By Mark Kenyon
Thunder rolled and a flinch inducing crack echoed across the field as the cleaved edge of my blade came down hard on the log. A dark and rumbling storm was about to crash upon me, but I wasn’t going to let a bit of rain keep me from getting my job done.
Earlier this week, despite thick humidity, scorching temperatures and the aforementioned storm, I spent an afternoon cutting and splitting firewood and then stacking it in the back of my pickup. But rather than my usual destination, I was trucking this load down the road to a landowner. Specifically, a landowner who lets me hunt his property. This small act of service is just one small example of an art form that is sadly disappearing from the repertoire of most deer hunters today. That is the art of keeping hunting permission.
So why am I writing about keeping hunting permission today?
Because getting hunting permission is tough! You don’t need me to tell you that, but I’ll say it anyways. It’s tough, damn tough. In fact, more than anything else, I get dozens if not hundreds of emails from Wired To Hunt readers explaining that their greatest challenge is getting access to new hunting land. If you struggle with this too, as I do, I’d highly recommend you check out a couple resources we’ve created for Wired To Hunt, linked below:
That all said, you would think that since getting hunting permission is so difficult, folks would cherish those properties when they do get permission and do their very best to ensure they never lose them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Some hunters, after getting permission, don’t think again once about the landowners who granted them this privilege, or even worse, they explicitly disrespect that landowner and his/her property. The result of any of these offenses, in many cases, is lost hunting permission.
For this reason, I believe it’s incredibly important to make sure that if you get hunting permission, you do everything you can to keep it. That’s easier said than done though.
So how can you keep hunting permission? Well it’s simple, but a little complicated. But if you can follow the four rules below, you should be in a good position to hold on to the hunting spots you currently have.
1. Respect the landowner’s requests: This should go without saying, but I’ve heard stories that suggest otherwise. That said, if someone gives you hunting permission, but includes stipulations – you obviously need to abide. If they don’t want you using ATVs, deal with it. If they only want you hunting during bow season and not firearm season, make it work. If they ask that you only hunt while wearing pink rubber rain boots, head to the mall and get to shopping! (Unless you already own those … ?)
2. Respect the landowner’s property: Again, this should be a gimme. But please don’t turf a landowners yard, damage their crops, or do anything else that might destroy or damage their property, land or pride. Anyone giving you hunting permission is doing you a big favor and they deserve nothing but the best treatment from you.
3. Maintain Open Communications: It’s easy to get hunting permission, start hunting, and never talk to a landowner again. But this is a bad idea. If the landowner never develops a relationship with you, it becomes a lot of easier for them to pull your hunting permission or give out that permission to other people instead of you. Don’t give in to the temptation to sneak in and out of the property just to avoid a bothersome conversation. Take some time to have coffee with the landowner, talk about the weather, talk about how much you’ve enjoyed hunting here, and ask about their lives too. You never know where these conversations might lead to, but they almost always will help you in the long-run. It’s much easier to keep hunting permission on a friend’s property than it is on a stranger’s.
4. Show Your Appreciation: In addition to the very basics of being respectful and developing a relationship with the landowner, you should also try to do a little something extra to show your appreciation. For me recently that was delivering firewood and fresh vegetables from our garden, but the options on this front are endless. You could mow their lawn, get them a gift card, share venison with them, repair fences, pick up rocks from fields or do any other number of chores or projects on their farm or property. Whatever it is, I highly recommend you find someway to give back to the landowner and to show your thanks. A small service or gift can go a long way. Don’t get lazy and forget about this fourth and final step.
Keep Your Hunting Permission
So there you have it. Keeping hunting permission, or at least doing everything in your power to keep it, is relatively simple. Be respectful, build a relationship and show your appreciation. And while this won’t always work, this basic formula will definitely put you in the best position possible for keeping access to the hunting properties you have now. And if you still lose permission, due to whatever circumstances, it’s just time to get back out there and start all over again.
The process of getting and keeping hunting permission isn’t easy, but it’ll all be worth it when you’re sitting high in a tree, as the thunder rolls across the field and you spot those tall tines heading your way.