How to Approach Landowners About Hunting
It’s almost a bit comedic how quickly deer season has sped by. We spend all summer waiting for September and bow season then we spend all bow season waiting for the rut. Now that the rut has mostly passed and just about every deer herd in the country has been hunted to the brink, many of us are thinking of hanging it up if you haven’t already.
It’s widely known that the pressure put on public hunting land is far worse than an NFL quarterback. Even many private parcels, most of which are hunting clubs, have seen little to no deer activity in the previous days and weeks due to immense human presence. It is a well-known fact that nearly 98 percent of the land east of the Rocky Mountains is privately owned. The 660 million acres of public hunting land that we co-own with the government is located out west and only enjoyed by the lucky few who either live nearby or make the yearly trek.
You may have noticed too that even driving down the highway there doesn’t seem to be as many deer in view. It’s no secret that the herd moves to quieter ground when the woods are full of rifle shots and ATVs; many of these parcels are owned by folks that don’t hunt. These may include farmers, widows or just urban yuppies who own the land to grow a garden on the weekends and raise a few chickens. While just a decade ago it wasn’t a big deal to cross a fence onto your neighbor’s property, today’s landowners are hypersensitive to any activity that is not their own.
Approaching a landowner about hunting is not that difficult, really. Hitch up your belt and knock on the front door. Say “yes m’am” and “no m’am” when answering questions. Look presentable, not like you just rolled down a hill to get there. First impressions are still as important today as they were 50 years ago. Wearing casual attire, like jeans and a button up shirt, can go a long way in making a good initial impression.
Ask for permission well in advance of the season. This will give you a chance to interact with the landowner several times before the season and gain his or her trust. Plus, if you wait too late someone else may already be hunting the property.
One other tactic we’ve learned is taking a kid along with you. Many landowners, even those who don’t hunt, understand the importance of getting children outdoors. If your son, daughter, niece or nephew plans to hunt with you, see if they’ll come along to meet the landowner.
Make Your Own Offer
Return the favor of being allowed to hunt on someone else’s land. Offer to fix a fence, cut up fallen trees (free firewood!) or pick up trash. Suggest planting trees that will benefit the landowner down the road. Once they have your trust, you can also serve as another set of eyes on the property to watch for poachers and trespassers. Remember that every relationship is a two-way street and if you’re not willing to do your part, why should they?
Maintaining the Relationship
There are so many things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship with a landowner that lets you hunt their property. The above section for starters. If you’re so lucky to take an animal, share your bounty. A backstrap or side of turkey is a really nice offer. Or send them a Honeybaked Ham or bottle of bourbon if they don’t care for wildgame.
Take care to figure out the finer details like where to park, where to enter the property, where they may have livestock (always close gates!) and any times they’d rather you not hunt. Never take another person hunting that the landowner doesn’t know. This is one of the quickest ways to put a bad taste in somebody’s mouth. If you want to take a friend, ask. And don’t be pushy about it.
If you’re willing to muster your self-confidence and put on a clean shirt in order to obtain new places to hunt, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble dealing with landowners. Chances are they’ve been in your shoes before. Being polite and respectful and always lending a helping hand may just open up a few honey holes for you in the seasons to come.