How to hunt private land

Tips for Securing Private Land Access

October 5, 2022 by Leigh Hauck

Having reliable private land access can literally change your bowhunting life.

To be able to go out to an area that you know only you and maybe a few others are hunting, to be able to track and watch animals through the summer and fall while knowing nobody is going to spook them off the land.

There is no doubt that hunting private land increases success rates, hence the controversy that surrounds this topic.

Many feel that public land hunting is a more raw or real experience. There is no doubt that killing an animal with your bow on public land is quite the feat, and nothing can take away from what an accomplishment that is. But most hunters would never turn down the opportunity to hunt on private… why would you?

The problem, as we all know, is that private land access is extremely hard to come by and can sometimes feel like it is simple unattainable and not even worth pursuing.

I have been fortunate enough in my hunting career to have had good luck with private land access, but this has not come without a huge amount of trial, error, rejection, and persistence. I am going to break down seven tips that can help you find and keep private land access for next season, and literally change your bowhunting life.

How do you ask someone for permission to hunt on someone’s land?

Call early!

Whether you plan on calling landowners or driving up to their house to ask for permission, do it early. This is crucial to getting a landowner to say yes. I

f you plan on hunting in September, talk to them in July. It is highly unlikely that a landowner will say yes if you show up and ask to hunt that day, and fair enough!

We need to remember as bowhunters that when we are hunting private land we are essentially hunting on someone else’s home. You would probably want a bit of a heads up before someone just showed up at your house to hang out or have a coffee, right?

Should I call or drive to their house?

This is a tricky question to answer, and I don’t believe a perfect answer to this question exists.

I know multiple landowners who refuse to answer the phone for hunters and will not give access to anyone unless they come to their door and ask. I can totally respect the sentiment in this, it is about trust and respect.

Many landowners are quite old-school and want to meet you face-to-face and learn about who you are in person. Of course, it can be very intimidating driving down someone’s long driveway and knocking on their door to ask a huge favour, but many landowners see that as a courageous act that takes much more effort than just dialing them on the phone, and that could be your key to gaining access.

That being said, I understand it is not always practical to drive to someone’s house to ask for permission. What if the area you plan to hunt is in another state? What if you show up and they have a gated driveway?

Here is how I go about it: I make my phone calls first, but I don’t outright ask for permission on the phone. My first phone calls to landowners usually go something like this: “Hi there, how are you today? I’ve been looking at bowhunting in your area and was wondering if you would mind if I came out and introduced myself? I am not asking for permission right now, I can respect that I am a total stranger, but if you do consider allowing hunters, I would love to come introduce myself in person!”

You will know what the answer is right off the bat, and nine times out of ten if the answer is yes, they will not want to be bothered and just give you access on the phone. But the show of respect that a conversation like that can have may go a long way!

How do I ask permission to hunt on private land? 

Tip, Don’t wear camo!

If you do go up to someone’s door, don’t be wearing camo when you do it.

It can be an intimidating thing and indicate that you are looking to hunt that day. It gives off an impression that the only thing you care about is hunting. T

ake the focus off that and wear normal clothes. If you are wearing jeans and a t-shirt, it is a lot easier for someone to talk to you and get to know you as a person, and not just a hunter who needs a favor.

Always offer to help

Rarely will a landowner take you up on this offer, but telling them that you are willing to come out and help with chores during the year (yes, even when hunting season isn’t for six months) is a really nice gesture.

Only once have I had a landowner recruit my help, and it was while I was just driving in for an evening hunt and she needed my help corralling a calf while it was nearly 30 below. They likely will never take you up on it, but even if they do it is an amazing opportunity to get to know them as a friend and build a lasting relationship with them.

Respect their boundaries

If you are successful in gaining access on private land, you need to remember that it’s not a free for all at this point.

It is good to ask lots of questions, and never make assumptions about what a landowner may or may not be okay with. If you aren’t sure if you are allowed to cross that fence, don’t cross it until you ask.

Everyone is different, and some landowners may not want you on certain areas of their land for various reasons.

I have been given access before but told not to go in any standing crop. For me, that is detrimental to my success when my entire plan was to sneak up on a mule deer bedded in the canola. But we need to remember that standing crop, and cattle are the farmer/rancher’s income. It is their livelihood, and no deer, elk or moose is worth harming someone else’s income.

Keep at it

Gaining access to land is not easy in any way. It takes a lot of dedication, commitment, and rejection. You will meet landowners who are happy to chat and tell you where they have seen animals, and you will meet someone who want you off their land this instant.

The important thing to remember is that if you stay persistent, respectful, and learn from the times when you get rejected, you will succeed in gaining private land access eventually. And I assure you, the effort is worth it!

Show your gratitude

The final tip is one that comes after season. It is so important to build and maintain relationships with landowners and to show them that you care about them as friends and people, more than just a point of access for hunting.

Offering meat, wine, whisky, and gift cards to nice restaurants in town is a gesture that is rarely expected but always appreciated. You can never go wrong with going the extra mile when it comes to dealing with landowners, friends, family, or anyone in your life for that matter!

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