Most every hunter knows getting permission to hunt on private property is not an easy task. Gone are the good ole’ days when fencerows were absent of ‘No Hunting’ signs. It’s little wonder, with large-scale reluctancy on the part of landowners, that ‘getting permission to hunt’ has become a key topic in outdoor articles, blogs and forums all across the hunting community.
But a greater issue rests in a recent poll, which suggests ‘accessibility’ has even contributed to the lack of new hunter recruitment. That said, I would have to agree that knocking on doors and asking permission to hunt is rather daunting in today’s society. Because more often than not, hunters are told, no.
Across the last several years I’ve had the privilege of gaining access to several thousand acres of private property. I’m indebted to landowners, ranchers and farmers who were co-operative when it came to granting permission to hunt. Although I cannot say every landowner I asked permission to hunt on their property said yes, I can say with hard work and perseverance you can still gain permission to hunt on private property.
Tip #1 – Forget the Phone
Even if you have the greatest of phone skills, it will work to your advantage if you meet the property owner face to face. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I called them, and they said, no!”) I learned a long time ago that trying to gain access on the phone lessened my chances of getting permission to hunt. That property owner needs to put a face with the request. Put forth the effort to meet the property owner personally.
Tip #2 – Dress For Success
Yes, I’m serious. As much as we might not like the word ‘profiling’ we’re all guilty to some degree. When addressing a property owner the last thing you want to do is look like you got dressed in front of an airplane propeller. Dress respectable but don’t overdress. You can’t go wrong looking presentable.
Tip #3 – Think Person Not Potential
Remember, you’re getting ready to talk to a person. Look them in the eye, give a proper introduction and shake their hand. No matter how excited you are about the potential, this moment is not about your ego or how big of deer you hope to harvest on the property. These few minutes you have with the property owner are not about how great of a hunter you are. Leave your ego at home and unless asked, leave out your hunting stories. No matter how much potential you see in the property, when asking permission to hunt, don’t make the conversation about you—make it about the property owner.
Tip #4 – Engagement Is Key
Several years ago I listened to an executive share how he engaged new clients. Before meeting with the potential client he would have his staff find out specific interests of the client. One potential client in particular had traveled extensively to Africa, so the executive redecorated his office in African artifacts. Immediately when entering the office the client was engaged in conversation about Africa. Due to the engagement, the potential client became a customer. This principle is very important when gaining permission to hunt on private property.
If you approach a farmer, look for an antique tractor parked behind the shop and ask him about it. Let him tell you 45-minutes worth of stories about that piece of equipment. Whether a dog, cat, flower bed, antique car or manicured lawn, use whatever you can to engage the property owner. Engagement is key.
Tip #5 – Don’t Rush It
If it takes an elderly gentleman two hours to tell you about all 32 of his grandkids, shake your head yes and listen. I learned a long time ago that property owners have some strange ways of figuring out who you are. If you don’t care about them personally, you won’t care about their property. Patience is the key when dealing with a property owner.
If you can stand all day in a treestand, then you’re qualified to listen longer than you may want to (even if they tell the same story twice.) Whatever you do, try not to ask for permission to hunt when you are pressed for time. Visit the proprty owner when you have the time to talk. If you’re rushed, the property owner will sense it. Hurrying through a conversation is not the foundation on which to build a good relationship.
Tip #6 – Respect
Addressing the property owner as Mr. or Mrs. is always in order. Yes, Sir, and Yes, Ma’am, may sound like you spent time south of the Mason Dixon line, and that’s okay. People appreciate manners and being polite will earn you some respect. Treat this interaction with professionalism and the property owner with the same type of respect.
Tip #7 – Thank You
No matter the outcome, yes or no, tell the property owner, ‘Thank you!’ Express your appreciation to the property owner for taking the time to talk to you. If you are told no, put on the game face, even your hopes of getting permission to hunt are shattered. We all have been told, no. Don’t take it personal and don’t get an attitude. Keep a good attitude and treat the property owner like you would want to be treated. It’s not your property.
Tip #8 – Build The Relationship
If you’re granted permission to hunt on a certain piece of property, it will do you a world of good to spend some time with the property owner. It will make a lasting impression to simply drive to the farm and visit with the farmer. If he doesn’t care, just hang out and ask him questions about his interest and hobbies.
Volunteering to do work for the property owner without payment will show them how much you value the privileges granted to you. When Christmas rolls around, be sure to buy a gift for the property owner. Your expression of thankfulness will go a long way. Don’t forget when hunting the property to call ahead and let the property owner know you’re going to be hunting. Little things matter in every relationship.
Tip #9 – Your Indebted Not Entitled
Unfortunately, I’ve seen hunters who over time began to think the property they got permission to hunt on belonged to them. They lost their sense of indebtedness and begin to take on an attitude of entitlement. Never forget you’ve been granted a privilege. Don’t take it for granted.
Tip #10 – Don’t Get Discouraged When Asking Permission To Hunt
Several years ago during pre-season scouting, we glassed up two of the biggest Whitetails I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, both deer were on property that was not accessible. I tried every tactic in the book to get permission to hunt that particular piece of property and was consistently told, no.
Of course, I was a little frustrated. I did however gain permission to hunt on the adjoining farm. During the rut those two big boys decided to leave ‘Mr. POSTED’s’ property. They wandered over on my side of the fence and guess what—I was able to harvest one of my nicest bucks to date. Don’t get discouraged, be strategic and it will pay off in the long run.
Having recently moved to a new state, I know what it’s like to start the ‘permission process’ all over again. You might get told “no” a hundred times. Just keep knocking and believing the next door you knock on will be the one. Never give up!