automatically extends from season to season. Always check with the landowner and make sure you can hunt again the following season. 

Final thoughts. If you receive permission, make sure you obey all game laws. The last thing you want is to create problems for a landowner. We should all obey the laws no matter where we hunt, but don't do something stupid on another person's property.

If you show respect toward the landowner and abide by their requests, you will likely develop a good relationship over time as you get to know each other. This helps secure your ongoing hunting privilege. 

Remember, there are people who simply don't want anyone hunting on their land. It could be they don't allow it period or they hunt it themselves. Getting permission is not a guarantee no matter how respectfully you approach it. If you are denied permission, scratch that location off the list and move on to another. Above all, represent hunting and your fellow hunters in the proper manner no matter what answer you receive.


texwisgirl said...

Except for all that gun-shooting stuff, I sure wish you were my neighbor... :)

Very well written (as always) and very, very good advice for any hunter or outdoorsman. Most of it should be common sense, but sadly that's not often the case. You rock!

Dawn said...

Completely agree with Theresa!
Wishing you were the one next door scouting out my land. We have never had all that great of an experience with hunters who want to hunt here...and do so without asking. (A little more than unnerving when my kids are outside or I am out for a run!)

Great advice!! Hope it is taken:) (I'll be sure to pass it along;)

Clif said...

Being respectful is pretty key in my mind.

I once busted a kid and his girl driving on my land, far from the public road. I think they were looking for a parking spot, but since I was there he thought it was a good time to ask hunting permission. I chased him off.

He could have used this article.

Mel said...

Even though I don't hunt, Brian, I wanted to comment to let you know that I felt this was an outstanding post. Very good composite of what to do, how to do it, and when. I simply will apply this information to wanting to fish on private land. Most everything will still fall in place similarly if you wish to request permission to fish private land. Thanks again!

Joe said...

Well written article Brian. This should be the how to guide for anyone asking hunting permission. But it never fails to amaze me how many don't follow any of your suggestions. Some years it's almost comical the ways people stop and ask permission. Dinner time or while they're trying to milk 100 cows is not a good time :).

Sall's Country Life said...

All really good tips, Brian. I find it sad that in South Dakota this kind of thing doesn't exist anymore. Now all you need is a gun and a credit card to hunt. I can remember when I was young my Dad and brothers would get permission and go all over and bring home their limit! Too many lodges and too much greed, as far as I'm concerned! Thank goodness we have land and good friends with land, and the hunting is good! But to step onto someone's property now-a-days and expect to hunt just for being polite, or respectful? Not gonna happen.

heyBJK said...

texwisgirl - I wish I was your neighbor, too! I wouldn't even bother your tree rats - unless they started making nighttime raids onto my property. LOL! Common sense isn't so common, anymore.

Dawn - I'm sorry to hear your experience with hunters has been less than pleasant. It angers me when people do things that reflect negatively on the rest of us. For someone to hunt on your property without asking is completely unacceptable.

Clif - haha! I would have done the same as you. The fact that he thought it appropriate to ask permission after getting caught is both funny and sad. I'll give him credit for nerve if not for smarts.

Mel - You know, I almost brought fishing into this, but wanted to keep it as brief as possible and decided it was a topic for another post. Here in Kentucky, if a stream or river runs through private property, the landowner also owns the river or stream bottom. They don't own the water itself so they can't prevent people from using boats or floating, but they can run you off if you are wading. It's a very controversial subject, especially on smaller streams.

Joe - As I'm sure you know, it seems nowadays it's all about "me, me, me" with so many people. The me generation. I wasn't raised that way and the lack of respect and common courtesy some people show really goes through me.

Lisa - I agree completely and that's a good topic for yet another post. I hope it never happens, but I wouldn't be surprised if one day only the wealthy will be able to hunt in this country. It's already like that in some areas. The almighty dollar seems to trump everything.

Long Ridge Deer Camp said...

Spot on...well articulated, and great advice for those wothout land! Heed! Jack

Trey said...

We have permission to hunt on some land that is next to our lease. All it took was one wild turkey breast! We have free run of the place now and I am still taking him turkey breast, back straps, quail and doves. Well worth it!!

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...

Love the post! All hunters should be reminded of the proper way to ask permission to hunt. It would have been really nice had the people who trespassed on the land we hunt to ask the owner for permission... then their stuff wouldn't have been confiscated. :-)

Great work!

Nancy@A Rural Journal said...

Great post, Brian. I agree with you 100%. We get hunters asking for permission on opening day, if you can imagine.

My husband always offers the landowner some of the game -- as a thank you.

Swamp Thing said...

Mel has a good point about fishing. In our neck of the woods, if you want to hunt decent land, you'll most often need a lease or a club membership - in MD, you legally need written permission to hunt private land. It's pretty formal.

But fishing is a different story. I travel for work and often notice some amazing stretches of water, or ponds, that I would love to be able to stop by, throw in a few lures, catch/photo/release, and be on my way. Maybe if I get back to basics like your post suggests, I could try to approach some of these landowners and see what happens?

LB @ BulletsandBiscuits said...

Awesome post! I agree 100% with all your points. We are fortunate enough to hunt on two seperate farms and we treat them both different. One owner doesn't like deer meat so when we butcher a pig...we give him half.

The other farmer is in his 80's and lives I take him jams, relishes, sauces, etc that I can over the summer and then take him a hot meal once a week in the winter.

Both farmers seem happier with what we give them rather than it makes us feel good that we can do something for them in return for hunting on them.

kmurray said...

Terrific Post Brian!

All well thought out tidbits of advice and ones we should all heed. You certainly get what you give when it comes to hunting someone else's land. I've always done well by offering to help out with work and following through. Landowners just appreciate that more than most people think.

Again, well done!

Albert Quackenbush said...

Excellent post, Brian. Well thought out and exactly what people need to think about. Out here in California many of the people who own ranches and such do not like hunters because they have a bad perception from past experience. One item I would like to add to your list is to leave the hunting area cleaner than what you found it. If you see some trash, pick it up. Carry it out with you. You'd be surprised at how many landowners will be paying attention.

If you don't mind, I'd love to reference your post on my blog. This is a great read.

heyBJK said...

Jack - Thanks! I appreciate it!

Trey - Definitely worth it! It usually doesn't take much to show your appreciation.

HLYH - LOL! Yep, this is one of those scenarios where permission is better than asking forgiveness. Especially, if it involves your gear being confiscated.

Nancy - Oh, I'm sure you get them at the last possible minute. Not that there wouldn't ever be a case where you're asking after the season is already open, but as a general rule I don't like doing it that way.

Swamp Thing - It might be even easier where fishing is concerned. You don't have that element of guns or other weapons involved and many people don't have the same negative view of fishing that they might about hunting.

LB - That's very nice of you and makes my point exactly! I'm sure both of them are thrilled with your gifts.

Kari - Good point! It's one thing to offer your time, but you still need to actually show up and do it. Thanks for bringing that up!

Al - Another good point and I didn't think to mention that, either. I always try to pick up trash when I'm fishing, especially along rivers and streams. The same can be done while hunting. You're welcome to reference the post if you'd like - I'd be flattered! Thanks!

r.b. wright said...

As always - great post Brian -- this is a real issue in the southeastern part of NC. Most landowners do not mind true hunters. Unfortunately - the minority gives the majority of us a bad reputation. "Fringe hunters" also create an issue. Although they are technically on the land they have leased, they set-up on the fringe to hunt the adjacent "posted" property. I do not understand the logic. I believe fully that if you do the right thing you will have a good result. Thanks again for a great post and blog!