Millions of acres of publicly owned land are open to bowhunters nationwide. That access lets people enjoy the outdoors without being landowners. Unfortunately, those lands aren’t evenly distributed across the landscape, so access to public land varies, making some properties crowded with hunters.
If crowding or lacking places to hunt has kept you home or made you hesitant to try bowhunting, maybe you should ask permission to hunt someone’s land. By following these four steps when asking landowners to bowhunt their properties, you’ll boost your odds of success every time you knock.
1. Do Your Homework
Before searching for a place to hunt, do some homework to learn more about the area. These efforts will boost your chances of success. Mark Kenyon, Wired To Hunt’s founder and a whitetail hunting guru, said he starts by reviewing prospective areas online. “I look at aerial photos and landowner information to find properties that look promising,” he said.
A great way to find maps that include landowner information is to search for plat maps on the website of the county you plan to hunt. These maps are typically broken down by townships and sections, show acreages and property boundaries, and include the landowners’ addresses and phone numbers. If the county’s website yields poor results, call or visit the county’s office to get paper copies of plat maps you want to study. You can also find hunting-specific apps with mapping services, like those from onXmaps. These maps let you search specific areas, and view property borders and landowner contact information.
Another great way to find landowners who might let you hunt is by asking for nearby references. Visit coffee shops, farm-supply stores or grain elevators where farmers regularly visit. Your local archery pro shop and archery club can also offer tips and leads.
In addition, drive back-roads to look at farming operations, good-sized properties, or places that just look like nice areas to hunt. As you find interesting sites, mark them on a map so you can check the plat book for landowner information.
2. First Impressions Matter
Your first interaction with the landowner is critical. Whenever possible, rather than calling on the phone, knock on the landowner’s door and make a face-to-face introduction. Make sure you look presentable. You don’t need to wear a suit and tie, but know that your appearance and the vehicle you’re driving can tell landowners much about how you might take care of their property.
Also, provide landowners your personal information and tell them you’re specifically interested in bowhunting. I’ve had landowners say no initially, but change their mind as soon as I mentioned bowhunting. Also, if your main goal is securing lean protein for your table, tell the landowner you’re hunting for meat and will restrict yourself to a doe if they prefer.
“If the landowner isn’t interested in giving permission, I politely ask if they know anyone else I should ask,” Kenyon said. “Believe it or not, this often produces my best opportunities.”
Finally, offer to provide insurance. Many landowners hesitate to allow hunters on their land because of liability worries. However, hunting land liability insurance is available through groups like the Quality Deer Management Association at reasonable rates.
3. Be Respectful
When you gain permission to bowhunt someone’s land, realize they’re sharing something special. You’re a guest, and you should strive to leave things better than you found them. If you’re uncertain about anything, ask before you act. For instance, if you received permission to bowhunt, don’t assume you can bring a guest. Assume you can’t. Ask first.
4. Help Out and Give Back
Ensure your relationships last by letting landowners know how much you appreciate the bowhunting access. Offer to help with tasks around their home or property. I’ve helped farmers bale hay and paint a barn to say thanks and increase my chances for future access. Another great way to show appreciation is sharing meat you harvest. Once the meat is processed and packaged, take some to the landowner to say thanks for letting you hunt. Later, around the holidays, send a card and a token of your appreciation. Such gestures go a long way.
Keep these tips in mind as you seek places to hunt. When bow season kicks off, you just might have a place to call your own while enjoying some awesome bowhunting experiences.