12 Tips for Getting Permission to Hunt on Private Land

Guest Post by Ross Burgess

If it seems to you there’s less public land available to hunt, you are correct. In many states, 97-98% of the land is privately owned. Don’t take a chance by assuming untended land is open for you to hunt, as you could run into a posted sign or a disgruntled owner.

Trying to hunt on private land is no picnic either, since it’s so hard to identify who might own a specific tract of land. Locating owners and asking for permission to hunt with your favorite hunting knives can seem next to impossible when faced with thousands of owners of small plots. Remain patient, because the benefits to hunting on private land are endless. 

Owning land isn’t the only way to have access to private hunting. The landowner can permit you to hunt there. In most states, that permission must be in writing and granted within the last twelve months.  

There’s a right way to go about asking for access to private property. It’s a unique privilege to enter someone’s land. Once you secure it, keep it by doing everything you agreed to do for access. 

  1. Do Some Research

Figure out where you want to hunt. Research the land, get to know the property boundaries, and figure out who you need to contact for permission to access the land. 

  1. Prepare a Written Introduction

Think of it as a resume or a letter of introduction. It should include your contact information, any credentials like your hunting experience, and proof your license is current. If you’ve ever attended a safety class, include that background information as well. Perhaps you can include contact information for a reference on who can vouch for you. 

  1. Seek Permission in Advance

Start as early as you can before the season starts. It may take a week to drum up contact information and even longer to get a response. Don’t show up with your equipment and a hunting dog and ring the doorbell. Owners who are forced to make a snap decision will almost always say no to the prospect of an armed stranger on their private land. 

Don’t enter any property without written permission. Most owners won’t take kindly to you trespassing on their land and asking for forgiveness. 

  1. Sometimes It’s Who You Know

Use a hunting app or online ownership records to identify the landowner. If you don’t recognize the owner, check your social media accounts and see if you have any common contacts. If that isn’t successful, send an email to your local friends and family to see if anyone knows the person or could manage to introduce you. Any type of connection is more likely to result in permission than a cold phone call or surprise visit to the front door. 

  1. How You Ask Is Important

Make your approach as friendly as possible. Start with a letter or a phone call introducing yourself rather than showing up as a surprise guest on the doorstep. If you can’t find contact information, show up in the daylight in clean clothes, having had a shower. Be considerate of the owner’s time by being prepared and brief. Show up alone or with your spouse.

  1. Respectfully Accept No 

If the landowner denies you access to the property, remain polite and offer to leave your written credentials in case they reconsider. Thank them for their time and don’t request an explanation if one isn’t offered. 

Landowners may have had a bad experience with hunters appearing without permission or damaging their property. They don’t need to justify their reasons to you, but they may give you an indication of their reasoning you can work around. Perhaps they want to reserve the deer hunting rights for themselves, and you intend to introduce a young hunter into the sport with smaller game like rabbits or birds. It may be possible your interests are compatible, or you can work your way into bigger game after you’ve built a relationship. Regardless of the size of the game, ensure you are equipped with a variety of hunting knives, ready for any situation. 

  1. Graciously Accept Yes

Agree to respect any restrictions or limitations that the owner requests. Describe your hunting philosophy and how that affects the land on which you hunt. Ask if there are restricted hunting areas and inquire about parking access and which trails and roads are available. Ask questions about anything that is unclear and take notes. 

Offer assistance and show appreciation by sharing products or parts, like sausage, jerky, or antlers. Send a thank you note or Christmas card each year to acknowledge the agreement. 

  1. Get to Know Them

Find out about the family members who live on the property and check in with them a few times a year. You don’t have to become friends with them but remain friendly and open to contact. Find out if any other hunters have access to the property and offer to stick to a schedule to avoid overhunting. 

Ask about game patterns, eating habits, and where game typically bed down. Inquire about any permanent blinds or stands and whether or not you can set up any. Discuss lines of sight and pruning of trees before taking any action. 

  1. Renew Your Request Every Year

Whether your state requires a formal written agreement or not, check in with the landowner during the off-season. Send a quick note or just make a phone call to see if anything has changed. Never assume your permissions are good from year to year, even if the landowner has cleared access for years at a time. Changes in health status can come about quickly, rendering previous agreements null and void. 

  1.  Make It Easy on the Landowner

Let the landowner know when you will arrive and depart and how many people are in your party. Check in each time before you hunt and check out when you leave the property. Provide all this information each time you arrive, along with your address, phone number, and vehicle make, model, color, and license plate. This will save them from having to look it up in case of an emergency. 

  1.  Follow All Rules and Laws

Hunt safely and ethically. Pick up after yourself and avoid crops and buildings. Respect the property and care for it as if it were yours. Don’t damage the fences, straighten any fence posts that are leaning and close all gates you go through. Report any damage you see when you leave. 

  1.  Have a Safety Plan

Don’t assume the landowner is responsible for your safety. Many landowners have a reasonable fear of being held liable for hunters on their land. It is possible an accident could produce a lawsuit. On the other hand, having permission and a good relationship with the landowner can be helpful in the case of an accident, as help is nearby. 

Conclusion

To enjoy the benefits of hunting on private land, request permission in the right way. Find out about the land and its owners and try to establish a personal connection. Consider it a gentleman’s agreement and live up to the landowner’s requirements for access. It’s a privilege from which both parties can benefit. 

Bio: Ross Burgess is the business operations manager for eKnives. When he’s not working or writing, you can find him hunting, hiking the trails or just spending time outdoors with his wife Linda, and their dog Rory.


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