Finding a place to hunt can be really tough. Here are a few tips that might help you get onto that prime habitat.
by Leon Pantenburg
When I was growing up in Iowa, my dad and several of my uncles were farmers. My access to good hunting in Central Iowa was virtually guaranteed.
My hunting party, which generally consisted of me, my brother Mike and Bob Patterson, had the hunting thing down. (We generally hit my Aunt Edna and Uncle Henry Adams’ place about mid-morning. We’d stop by the house first to say “Hi” and let them know where we would be hunting. Edna would have cinnamon rolls and coffee ready by the time we checked back in!)
But others weren’t so lucky. On opening day of pheasant season, our farm house would be swamped with people wanting to hunt the cornfields.
Dad and my uncles might or might not give access to hunters, and whether or not permission was granted depended on a lot of variables.
Here are some hunting access tips I picked up.
Start early: Scouting for prime hunting spots needed to start well before the opening day. Make a list of locations, and plan out a hunting route. Don’t spend opening day driving from farm to farm and road hunting. Decide where you hope to hunt, then go visit the landowner before the season starts.
Unless absolutely necessary, don’t ask on opening day: Landowners are typically swamped on opening day with people they’ve never seen before wanting access. It gets so bad in Iowa sometimes, that farmers put signs on their mailboxes stating words to the effect of: “Don’t even bother to ask.”
Assuming there is no sign, it’s time to make
The initial contact:
Make a good first impression: NEVER have a firearm in view when you’re talking to a farmer. Your hunting clothes may be patched and worn (Mine are!) but you don’t need to look like a bum. You are trying to show the landowner that you are a responsible person, and worthy of using his land.
Introduce yourself and state what you want: Don’t waste the landowner’s time. If permission is refused, thank him or her politely, and wish them a good day.
Take a kid hunting: Youngsters need to learn how to approach land owners. Take the kid with you when you go to ask permission. They need to learn the ropes, and besides, most farmers are really open to the idea of letting kids hunt.
If it looks like the landowner may be leaning toward granting you access, then:
Establish credibility: Present a card with your phone number, vehicle license plate number and contact info. Point out that you appreciate the opportunity to hunt the land, and that you respect his property.
Here’s something that really helps. Bring up that you will absolutely close every gate, and that you know how to cross a fence.
Nothing hacks off a farmer faster than seeing someone crawling over the wire between two posts. That stretches the wire, and makes the fence sag. Cross right next to a post, and before climbing unload your firearm. EVERY time.
Offer to build up some sweat equity: Farmers generally need seasonal help. Offer to invest some time working for the farmer in exchange for hunting privileges. You’d be surprised how well this works. Even if the landowner doesn’t have something for you to do, he may be impressed that you offered.
If you’re allowed to hunt, treat it like a precious, perishable privilege, which it is. Ask or check in every time you hunt on the land.
Leave the property better than when you found it: Come back to your vehicle with a garbage bag full of trash you picked up and that is bound to make a landowner smile. If the roads are muddy, walk. Don’t tear up the land.
Stop in at the end of the hunt, and let the landowner know you’re gone, and thank them again.
Then, during the off season:
Remember the landowner: If you’ve harvested a deer, take them some backstrap or steaks. Share the birds or waterfowl you’ve harvested.
Send a Christmas card, along with a small gift – after all, being able to hunt on private property is someone’s gift to you. Respect and appreciate it, and you may be able to use that gift for years.