By Chris Eberhart
For most of us hunting season has been over for about a month now. Depending on how the weather turns serious spring scouting is about a month away. Seems like there must be a break in preparing for the upcoming season, right? Wrong! Now is the time to get serious about scouting for new hunting permission.
One thing is certain, hunting permission comes and goes, and unless you own land, chances are you have both gained and lost permission. Losing permission is just part of the game, and happens for countless reasons. Maybe the land you have been hunting has been sold, or leased, or has been reserved for family members only. Whatever the reason, hunting permission is easier lost than gained. With that in mind you should always be looking for new places to hunt. You can never have too many options. This is the time of year to get serious about finding new land to hunt. And who knows, that next piece of property you find to hunt might be that dream piece where you can score on a mature buck year after year.
Why now? Well, at this time of year hunting season is behind us and next fall is a long ways off. Most people, hunters included, are not thinking about hunting and approaching a landowner now will catch them by surprise. Not only that, by asking at this time of year you are instantly proving you are thinking ahead, while at the same time showing your year round dedication to deer hunting. By asking now you can give the landowner time to think about the situation. He may say no initially, but a lot can happen between now and fall. Maybe the guy who has been hunting his place moves to another part of the country, or the landowner finally gets tired of the deer eating his shrubs. Whatever the situation, it is important to let landowners know you are interested.
The best place to look for hunting permission is among non-hunting family members, workplace acquaintances, and other non-hunting friends. I emphasize non-hunting friends because asking friends who hunt for hunting permission is sort of like asking a baby for his piece of candy. The response usually isn’t that positive. Networking is the name of the game here. You never know who your cousin or aunt might be in contact with, or who their friends are. The idea is to get the word out to relatives and friends. It is a lot easier to get onto land when you come with a recommendation from someone who knows someone. This is a lot more likely than permission by knocking on doors, which is the most difficult way to gain access.
Nonetheless, it is definitely the time of year to visit landowners and ask for hunting permission. There are a bunch of options here. One way is to knock on doors. The most important thing when doing this is to represent yourself and hunting as positively as possible. Dress casually and nicely. Camouflage might be a fashion statement in your circles, but it’s better not to wear it while seeking permission. Always be polite, even if the door is slammed in your face. Always try to hand the landowner a business card, perhaps attached to short resume of sort that outlines your hunting and outdoor interests. This way they will have something in hand to contact you, even if they initially say no. And remember, in heavily hunted areas over ninety percent of attempts to gain permission like this will result in denial. This is just part of the game, look at it like attempting to land a great job. Even if you have a list of twenty landowners you still want to visit and a landowner asks you to sit down for a few minute, by all means take the time to sit and chat. The other landowners can wait, and when someone is willing to talk to you they are certainly thinking of granting you access.
A second way to approach landowners is by getting a small mailing in their mailbox, informing them of your intentions and requesting an appointment to visit. Give them an easy way to reply and say no, but also be aware that if you get responses from a mailing almost all such responses will be positive.
Establishing relationships is critical. One way to gain deer hunting permission is to ask permission to do something else. One way to get on the good side of a lot of farmers is to ask for permission to hunt coyotes. Most farmers aren’t that fond of the wild dogs, and will happily grant permission to hunt them. After you show the farmer that you can kill a coyote or two, and are respectful of his land, and are an interesting individual, the doors might gradually open for deer hunting. If you have other hobbies, such as small game hunting, or turkey hunting, looking for mushrooms, or even photography these are all legitimate options for land access that are far less competitive than deer hunting, and will more likely be granted. Make sure you actually like to do the things you ask permission for. Most landowners are fairly people savvy and they will see right through you if your request is a mere guise to gain deer hunting access. The takeaway here is that by establishing relationships with landowners your chances of gaining hunting permission increase.
At any rate, there are countless more options for trying to gain permission, many of which I cover in detail in my books. The point is that now is the time to start thinking about where you are going to be hunting next fall.
– Chris Eberhart, BowhuntingWildFood.com
If you want more great whitetail hunting information like this, check out Chris’ latest book, Bowhunting Whitetails The Eberhart Way