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Getting (and Keeping) Permission to Hunt

March 11, 2014
By Ralph Scherder - Hunting Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

With the increased interest in out-of-state hunting, as well as the nationwide increase in posted property, gaining access to good hunting areas can be very competitive. Many landowners allow hunting by permission, but only give it to a select few. However, with a little courtesy, you can tip the scales in your favor and gain access to excellent deer hunting and maintain it for many years.

Before asking for permission, know where you want to hunt. Road trips serve several purposes. First, they give you an idea of the lay of the land. How much of it is wooded? How much is fields? Second, they provide an opportunity for rough scouting. Early mornings and evenings are great times to catch deer out feeding in the fields and in meadows. A little snow on the ground also helps with scouting, which is why February can be a great time to head afield and find new hunting areas.

Tracks in the snow help you figure out how and where deer are accessing the property. Numbers and size of tracks let you know how many mature deer will be there next season.

February and March are great times to ask for permission for other reasons, too. First of all, farmers have more time during these months to actually talk to you about their land. And second, once permission is gained, early spring is a great time to start looking for shed antlers. Nothing gets you more excited for next season than finding shed antlers of bucks still roaming the property you have permission to hunt.

When seeking new hunting territory, narrow down your choices to only the best deer cover. After all, there's no sense getting permission to hunt poor habitat.

Once you've targeted an area, now comes the tough part knocking on doors. Sure, it's easy to present myself like the absolute professional when I'm talking to my reflection. However, when I first started knocking on doors in West Virginia and other states, I lost focus, saying everything but what I'd planned to say. Part of the reason was that the areas looked so good and I wanted to hunt there so bad that I was worried about getting rejected. The fear of rejection made me lose my focus, which did not improve my chances at all.

Fact Box

Before asking for permission, know where you want to hunt. Road trips serve several purposes.

A good remedy is to chew gum. Chewing gum relaxes you and helps reduce anxiety. Collect your thoughts before even getting out of the truck.

Presenting yourself takes practice. You won't get it right the first time, unless you're a natural salesman. And that's exactly what asking for permission is a sales pitch. Persuading the landowner that you're responsible and will respect the land and its animals.

But most of us are not natural salesmen, so we need to formulate a plan that will capitalize on our strengths and increase our chances of success. Let's start with the sales pitch.

What do you say to a landowner who gets dozens of hunters on their doorstep every year? Here's how I like to do it: "Hello, sir, I'm sorry to bother you. My name is" The apology doesn't win me many brownie points, but a little consideration never hurts.

As my spiel unfolds, I talk slowly and include only the necessary facts. Typically, after the introduction, I let them know I'm looking for permission to hunt. Also, it's important to tell landowners up front what method of hunting I'll be doing. Some landowners will not let gun hunters on their property, while others frown on bowhunters.

Occasionally, no matter what weapon you choose to hunt with, you'll meet an unfriendly face. Knock on enough doors and you're bound to come across someone who does not approve of hunting. Take it in stride, tip your cap and walk away. It won't do any good to banter with someone who doesn't understand your passion and who won't allow you to hunt there anyway.

Another thing to keep in mind when asking permission is to start small. Ask to hunt only part of a landowner's property. In the Midwest my friend Dan asked permission to hunt a farmer's land. The farmer got a bewildered expression on his face and said, "All of it?"

What Dan didn't know was that the farmer had 5,200 acres. So now Dan asks to hunt only some of their property. This has increased his odds significantly, since landowners are more willing to share part of their property rather than all of it, at least at first. Later on they may give you access to wherever you desire.

Okay, let's say you've secured permission to hunt a place. It's not an easy task, especially if you're trying to find places in highly-competitive areas. Even in West Virginia I've had problems gaining access to prime territory. Many landowners are also hunters, and they're not quick to let other hunters on their property.

Ideally, I like to secure permissions long before the start of the season. Wait too long and I know I'll be knocking on doors at the same time other hunters are making their rounds. Many landowners allow only a certain amount of hunters each year, and I want to be the first they give permission to.

Once a landowner has given the nod, don't push for too many details. Usually the only question I need to ask is where I should NOT hunt. They'll point out the back door and give rough directions, seldom more than that. As long as I know where the property boundaries are, and where I shouldn't be, I can figure out the rest.

Keeping permission to hunt is a matter of courtesy. Rarely will a landowner suddenly decide not to let you hunt the property without reason. Still, there are a few things you can do to solidify your hunting spot.

If you've gained permission before deer season, it's important to let the landowner know when you intend to start hunting there, or when you plan to scout. Also, at the end of the season, it's important to let them know when you're leaving. You've got to take time to say good-bye. Leave a thank you note if they're not home. Keep in touch throughout the year and don't let that door close. It'll be too hard to open it again.



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