Yamaha Outdoors Tip of the Week - 12 Ways to Gain Hunting Permission
By Steve Hickoff
Signs are posted, and you want landowner permission to hunt there.
If the signs are new, and nailed to every other fencepost, something bad has gone down, and it might be fresh as a wildfire in the mind of the landowner; then again, maybe the land has just changed hands. If the signs are old, and torn or worn, it may no longer be officially posted.
You’ll never know until you step up and ask.
1) Names and contact numbers should be listed on these posters, which can provide a direct link to information, so jot down these details. Other times such signs are left blank, as if the landowner wants to convey the message that visitors aren’t wanted, and that they don’t wish to be contacted about the matter. Sometimes posters might also hang on properties where access isn’t legally prohibited. They may have no right to post it.
2) “Just because our land isn’t posted doesn’t mean you have an invitation to hunt it,” a landowner once said to me on a road trip through upstate New York. Awkward or not, it is always best to ask permission even if the property seems ripe for hunting. On the other hand, in some states the use of private unposted land by the general public or state residents is a time-honored tradition. As an example, New England states such as New Hampshire offer longstanding public common-law access on non-posted land. Abuse it though, and you can lose it. Once the posters go up, it ends. Game over. Do whatever you can to keep those orange and yellow signs from appearing.
3) Ironic or not, in some locations reverse-posting situations apply. If the land isn’t posted for a specific use, you can’t hunt it. Other states require landowner permission to hunt, whether the land is posted or not. Some turkey hunters routinely pay annual lease fees for using posted landowner-held property. It can be on a daily, weekly, or annual basis.
4) Sometimes you can secure access directly by talking to the landowner. Other times you may need an intermediary. This go-between person can be your good-will ambassador, making subtle suggestions to the landowner.
5) Off-site places and situations like roadside diners, town-meeting locations, grocery stores, yard sales, even Friday night at the local bar can provide the connection you need. You could run into a person who owns the property, or a neighbor who knows the people who do.
6) You need to research the full ownership picture. If you can’t figure out who owns the land in a casual, conversational way, courthouse records can be studied. Who really owns the land? Who really calls the shots? Is ownership fragmented? Is ownership in transition?
7) If possible, seek permission in the off-season, under relaxed circumstances rather than desperate.
8) Let landowners know how you’ll hunt, where you’ll do it on the property, what you’ll be doing in there, and who—if anyone—you’ll bring along. Visit them wearing clean pants, a pressed shirt, and a smile on your mug, and you might pass the initial test. Image is sometimes everything. Sell yourself. Don’t intimidate.
9) Though it might seem a little solicitous, you can also market yourself by running off a brochure at your local printing center or using computer software, which you can hand to them when you seek access. List your membership in certain conservation organizations. Record your professional credentials there. Indicate you’ve successfully passed a hunter’s safety course. Mention your wife, kids, and even church affiliation if applicable. Shape your image. Indicate you’re serious about your hunting, but also safety-minded. Sell yourself.
10) Sometimes though it is definitely not in your best interest to tell the landowner everything you’re doing there. Keep it simple. You may love hunting, but it isn’t for everyone. Think about your audience. Don’t lie to them, but if necessary, don’t elaborate too much either.
11) Ask the landowner if it's okay to ride your Yamaha ATV or Side-by-Side on their trails, and where it's best to park that vehicle.
12) Once you get permission, keep it.