Gaining permission to hunt on private land has become much more difficult than it used to be. In the old days, you could knock on the door of several farmhouses and ask for permission to hunt on their property and more often than not the go-ahead was given.
Today, if you start your hunt by going cold from one farmhouse to another to ask for permission to hunt, you’ll likely spend your entire day gaining nothing but frustrating turn downs. Nothing will sour you on hunting more quickly than spending an entire gorgeous fall day being rejected by every farmer you approach.
Another unpleasant feature of knocking on farmhouse doors is the unexpected reception you’ll quite often receive from a yowling, snarling pack of four or five mongrels that suddenly have you surrounded. If you haven’t experienced this, you’ve missed one of life’s truly exciting moments.
The landowners aren’t to blame; the land available for hunting is shrinking and, consequently, there are more hunters vying for less land. As for the dogs, in today’s world anyone living in the country would want all the extra protection they can get.
If you want to gain permission to hunt on private land, it’s imperative that you start your campaign long before the hunting season begins. At the outset you’ll need to find out who the landowners are in the area where you want to hunt. Rural real estate agencies usually can be helpful in this name search. And county governments have information maps available that include the landowners.
You might find that the owner doesn’t live on the farm and it might be possible to get hunting permission by going over the farmer’s head. This, however, requires diplomacy or you and the farmer will be at odds from the beginning.
Once you have a list of landowners, the next step is to find a common acquaintance that can give you an inside track with one or more of the owners. Bankers are a great option if you’re a customer in good standing. If you know a banker well, he might be willing to act as a go-between for you and the landowner in your quest for hunting privileges.
Once you’ve established contact, you will need to make a personal visit to the farmer or owner to try and close the deal for the upcoming hunting season. When you introduce yourself, be certain to assure the farmer that you will never have more than three other hunters with you. No one wants an army of seven or eight guys hunting on their land.
In some cases, you might have to offer money to the farmer. Times are tough and he can probably ask for and receive money from prospective hunters. If the land is ideally suited for hunting, each member of the hunting party might have to chip in $50-$100 for the exclusive hunting rights for the season. This is becoming a common practice.
Once the permission to hunt is received, it’s a good idea to ask for a phone number that you can call on the day you want to hunt. That way you can tell the farmer you’re coming and avoid having to stop at the farmhouse and going through the whole time-consuming routine again.
The campaign isn’t over after you have received permission to hunt; there’s the next season to consider. Make sure that you leave no trash on the farmer’s land, including spent shotgun shells. It’s a friendly move to field dress some quail or pheasant and offer them to the farmer and his wife. Once again, take a trash bag with you and be sure and clean up the mess.
Another diplomatic gesture employed by hunters down through the years is to leave a small gift like a box of candy at the farmhouse.
Hunting in the country during beautiful fall days is one of life’s great escapes from everyday stress. No matter what part of the country you’re from, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find places to hunt. It requires patience and planning to obtain the necessary permission to hunt on private land. But the end justifies the means.