By Dan Johnson
For me April means two things, turkey hunting and finding new property to hunt. If you’re like me you don’t own your own property, you can’t afford to lease property, and you weren’t blessed by being born into a family that owns a large amount of hunting ground. Looks like your only other options are outfitters and public land… The fact is, if you want to avoid the rigors of public land hunting there is plenty of private property out there for you to hunt, and all you have to do is find it. And here is what you do once you do find it.
The days of randomly rolling up to a farm and asking who owns the property behind the house is over. With several mapping resources to choose from, all you have to do is spend a little time behind the keyboard and in no time you will know the name of the property owner, where they live, the property boarders, and how many acres they own. Almost every county in the U.S. now has some form of digital mapping for public use. If you can’t find it through a Google search you should be able to contact the county assessor’s office and they should have the information.
Why is this information important? Because the more information you can bring with you to the first meeting between you and the landowner the better. Be prepared to answer questions regarding the hunting seasons, when they start and end, how much and what seasons you plan on hunting, and the ability to discuss some of the other important regulations. If you come off as someone who sounds educated about what they are asking to do, the better chance you have of gaining access to that property.
I hate to say it, but Facebook can offer some useful information as well. Here is my example. After I found out who the property owner of a particular property was I jumped on Facebook and did some creepin’. I was able to pull up the landowner’s profile where I noticed that he was a huge fan of Iowa wrestling. When I finally made it to his farm to ask for permission I was sure to wear my wrestling t-shirt and even bring it up in conversation. We literally talked about the sport for almost an hour before I brought up bow hunting. He mentioned he already had a couple other guys who were hunting on the property along with some family members. We continued to talk a while longer about hunting before I took off. But he did say one thing before I left, “Come back next summer and we’ll see if we can make some room for you.” My foot was in the door.
The Don’t List
This isn’t rocket science. The following is a list of things that I feel NOT to do when asking for permission:
o Don’t chew tobacco.
o Don’t swear – Your mom should have taught you that
o Don’t correct or disagree with them – remember you’re there to get permission to hunt not debate them on their beliefs.
o Don’t dress like a preppy – because I hunt on a lot of farmland and spent half my life growing up on a farm, people who show up unannounced who are dressed well tend to have an agenda. At the same time don’t show up looking homeless or unkempt.
o Don’t waste their time – if they seem busy, get to the point and get out of their hair. On the other hand if they feel chatty and want to talk, don’t rush to end the conversation.
o Don’t beat around the bush – be as specific as possible and let them know exactly what your intentions are. Being vague will only hurt you, if you only ask to “hunt” they may say no even though the only other hunters on the property are during the gun season.
o Don’t mess up – you may only get one chance to prove yourself with a landowner. If you leave a gate open, make ruts in the fields, or cause any sort of damage to their property… good chance you are done.
o Don’t be lazy – ask if there is anything you can do to help. This will show them you are serious about hunting. I have fixed several gates, installed and programmed a satellite dish, picked up fallen trees, fixed a flat tractor tire, and the list goes on.
o Don’t get upset when they tell you “NO” – even if they don’t have any hunters using their property it’s still their property and they can do whatever they want with it. Don’t take it personally. It’s almost like you have to come up with a sales pitch to convince them to let you on. It’s up to you to figure that out, each situation is different.
By now I’m used to it. Throughout my life, specifically college, I was told “no” several times. But, I didn’t give up. The hardest part of this whole process is to knock on the door. I have had this conversation with several people over the years and it seems like they try to come up with an excuse on why to not knock on the door. Two summers ago after moving to a new county I did my research and spent two different weekends knocking on doors. I ended up asking for permission to bow hunt on 22 different properties and was told “NO” 22 different time. But at least I had a 50/50 chance. If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No”.
Second, don’t give up. I was told “no” for two years in a row before I got permission on what is now my best farm. If you are serious about getting on a particular property try to find a way through other avenues. Ask to turkey hunt or shed hunt. These seem to be less popular activities but allows you the opportunity to prove yourself to the landowner, thus giving you an opportunity for future deer hunting permission. When it’s all said and done they have to be able to trust you.
Stop complaining about not having any hunting property or how crappy hunting on public land is. What are you going to do to change your odds? If knocking on a handful of doors means you would have a chance on your best buck to date, would you do it?
The best time of year to start obtaining new ground is right now! Shed hunting and turkey hunting is your perfect foot in the door. Get off your butt and warm up you wrist… we all have a lot of knocking to do.