Securing permission is by far one of the biggest hurdles we as hunters may face. Getting an edge on a target buck you’re after is a challenge, but for guys still trying to acquire a place to hunt – the struggle is real. Sure, you get lucky now and then, but the same can be said with killing a big buck or catching a big fish. Once you land yourself permission to hunt a solid piece of private, consider yourself lucky, but far from comfortable.
One of the most common feelings to come over me whenever I score permission to hunt good private is – worry. With hunting pressure at an all-time high, and with me living within proximity to largely populated cities, most private along the main roadways already have hunters. When I finally get the nod of approval to hunt a chunk all to myself, the reality is I just got lucky. Without a written check and a contract, your permission is at-will and can be revoked at any time and without reason. So, preserve it.
Life is hectic, for some more than others, but make time to write the landowner expressing gratitude for their permission granted and be sure to reinforce your intention is to earn their trust and demonstrate good faith.
One of the easiest patterns to get on as a by permission only private land hunter is dropping by and delivering a care package for most major holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Memorial Day. Remember, if you only exist during hunting season to someone who hardly knows you from “Adam”, you might find out the hard way how easy it is to be forgotten. Stopping by and delivering a basket of goodies near major holidays for all four seasons will demonstrate your friendly nature, appreciation, and the in-person presence will hit home that much more than something dropped in a mailbox or left on a doorstep.
A lesson my father taught me when I was still in my single digits was to always leave a place looking cleaner than when you got there. I can’t tell you how many bags of trash I’ve cleaned up along the roadways bordering lands I’ve been fortunate to hunt through the years, but it’s too many to count. It’s gross, it’s annoying, and it’s sad that garbage adds up the way it does, but when you’re hunting good land for free it’s the least you can do as a favor to the landowner.
I don’t recommend calling the landowner to brag about your good deed, but I definitely like to let them know in less gregarious ways. For example, you might take a quick picture of the trash you collected on your phone and include a recognizable background scene of the land in the image, then text it to your landowner with a short indirect caption, like “Can you believe the amount of trash people throw out of their windows?” This way you’re demonstrating one way you’re adding value to your presence on their land by the picture, and the caption is friendly and personable.
Probably the most important tip of all is to always live up to your word. If you say you’ll avoid driving on the fields, don’t drive on the fields. If you say you’ll avoid putting nails in their trees, simply don’t put nails in the trees. It’s amazing how many times I’ve heard landowners tell me stories about past tenants of the land who abandoned their word and took advantage of their permission.
Remember, everyone knows someone who hunts. It could be family, or a friend, or someone willing to pull out the checkbook to take over rights to hunt the land you’re hunting for free. Preserve it.