Column: Gain private land permission sooner, not later

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Gaining permission to hunt on private properties is a good way to search for bucks like the one above which Jimmy Rowan took in rural Monroe County. While many hunters wait until the last minute to attempt to gain permission, it’s a good idea to start now so you can have your ideal hunting spots picked out for next season.

By Brandon Butler

Obtaining permission to hunt on private land is a growing concern many of us share. It’s becoming harder and harder. Too many hunters wait until the months just before deer season to try and acquire permissions, but now is the time to start working on your next great hunting spot.

Indiana hunters are fortunate to have the opportunity to pursue game on our state’s public lands. While we should all take great pride in our state forests, state recreation areas and fish & wildlife areas, it remains a fact that the majority of hunting in Indiana takes place on privately owned ground.

Gaining permission to hunt on privately owned land is a challenge hunters face all too often. Questions such as; who to ask, how to approach land owners, and where to seek permission often deter hunters from tackling the challenge of attempting to acquire permission to hunt privately owned ground.

The vast majority of Indiana’s general population understands and accepts the fact that hunting is necessary for controlling Indiana’s wildlife populations. Farmers are advocates of hunting as a means of population control.

They appreciate hunters reducing crop damage. Many motorists drive in constant fear of a deer/vehicle collision. Therefore, quite a few landowners are willing to grant permission for hunting on their property, if they are comfortable with the person asking. Obtaining permission to hunt private land may not be as difficult as you might believe.

“I have been on both sides of the fence,” Jackson County deer hunter and landowner David Ray said. “Before I owned my own hunting ground, I was forced to seek permission for places to hunt from private land owners. Now, the people who I let hunt my ground, are family and friends who pitch in and help maintain the ground all year long.”

Confidence is built from experiencing success. A family member or close personal friend who owns a tract of potential hunting land is a great resource for acquiring permission to hunt on private land. Start with the people you know or people with whom you share a mutual connection. There is a better chance they’ll say yes than a stranger. Any success in obtaining permission will help build your confidence for approaching unacquainted landowners.

Try to understand how a landowner is going to assess your request to utilize their resource. What risk will be involved for the landowner? Will the landowner experience any hardship from your presence? What is their benefit of having you on their land? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself and prepare answers for prior to approaching a landowner to discuss possible hunting permission.

“The idea of allowing someone you don’t know to hunt your ground makes you nervous,” landowner Steve Wisely said. “I want to be sure I can trust them before I allow them access to my place.”

Inside of all of us, there is at least a little bit of a salesman. Selling yourself to a landowner as a person they should feel comfortable having on their property should be an easy sales pitch for you, if you honestly believe yourself to be an ethical hunter and a moral individual. You know yourself better than anyone. Hopefully you understand and follow all game laws, act responsibly with weapons, and portray a conservationist’s respect for wildlife.

So ask yourself, “Why should the land owner allow me to hunt their land?” Your answers should be included in your pitch to the landowner. If you do not have family or friends capable of providing you with private ground to hunt, and therefore must seek permission from unknown landowners, there is much you can do to tip the scale in your favor when a landowner considers whether or not to grant you permission.

“I always try to present myself in the most professional way possible,” Indiana hunter Jason Yack said. “I’ve never owned ground, and neither has anyone in my family, so I have always had to acquire permission from strangers. I try to look like someone I would let hunt my ground if the situation was reversed.”  

First impressions are extremely important. When you approach a landowner, he or she is going to see you before they speak to you. By the time your mouth opens, their impression of you will already be forming. Look presentable. Wear clothing to match the atmosphere. Don’t wear a suit to a farm and don’t wear a ripped up shirt to a family home.

Hunting on a private piece of property is a privilege you should take seriously. Ask the landowner if there is anything you can do to repay them for allowing you access to their property. A good relationship benefits all parties. Do your part to bring benefit to the relationship and you may have found yourself a great piece of private ground to hunt for years to come.

See you down the trail…

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