As we all know, August is a great month to spend time glassing soybean fields at last light in search of mature whitetail bucks. But how many times have you laid eyes on a giant and been disappointed because he is several miles from the property you have permission to hunt? I am here to tell you it has happened to me more times than I can count! So what are your options? Do you drive off and wonder what it may have been like to hunt such a magnificent animal? Or do you lay awake at night dreaming of being perched 20 feet in the air on a frosty November morning, knowing that at any minute he could come crashing through the timber, hot on the trail of an estrous doe? Maybe you do, or maybe you can make that dream a reality.
Now you are probably thinking that’s easier said than done. Maybe you know that particular farm doesn’t allow hunting or already has several guys that hunt. Whatever the case may be I’m here to tell you that there are always options! I have personally run into about every possible scenario you can think of and still have managed to harvest several great bucks both in Michigan and Iowa on land that I had to ask for permission to hunt on! I hope that the following points will help you become more successful at gaining access and harvesting your best whitetail ever!
To begin with, it is important to understand how far a mature buck typically travels. Every buck has what is known as his “home range,” which is usually less than 640 acres. This means that for most of the year he should be living within a one square mile radius of where he has been seen. If there is abundant nutrition and bedding cover in the area he may travel even less. During the latter part of October and through mid November in the midwest, mature bucks venture away from their core area in search of receptive does. At most this increases their home range to about two square miles or 1280 acres. With that being said, you have a large area of land you can try to access that could put you in range of your target buck, so it’s time to get to work.
Now that you have laid eyes on that bruiser, your first and often hardest obstacle is getting permission to hunt where he lives. I like to utilize Google maps to look at properties from an aerial perspective and also to get a better idea of the topographical landscape. Obtaining a county plat book to see who owns particular pieces of ground is also a helpful tool. Personally I feel that the most effective approach is to make a list of all the property owners within one square mile of the area you would like to hunt. Then organize the list by proximity to the location you feel will be the most productive for harvesting a mature whitetail. Once you have your list and you have spent some time looking at maps it is time to fire up that truck and hit the pavement!
Most of the guys I have talked to in my home state of Michigan and also here in Iowa always say something like, “I’m nervous to ask for permission because the landowner will probably say no, so why bother!” My answer to that response is always, “you are already at no before you ever get to the door!” If you never ask, you will never hunt there anyway so why not bite the bullet and go for it. If your still unsure then ask yourself this question, how important is it that you have an opportunity at that deer or another one just like him? If you are anything like me the answer to that question should outweigh the fear of walking up to someone’s front door.
Once you have done your aerial scouting, glassing of fields, and have an idea of where your target farms are located, it is time to get ready. I always tell guys that appearance is huge! You want to dress casual but look nice. Don’t go to the door right after doing yard work, but also try not to wear something that is intimidating. Nice jeans and a polo shirt is usually my first choice. Before you walk up always remember that you are currently not able to hunt the farm so even if you get a “No” you haven’t lost anything. Also remember that just because you have spotted a mature deer on that farm, this doesn’t mean that he only frequents that location. You can still have a chance at harvesting him if you are virtually anywhere in the surrounding two square miles. The reason you are seeing big deer is most likely a result of proper management and therefore gaining access anywhere nearby is a success.
When the moment of truth arrives and you knock on that door, simply be polite and start with, “good afternoon” and introduce yourself. Always ask them what their first name is and follow that up with telling them where you live. Next ask if they can tell you who owns the property behind or around their farm? Even if you already know the answer, this gives them a chance to talk and give you some information. Next explain that you have been seeing a fair number of deer in the local fields and would be interested in bow hunting if they have space for another guy. This leaves the door open for a response. If they say yes then you are on your way, but if not, always end by asking if they know of anyone within a few miles who may be interested in allowing someone to bow hunt? This often gives you a lead on another potential spot. Always remember to be honest and polite and with that you are one step closer to accessing a great farm this fall!
With some simple preparation, a little bit of courage and a good set of manners, you can be well on your way to obtaining access to the kind of hunting land that you only used to dream of. By following these tips, I hope this will help you find great new hunting land and eventually harvest your best whitetail ever.
– Corey Fall