From Maine to Mississippi, the best whitetail woods are frequently ringed with posted signs. But no trespassing doesn’t always mean “no hunting.” Many landowners-if properly approached-will permit access. To make the most of these opportunities, savvy hunters have learned to interpret posted signs as potentially meaning “hunting by permission only.”
Studies have shown that most Americans have a neutral or positive opinion about hunting, yet are concerned about the behavior of individual hunters. The challenge, then, lies in convincing a stranger that you are a responsible sportsman. Your reward can be excellent hunting for unpressured deer, year after year.
Being polite, asking well before the deer season, and presenting a favorable impression of yourself and the sport are the first steps, but there’s much more you can do to get access. Here are seven tips:
Target your efforts. The more negative encounters a landowner has had with deer, the more likely he is to grant permission for hunting. Those who live in areas with high rates of Lyme disease, deer-vehicle collisions, or crop damage will benefit from deer removal. A call to the local game warden or state farm bureau can help identify areas with high deer complaints and in some cases can even produce the names of individual landowners. In such cases, stress your willingness to take does to help thin the herd.
**Tout your credentials. **If you have years of hunting experience, have completed a hunter-safety course, or teach firearms safety, say so. This is especially important when you’re approaching landowners in suburban areas who may have no understanding of hunting. A survey of Connecticut property owners found that they’re much more likely to allow hunting if they know that the person asking has completed a hunter-safety course.
Show you’re accountable. Prepare some 3×5-inch index cards with your name, address, phone number, and a description of your vehicle, and present one to each landowner you ask. Some will accept it, some won’t, but all will get the impression that you are not afraid to be held responsible for your actions and can therefore be trusted.
Know the law. Many landowners post their land primarily because they are concerned about being liable for accidents on their property. Yet most states have statutes that protect property owners if they do not charge a fee for access. Find out if your state does, and be prepared to cite the law.
Venerate venison. Landowner attitudes about hunting are much more favorable when they know that the meat is utilized. Talk about how much you and your family enjoy dining on lean, healthy venison.
Be persistent. Don’t get discouraged when a landowner says no. A high-school buddy never failed to secure a dance with a pretty girl because he kept asking until one said yes. Today he uses that same determination to gain access to deer-rich properties. Don’t hound individual landowners, of course. Just ask around until you succeed.
Be grateful. When you gain access to a productive property, express your appreciation. Stop by after the season and offer to share some of your harvest, or send a thank-you card around the holidays. When you return the following year, you will more than likely be warmly received.