Tips For Gaining Landowner Permission To Hunt

Accessing private land is possible!

After being turned down many times, I finally knocked on the door of a landowner who said the magic words, “Yes, you can turkey hunt on my land.”

Some landowners believe there will be future headaches if they give permission to hunt on their property. They have concerns about things such as personal injury lawsuits, property damage or being overrun with outsiders. But with a little effort, it is possible to gain access to those areas posted “No Trespassing.”

Find Out Who Owns The Land
Once you decide where you hope to hunt, your most valuable tool is a plat book, which lists landowners and property boundaries. Start at the local courthouse to get one. If they do not offer plat books, they can direct you to the proper resource.

Private land can sometimes be accessed, if the hunter is willing to put forth the effort. (Photo by John and Vikki L. Trout)

Some farmers rent parcels of land from owners who may live in another area. The plat book or courthouse can offer the contact information you need for them. For instance, I was interested in a property in southern Indiana. The landowner lived in another state and told me she would get in touch with the farmer that leased the fields. If he agreed to let me hunt, she would let me know and provide his contact information. I did not know if I would ever hear another word from her. However, she called me back with the good news, and I wasted no time contacting the farmer!

Stop By And Visit Owner
It is never a good idea to arrive unannounced at someone’s front door. However, when you are trying to obtain hunting rights, calling ahead can be detrimental. You may get a negative response just because it’s easy for the landowner to say “no” on the phone. Putting a name with a face makes it more personal and can work to your advantage.

Also, I believe seeing a woman at the door is not as intimidating as a lone man. Even if my husband is going to do the talking, he prefers to have me standing at the door alongside him.

I make it a point to arrive at the landowner’s home dressed respectively, usually in the midmorning or midafternoon. Then, I start the conversation by introducing myself and telling them I understand they control the property I’m seeking permission to hunt.

Most people naturally assume if a woman appears at the door seeking hunting rights, there will be at least one other hunter with her. Let the landowner know from the beginning if you intend to hunt alone or if another person will accompany you.

He or she may tell you their family hunts the land, or offer a plethora of other valid excuses why you can’t hunt. If this happens, smile nicely and offer your name and phone number, should they change their minds or have more questions. They also may decide at a later time to grant you permission.

Permission Granted, Now What?
I make it a point to type all my important contact information and vehicle model on a notecard before heading to the landowner’s home. Then, if you obtain trespassing rights, you can hand that card to the person before leaving.

Most landowners also like to know when you will be on the property, so I tell them the days and times I plan to hunt before they ask. There have been times (especially during spring turkey season) that inclement weather prohibited hunting. Letting the farmer know this; asking if it’s OK to come another day fosters good will.

Respecting their property is a must. Ask about places you can park, enter or exit the property to avoid damaging fields or getting in the way. Farmers don’t appreciate you walking through a freshly planted field, for example.

As hunters, it is our responsibility to display high moral and ethical standards to landowners and/or farmers. We may want to approach them on another day to pursue other species.

The Domino Effect
Obtaining permission to trespass/access private land requires more effort than setting up on public hunting land. But with the steady increase in turkey hunters and hunting leases, public lands have grown more crowded, more difficult to hunt, and less rewarding. Many states have expressed concerns about leases and the resulting increased hunting pressure on public land.

According to Steve Backs, wildlife research biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, leases have led to overcrowding on public land.

“Indiana has seen an increase in the amount of leasing,” said Backs. “One or two people often lease a tract of land once hunted by 10- or 12 people, which force the rest of the hunters to public land.”

Building Relationships
The relationship we build with the landowner will affect our future turkey hunting privileges as well as other hunting rights we may request. It also shows that we take our hunting seriously. I would suggest you avoid taking someone else hunting if they were not previously mentioned to the landowner. That is an automatic red flag and often a future rejection for you.

Getting permission to turkey hunt means turkeys only. Do not take it for granted that it’s alright to enter their land to hunt deer, mushrooms, or anything else! If you want to go back, clear it with the landowner first. They will really appreciate that you not trying to take advantage of their hospitality.

Once your hunting season is over, I feel a “thank you” note goes a long way. Usually, in the note, I place a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Other ways of saying thanks could be offering a breast from your turkey if you are successful. They may tell you to keep your meat so then something else such as a fruit basket or ham delivered to their door, would be appreciated and appropriate.

Just remember that a “thank you” of some sort is vitally important. They have opened up their land to us and we owe them something for the opportunity. Also, pleasing one landowner could lead to an outstanding opportunity from their neighbor. It’s always helpful to tell a landowner’s neighbor that “John Doe” has already granted permission. This makes it easier for them to say “Yes” since they know the person.

Good luck in your quest to gain permission to hunt private land!

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