How to Find a Place to Hunt
May 3rd, 2021 by Keith Worrall
Modified May 3rd, 2021 at 2:59 PM
How to Find a Place to Hunt
If you’re a novice hunter, even after passing your hunter’s education test or buying quality equipment and building your DIY hunting blind, you may find yourself in the dark on how exactly to get yourself on the field and start hunting. Learn about the different types of land and locations where you can hunt, how to obtain permission, and how to get there.
A Few Numbers
Before explaining how to find suitable places for hunting, it is critical to understand where hunters choose to go and what the statistics say. According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) survey, there were approximately 11,453 million hunters aged 16 years or older in 2016 across the nation. Although the statistics don’t say how many hunters prefer to use deer blinds or tree stands, 87% of hunters reported using firearms, 32% are bowhunters and 12% hunt with muzzleloaders. Keep in mind that the same hunter can use multiple kinds of weapons.
Up to 85% of all hunters in the United States hunt on private land; 64% use private land exclusively, while 21% use both private and public land for their hunting needs. More than 10 million hunters hunt on private land, and there are many arguments to explain why it may be the best choice. However, don’t discount the remaining millions of hunters who use and prefer public lands. Learning the pros and cons of both, and the different ways you can use either for hunting is the key to understanding every option at your disposal.
Private Land: The American Hunter’s First Choice
There are many reasons why 85% of American hunters hunt on private land. From better terrain to more plentiful animals, or the fewer chances of finding other human beings, accessing private land is advantageous for hunters of all skill levels.
Gaining access is the most challenging part of private land hunting. The most fortunate hunters may be landowners, in which case they are free to hunt as much as they please on their own property, within the limitations imposed by their local fish and wildlife agencies. Contrary to popular belief, a landowner may own the land, but they do not own every wild animal traversing it; they must still respect hunting laws and regulations.
However, most hunters are not landowners. Realistically, if you want to hunt on private land, you need to seek permission. The first solution is to communicate with your friends, family and fellow hunters. Even if they aren’t landowners themselves, networking and word-of-mouth can help you reach someone who owns the land.
If none of the people in your circles can point you to someone, your next best option is to find a local wildlife conservation officer or a game warden. There is a good chance they know a landowner with wildlife issues, such as deer or hog trampling their crops or damaging their gardens.
You can also do what modern hunters refer to as online scouting: looking for potentially suitable lands from the comfort of your home, using satellite maps and applications revealing property boundaries. With the information in hand, you can then try to directly contact the owner of the land you’re interested in entering.
Nailing “The Ask”
Regardless of how you come in contact with the landowner, once you have an opportunity to speak face to face with them, remember these tips to make your request as successful as possible:
● Leave a good impression.
You should always be polite, courteous, and mindful of your behavior. Even if you get a “no” in response, the landowner will remember your attitude and the impression you’ve left them. Don’t sabotage your future chances.
● Ask well in advance.
Asking for permission within weeks of the opening day puts undue pressure on the landowner, increasing the chances they’ll refuse. If you show up at least a month in advance, it will give them more time to consider your request.
● Offer to give something in return.
Often, the best way to get a landowner’s help is to help them back. Consider offering to lend a hand on their property, provide hunting insurance or share your bounty with them.
● Comply with their conditions.
Some landowners may only accept to let you hunt on their land if you agree to follow their rules. For example, they may impose conditions on where you can park your vehicles, which hunting weapons you can use, and where you should place your deer blinds.
Public Land: Ample Opportunities
If private land is not an option for you, you can still find plenty of opportunities on public land, provided you do your due research. There are many types of public lands, including wildlife refuges, state forests, wildlife management areas, and state parks. You may even live near one. Check a local area map or call your state wildlife agency to know which public lands are within reasonable driving distance.
Make sure to double-check your local laws regarding public land hunting. More often than not, tag limits, opening days and season durations are different from those on private land. They may even differ from area to area. Your best source of information is your local wildlife agency’s website. You will typically find detailed maps, up-to-date rules, harvest data, and plenty of other useful information.
One often-overlooked source of information for public land hunting is the wildlife manager. Their title varies depending on the state, but they are usually known as wildlife managers, wildlife technicians, or wildlife biologists. Part of the wildlife manager’s job is to oversee and manage the number of animals in a given area, ensuring it does not exceed the habitat’s carrying capacity. They cooperate with local authorities and hunting organizations to ensure that the local animal population is balanced, aiming to prevent overhunting or overpopulation. The wildlife manager’s duties and responsibilities make them one of the best sources of information for hunting on public lands.
Scout the Perfect Hunting Location
Hunting on private land is about respecting the landowner’s wishes. Courtesy goes a long way, especially if you are still a relatively new hunter. Whether you prefer to hunt on private or public lands, don’t forget to observe all local laws and regulations. Seek information if you need it, don’t hesitate to do your research and contact the right people. A responsible and well-informed hunter is a safe hunter.