One of the biggest frustrations that can pop up during hunting season is not being able to find somewhere to hunt. Of course, there is always public land available, but that comes with its own set of problems. When hunting public land, you always run the risk of having groups of people walk right on top of you, of clueless hunters yelling through the woods and scaring off that buck you just spent the last 20 minutes calling in, and, worst of all, of having to argue about the deer you took down, because someone else got to it first after it laid down. These are situations that shouldn’t happen but are all too familiar to anyone who’s hunted on public land before. But unless you hike miles into public land, these are situations that will always have to be endured. Such is its nature.
An obvious solution, then, is to hunt on private land. While most of us don’t have the luxury of owning a good chunk of it out in the country, it is still possible to find great privately owned land to hunt, and without having to pay to do so.
Take a Drive
The first thing to do is to find land that you would like to hunt. That means going for a drive in the evenings to see where the deer are hanging out. From there, you can make a best guess at who owns the land by way of choosing the house that’s the closest. Come back later at a decent time, when people are likely to be away and already going about their day.
When approaching someone you don’t know to ask about using their land, there are some key aspects to keep in mind in order to keep things copacetic. Firstly, remember that you are just showing up out of nowhere and interrupting somebody else’s day. That alone means the odds aren’t in your favor. But you can help things along by ensuring that you’re dressed in clean everyday clothes. In other words, don’t show up on the first day of hunting season in full camo and with your gun slung across your back. It won’t go well.
Asking permission to hunt
Speak slowly, don’t rush your words, and be as polite and genuinely friendly as you can. Introduce yourself and explain that you’ve seen quite a few deer on their land at night and that if they’ve been having any trouble with them, you’d be willing to help them out with that. It also helps to further emphasize that you’re more than willing to work around their schedule or of any family members who may hunt their land. It also may work out in your favor if you promise only to shoot to help control the deer herd and not remove any monster bucks that the landowner (or a family member) may be stalking.
It pays to keep in mind that this person owes you nothing and that you are asking them for a favor. To that end, it would do you well to be respectful and polite. However, should you receive a “no” at this point, take the moment as an opportunity to ask if that landowner knows anyone who’s been having trouble with deer and may be open to allowing you to hunt their land. Regardless of what answer you receive, continue to be polite and thank the person you were speaking with.
Should you get a “yes,” however, and you can start negotiating when the landowner would prefer you to be there and when they wouldn’t. For example, if they or a family member hunts during the gun season only, you can promise not to be out at all during that time. Further emphasizing that you truly have no interest in coming on their land to steal bucks and promising not to take a buck of any size may help you to get on better terms with the landowner, too. You should maintain that your interest is to help them with herd control and preventing damage to their crops.
You may not get lucky with the first landowner you ask, heck, you may strike out with the first three or four but, eventually, you will find an owner who is open to at least seeing how it goes.
Keep your Word
At no point should you forget that you are a guest on that landowner’s property. If you made promises as part of the agreement for you to hunt that land, then make sure that you keep them. It’s also a good idea to find out if there are any other “rules” that you should follow. Many landowners have pet peeves about people driving across fields, not closing gates, or even being in certain sections of their land. It pays to find out what these are ahead of time rather than jeopardizing your hunting privileges with mistakes that could have been avoided.
Show your Appreciation
It pays to remember the landowner throughout the year and to show your appreciation for them allowing you to hunt on their land. Simple gestures of appreciation can go a long way. Feel free to send them a card, fruit basket, or ham during the holidays and maybe a small gift whenever you get a deer from their land (e.g. drop off a case of beer, bring over a loaf of homemade bread or pie, etc.) As time passes and you build a relationship, they may tell you of certain areas where the deer like to hang out and may even change their minds and let you take a buck or two.
Last, but Not Least... on Finding Private Land to Hunt
In tracking down private land to hunt, it also doesn’t hurt to ask people that you work with or family members. Just mentioning how you’ve been having some difficulty finding private land to hunt on may turn up a few leads that you can follow up on which may prove successful. Plus, as you’ll be contacting this landowner off of the recommendation of a colleague or family member, they may be more willing to hear you out.
Paying to hunt private land is relatively common, but it’s not the only way to secure an excellent track of land to hunt without all the problems that come with public land. A little diligence and willingness to put yourself out there and talk to people can go a long way and provide you with years of access to private land that will continually keep you with a freezer full of meat.