Access to public hunting land in America is pretty darn good in most states. But there’s nothing like having access to a great piece of private land, where you know you’ll generally have the place to yourself.
Hunting private land allows you to really pursue animals on their terms, without the likelihood that other hunters will traipse around and mess things up. It also enhances safety, since you typically know who (if anyone) is on a particular property while you’re hunting. Unfortunately, sometimes other people can and do trespass, so you can never assume that you’re alone.
When you go door-knocking to request permission for private land access, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances:
-Do your research. Know the names of the property owners before you talk to them, so you can open with a greeting like “Hello Mr. Smith, my name is _______, how are you today?” Being personal with people right away helps everyone feel at ease.
-Know, in advance, where property lines are. Owners appreciate that preparedness. An up-to-date county plat book is a must when looking for land to hunt.
-Ask questions. Inquire about the farmer’s crops, family, etc. Being friendly and genuinely interested goes a long way.
-Come bearing gifts. If you have a small token of appreciation for a landowner’s consideration, boy does it help open the door! I like to present landowners with a package of fresh walleye fillets, and I make it clear that there’s more where that came from. Christmas and birthday cards are important good-will gestures too.
-Offer to help with chores. I once encountered a landowner while he was stringing fence wire. I helped him as we talked about hunting permission. As it turned out, I spent the better part of the day doing chores with him, which sealed the deal on permission and earned me a good friendship too.
-Respect the property. If you leave the land in the same condition as you found it, property owners will appreciate you for it. Close gates behind you, don’t drive on crops, pick up shell casings, don’t liter, only cut tree branches and hang deer stands with permission beforehand, etc.
Taking extra effort when pursuing permission can really improve your odds. And if you do that, you’re that much closer to great hunting on private land.