EDITOR'S NOTE: Resident and nonresident hunters have questions about gaining access to private land for the purpose of hunting. Here's one long-time hunter's advice for establishing and maintaining relationships with landowners.
As hunting seasons open across the country, for antelope, elk, deer and small game, hunters will have spent hours upon hours improving their proficiency with their weapon of choice and organizing all the gear necessary to go on the hunt. I think my now-95-year-old Grandpa said it best recently. When talking about hunting, he said, “There is something that happens in a man’s brain with the fall comes. They have the desire to go on the hunt.”
Whether man, woman or child, the appeal to enjoy the outdoors is a heritage many of us do not take for granted as we long for those moments in the field. The draw to the outdoors is multi-generational, much like the properties and places where we hunt. Finding that perfect spot is a science and a task that often takes years to become reality.
The reality is not everyone can afford to buy their own dirt, especially as farm values have increased in recent years with strong ag commodities and recreational properties becoming highly valued. With purchasing as a second or even third option, what options do hunters have to find a place to hang their stand, set their blind or simply to enjoy the outdoors?
When I first started with the production of Wildlife Pursuit, I was hunting an area near Cooperstown, N.D., on some land owned by a local farmer/rancher. I had secured that right to hunt by making dozens of phone calls and asking around for any possible referrals. To gain access, I drove out to meet the owner in person and ask for his permission to hunt, fully communicating my plans and desires. I was crystal clear with who I may bring along, as well as asking him to communicate not only the property boundaries but his personal boundaries with his land. I knew that for this relationship to be a success, we had to discuss all possible items of conflict.
The relationship lasted many years until I was able to save up and buy my own small piece of land, where I hunt today. I still think about that property, all the memories created and how thankful I was for the landowner granting me access. It was his willingness to trust me and believe in my word that made it work. I never took it for granted.
I’ve often heard that finding places to hunt is extremely difficult and I think to some degree the landscape has in fact changed. With fewer acres in CRP, deer populations at lower levels, which equates to fewer hot spots, and land purchases harder to make happen, the challenge to find hunting ground is real. Yet I still believe we have lost the art of asking. The art of knocking on doors, explaining who you are and what you desire is still relevant. I believe we owe it to our children and future generations who learn from our actions. As we all know, the right door might just open and create an opportunity for years of great memories.