With summer quickly approaching, most sportsmen’s thoughts are turning toward family vacations, days spent fishing and maybe even a little time on the golf course. But if you haven’t locked in your hunting lease for deer season or found a piece of cherished ground you can call your own come rut time, you’d better not put it off.
Autumn will be here before you know it and top spots don’t last long. In case you’ve been under a rock for the last 15 to 20 years, the days of putting on a clean shirt and a smile and knocking on a kindly landowners door seeking permission to hunt—particularly for deer—are long gone. Competition for prime deer hunting land is as fierce ever, and if you’re in need of a place, it is time to get started.
Network Like the Mafia
While the likes of Tony Soprano may be a little too intense for your personality, there is one thing that every Mafioso, real or portrayed on the screen, have in common: They are, shall we say, well connected. Capiche?
Unless you have the dough to own your own property, you’d better learn to be a likeable dude and network with other hunters. Like most things in life, the best opportunities will come from the people you know. While many hunt clubs have been forced to advertise for members due to high lease prices (more on that in a minute), most clubs still prefer to operate by having members invite friends. This ensures a higher quality of membership.
You should also maintain strong business contacts, particularly with people who hunt or own land. People who own property but do not hunt themselves are more inclined to let somebody hunt their property than lease it to a stranger. As a result of the relationship you might be able to get it more cheaply than land is renting for in your area or, better yet, you may simply get permission to hunt for free.
Another great source of meeting likeminded hunters and landowners include attending sportsman shows and joining conservation organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited and the Quality Deer Management Association in particular. But don’t just join, get involved. Work on a committee and really shine at helping your local chapter succeed. Most volunteers are avid hunters with access to a number of different places. Get to know them and become well regarded and invites and opportunities are sure to follow.
An important note though: Be subtle. I once got a complaint from a reader who said he followed that advice and went to an NWTF banquet and asked a bunch of people there if he could come hunt with them. No surprise, he got no takers. You can’t just show up and ask to hunt with people that don’t know you. Do that and you’ll be branded a kook whose efforts will have the exact opposite effect of what was intended. Check Traditional Sources
With the high cost of leasing land for hunting, many clubs that once relied on members inviting friends have been forced to advertise in the local paper to find enough people to support the club’s expenses. Check the Sunday edition or special real estate section of your local paper for opportunities to lease land or join a club not far from your home.
Some sporting goods shops also have bulletin boards where notices on land or requests for members might be posted. You should also check with timber and paper companies that have large land holdings such as International Paper (ipaper.com), Plum Creek (plumcreek.com) and Crown Pine Timber (crownpinetimber.com). While liability issues have made some of these lease arrangements more complicated in the requirements that need to be met, the fact is, hunt leasing is still a source of revenue for these large landholders and opportunities to rent land are always coming up. Be sure your name is on any mailing list of available properties that they have coming available.
Go Surfing…On the Web
The internet is a great source of information and that especially goes for hunters searching for a place to hunt. There are a number of hunting Web sites such as HuntingNet.com, QDMA.org or even NWTF.org that have extremely active message boards. Join the discussion and explore hunting opportunities with other participants. Like the newspaper, classified sites such as Craigslist.com will also have listings of people with available land or club memberships in any region of the country. You can also post your interest in finding land, usually for free.
Lastly, a lot of sites have sprung up helping to contact landowners and hunters. These sites can be a great source for finding a legitimate, long-term lease. Some sites worth checking include Westervelt.com, BaseCampLeasing.com, LeaseHunting.com, NationalHuntingLeases.com and HuntingLeases.us. A check of sites designed for large landowners such as LandReport.com can also yield some possibilities. Finding that next hot hunting hot spot will not be easy. But put in the time and effort and it will all be worth it come opening day.