Question: I am sure having trouble getting access to hunt. What is the best way to get people to let me hunt? Why is it so hard to get permission? -- Shawn Bryan, Alexandria, OH
GAINING ACCESS TO HUNTThis is one of the toughest parts of bowhunting -- finding a good place to hunt. But, with a little different thinking, you can still make it happen.
One reason it is so hard to get permission is because development is pushing homeowners farther out into the country and they are buying acreages and keeping others out. What was once a 300-acre timber is now divided up into 30-acre building lots. Another reason it is becoming hard is because more people have begun buying land just for hunting. Ten years ago, that trend was just getting started, but it is going full steam now. Hunters began to see that hunting by permission was becoming more difficult and they wanted to be sure they had a place. They also wanted to be able to control the human activity on their hunting property to improve their hunting. The result of these two forces is much tougher access for everyone who can't afford to buy land.
However, some things you can do will improve your chances of finding a good place to hunt. First, you have to accept the fact that nothing with value is truly free. If you are hoping to hunt without spilling some sweat, you are going to be disappointed. You may find places, but it will be very tough. Instead, focus on the skills that you have to offer. For example, most farmers and rural landowners have a long list of projects that need doing. If you can help them to whittle that list down, you are going to find them much more receptive to letting you hunt.
When you approach their door, don't ask for permission. Instead, ask if they have any projects that you can help them with in exchange for bowhunting rights. You will be amazed by how much differently they react to the second request. It immediately shows them that you are responsible and don't take their land investment for granted.
Also, don't be afraid to invest a season just shooting does in order to gain a landowner's trust. Even landowners who are serious buck hunters can use a little help thinning does. Once they realize you are responsible they are very likely to invite you to shoot one of the older bucks on their farm that they want (and need) removed. It is not as if you are getting the short end of the stick. I could spend the rest of my life just hunting these kinds of bucks and feel very good about the experience.
access is a matter of changing your goals and your expectations to match today's world. It is not the same as it was 10 years ago. If you learn to adapt to the way things are now, you can still find great hunting and make some very good new friends. Good luck.