Retro WON: The Etiquette of How to Hunt on Private Land
There are only three valid reasons for not hunting right now when so many seasons are in play: You don’t like to hunt, you cannot physically hunt or you can’t find a place to hunt. Of course, you can hunt on public lands, if you’re willing to go where no man has been – which often means trekking in miles and miles in hopes of finding game hunkered down there. What about finding access on private land? Some states actually offer listings of private property landowners who are participating in state habitat programs. That’s always a good way to find places.
But once you’ve found a place, then what? What is common courtesy for hunting on private lands? After all, it’s usually someone’s home.
The WON’s publisher Barbara Baird, along with blogger Marti Davis on a successful dove hunt a few years ago. The doves made an excellent pan of enchiladas and came courtesy of a private landowner in southern Missouri.
Thanks to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, here are some great tips on how to ask for permission and etiquette for hunting on private property.
- Obtain permission to hunt several farms. This assures you of a place to hunt if others are using the property or the landowner is not home.
- Always obtain permission well in advance of the time you plan to hunt. Plan your visit early in the evening when the landowner, especially if a farmer, is likely to be home. If you will scout the area before hunting season, also request permission for that time.
- Ask for permission by yourself or with one other person; do not take your hunting party up to the door. When approaching the landowner or family for permission, NEVER carry your gun and keep any dogs in your vehicle.
- If you cannot visit the landowner, write an appropriate and friendly letter. Do not stick a note on the door. Your letter may request a date/time to talk in person, or you can make arrangements by mail or telephone. Do so at the landowner’s preference.
- Be prepared to provide your name and contact information and the dates and times when you would like to hunt a described portion of their land (e.g., the back 40 acres of the woods and cropland). Landowner may limit party size, off-road vehicles or other aspects.
- Ask if there are crop fields or areas of the farm that should not be hunted.
- Never shoot near farm buildings or where any people or livestock are living. Observe all safety zone areas — 450 feet from possibly inhabited structures.
- Leave any gates you encounter the way you found them. If a gate is open, leave it open after you pass through. If a gate is closed, close it after you pass through.
- Do not leave any trash. If you find litter already there, pick it up.
- When the hunt is over, always thank landowners. They then will know that you have left the farm and will not worry about you being lost or stuck on their property.
- Offer landowners a portion of your harvest off their land, such as a portion of venison once your game is cleaned (or butchered). This gesture will help your relationship with the landowner. It also may help provide others with hunting opportunities from this landowner, and it helps build a positive image of hunting.
The WON’s Marti Davis muzzleload hunts on private property for deer in Southern Illinois. We know she appreciates it and often helps the landowners with projects on their property. Photo courtesy of Marti Davis
Please visit the Michigan DNR’s website for more information on hunting private lands.
I’d like to add five other tips to the list:
- After the hunt, pen a thank you note to the owners. Mail it.
- Remember the owners at Christmas with a card and perhaps, a small gift. Remember that jalapeno and cheese venison sausage you had made with the big buck from their property? Now’s the time to give them a three-pound stick of it. Maybe throw in some water crackers and Stilton, too.
- Or, how about buying the owners a nice (talking at least $30) bottle of wine if they imbibe. Drop it off in a gift bag with a thank you note before their holiday season begins.
- Did you take any photos of their property or wildlife while you were on it? Why don’t you have notecards made for them of that shot? Or a collection of shots? Lots of places offer this service. (But, please, no trophy shots with you front and center, or that dead buck with his tongue hanging out.)
- Offer sweat equity services for the future. Does the landowner need help with a project, like tearing down a fence or putting in a food plot? If you have a good back and aren’t willing to give up a Saturday? Go for it.
Unless you are a property owner yourself, you cannot imagine what a risk it is to allow people to hunt on your land. Reward these folks for their trust in you and never break it. Make them feel special, and that they are doing their part for conservation by allowing you to hunt their land.
This Retro WON first appeared on September 10, 2015.
Do you hunt on public or private land?
About Barbara Baird
Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. She is a contributing editor at "SHOT Business," and her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications, including NRA, NSSF and Field & Stream.
View all posts by Barbara Baird