Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Access is Important to Hunters

Bob Humphrey photo

By Bob Humphrey

Numerous studies and opinion polls have come to the same conclusions: among the most significant threats to the future of hunting, and the most common reason cited for why people quit the sport is lack of access to quality hunting ground.  That may be true in some instances, but far too often folks there’s land out there for those willing to put forth the effort to find it.

PUBLIC LANDS

Many federal lands such as National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests and Bureau of Land Management properties are open to hunting.  In some cases a permit and a small access fee are required.  You can circumvent the access fee on refuges by purchasing a federal migratory waterfowl stamp.  The type of access also varies, on a case by case basis.  Some areas allow only walk-in access while others permit the use of ATVs.  In the latter case, access is typically restricted to existing trails and roads.  Much the same is true for state lands like wildlife management areas and state forests.

Many hunters stop looking there, which is a mistake.  There’s plenty of huntable public land below the state level.  Often counties and individual municipalities own land, which makes it public property.  They don’t necessarily advertise or encourage access, but it’s available for those who seek it out.  That may mean a trip to the county seat or town hall to review plat maps.  But because far fewer folks do this, you may find less hunting pressure.

PSEUDO-PUBLIC LAND

While you’re at your town hall you may want to do further investigation into other types of property where public hunting access is permitted.  Often federal, state or municipal governments or agencies purchase easements on private or commercially-owned land.  An example of the latter may be public utilities like power companies that maintain land for transmission lines or hydropower projects.  They also purchase development rights in order to keep the land as open space.  If any public funds are used to do so, the land should be available for public access, even if it is still privately owned. 

Land trusts do much the same, buying development rights or easements to preserve open space.  Here again, if any public funds are used, the land should be open for public access.  Sometimes even when funding is private, the land may still be open for certain uses. 

SPECIAL PROGRAMS

More than a dozen states have programs designed to increase public access to private lands.  California started theirs as a pilot in 1979 and now has 854,000 acres of land enrolled.  Some, like Colorado’s and Illinois’ require a small fee.  Others, like those in Idaho, Kansas and Montana, which has over 8 million acres enrolled, are paid for through license fees or habitat stamp sales.  

Outdoor Life recently partnered with Yamaha and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to launch their Open Country initiative.  The program highlights volunteer-driven efforts to improve access on private land and improve habitat on public lands.  The end result will be more and better hunting opportunities for present and future hunters.