Ask almost any sportsman and they’ll tell you:
Hunting is more than just a sport. It’s a way of life.
There’s simply no better way to surround yourself in the beauty of the natural world as you escape the hustle and bustle of the daily grind.
And good relations between hunters and landowners are essential for preserving the future of hunting and conserving the great outdoors for generations to come.
While hunting is permitted on many public lands, which are managed by federal and state authorities, a large percentage takes place on private property. In fact, about 90% of whitetail deer harvested in the United States are hunted on private land.
There are several best practices you’ll want to follow if you’re planning a hunting excursion on privately owned land. From gaining permission to respecting basic hunting etiquette, knowing these tips ahead of time will ensure a better experience for you and the landowner.
- Know the Advantages of Hunting on Private Land
- Always Get Permission Ahead of Time
- Consider a Hunting Lease
- Protect the Landowner’s Property
- Respect Property Boundaries
- Leave No Trace
- Show Appreciation
- Ready to Plan Your Next Hunting Trip?
#1: Know the Advantages of Hunting on Private Land
About 60% of land in the U.S. is privately owned. That means private landowners play a critical role in wildlife conservation efforts, including land suitable for hunting.
Many owners are eager to showcase the beauty of their land. On top of that, hunting helps with land stewardship and wildlife management by preventing overpopulation of species which may interfere with crops or livestock. Owners can also earn extra income through hunting leases, in which hunters get access to the land in return for a rental fee.
#2: Always Get Permission Ahead of Time
Landowners are often bombarded with last-minute requests to hunt on their property.
Don’t let this be you.
Instead, make a good impression by requesting hunting access well in advance of your trip. Contact them weeks or even months ahead of time. If you call them by phone, do so during daytime business hours.
Be prepared to provide the landowner with important information such as:
- The number of individuals in your hunting party
- The species you will be hunting
- How long you plan to be there
- Verification that you have a hunting license
- Your knowledge of local hunting laws, seasons and bag limits
Ask the landowner if they have any rules or guidelines for hunters on their property.
#3: Consider a Hunting Lease
A hunting lease is a contract between a landowner and a hunter. It grants access to the land for a specified period of time for hunting game.
Lease hunting lets landowners maintain their natural resources while providing a vital source of income.
Hunters enjoy a welcoming environment and a safe atmosphere for enjoying the outdoors. Private lands often have well-managed game populations, and leasing can reduce competition from other hunters.
- Recreational rights, services and facilities included in the lease
- Names of lessors and lessees
- Description of property being leased
- Species to be hunted
- Terms of payment
- Duration of the lease
- Guest policy
- Description of permitted improvements, items that can be stored on the property
- Rules and restrictions
The cost of leasing land for hunting depends on a range of factors such as:
- Size and location of the property
- Type of game species
- Quality of habitat and hunting experience
- Size of hunting party, number of people
- Length of lease
- Amenities available
#4: Protect the Landowner’s Property
Follow the basics of hunting etiquette to make your trip an enjoyable experience for yourself and everyone else.
- Keep all gates as you found them: If you encounter an open gate on the property, leave it open. If you must pass through a closed gate, close it back afterward.
- Protect the land: Only drive your vehicle over designated roads or trails. Driving over open land may damage the soil and vegetation. Only set a fire in designated fire rings or grills, and carefully follow all fire safety rules.
- Protect crops and livestock. Farmers and ranchers often make a portion of their land available for hunting. Clean the undercarriage of your vehicle and take other precautions to avoid introducing noxious weeds. Stay away from livestock and don’t disturb any grazing or watering areas.
- Protect wildlife: Maintain a respectful distance from animals you see on your trip. Don’t disturb nests, burrows or similar areas. Bring a pair of binoculars in order to view wildlife safely from a distance.
- Respect fellow hunters: Be considerate of other guests who are present during your trip. Keep noise to a minimum and yield the trail when appropriate.
#5: Respect Property Boundaries
Before you begin your hunt, check with the landowner to see where you’re allowed to go. Farmers and ranchers in particular will most likely have areas that are off-limits to visitors.
And never venture onto someone else’s property without permission. If you need to cross a property line to retrieve your harvest, always obtain permission first.
#6: Leave No Trace
Abide by the principle of leaving the land as you found it.
That means never leaving any waste or damage behind. As a hunter you have a responsibility to preserve our natural environment. You also want to avoid tarnishing the landowner’s perception of hunters who use their land.
Bring a trash bag with you and carry out food scraps, packaging and other waste when you leave. If you accidentally cause any damage to the property, promptly notify the owner and offer to cover the cost of repairs.
#7: Show Appreciation
If you really want to make a good impression, send the landowner an old-fashioned thank-you note after your hunting trip.
It’s also appropriate to offer them a share of the game you harvested from their land.
And if you’d like to make a return visit, ask for permission ahead of time. Never assume you have an “open invitation” just because you’ve already been there!
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