This is yet another topic that gets zero ink because hunting personalities rarely if ever deal with asking for free hunting permission.
Retaining hunting permission should be the most important aspect of hunting if you don’t; have the luxury of owning your own property, have relatives with property on which to hunt, can’t afford to lease property, or like me would rather hunt public lands and knock on doors for free permission properties as opposed to paying to hunt.
In most countries around the world, hunting is strictly for the rich and unfortunately we are slowly trending in the same direction and I intend to buck that trend until I die or am no longer capable of hunting.
Before searching for new hunting permission, it’s important to keep what you already have and while there is no perfect time of year to do so, the sooner after season the better. Sometimes, if you don’t remind a landowner that you’re hunting, or if they haven’t seen you for a while, they may forget you or assume you no longer want to hunt their land and grant permission to others.
Most land owners that allow free hunting allow others anyway as the majority of free knock on door properties I’ve hunted also had others on it as well.
Over the years I’ve lost free permission on over 100 properties due to; the owner’s kids growing up and hunting, daughters marrying hunters, relatives and personal friends asking to hunt and taking my place, selling their property to someone that hunts or to developers, large property grab leases for trophy buck micro-management or what I like to refer to as big buck farming, and for liability reasons.
I always keep in touch with landowners by either; visiting, calling, or more recently e-mailing them frequently. Without some form of back and forth relationship with a landowner, permission can easily slip away.
There have been landowners I sent Christmas cards or a gift to. Most landowners are well off financially and small gift oftentimes doesn’t mean much. However, if you know they have small children or grandchildren and you take or send something for them, you will likely hit a soft spot nerve.
On several occasions I’ve given Scooby Doo or Barbie folding chairs and tables or kiddie tents and sleeping bags for their kids or grandkids and you would have thought I’d given them a new car. I’ve had property owners laughingly tell me they couldn’t get their kids to eat at the kitchen table for weeks because they would only sit in their kiddie chairs and eat at their kiddie tables. Others have told me they couldn’t get their kids to sleep in their beds because they had the tents set up in their rooms and that’s where they slept.
I’ve also given Disney licensed kiddie fishing combos if I knew they fished. None of the kiddie items I’ve ever given were over $50 accumulatively, but they definitely touched the parents or grandparents heart far more than an adult gift and let them know I was a caring parent myself.
On the adult side a local restaurant gift card or maybe a couple folding chairs can be given as a sign of appreciation. If a landowner likes venison and you kill a whitetail (even if it’s not on their property), give them a few steaks.
Owning property does not come cheaply, so it is always best to make it very clear that you’re appreciative of the opportunity to hunt their property. A landowner’s impression and trust of you has a lot to do with them re-granting you permission.
Landowner visits or calls also provide an opportunity to discuss any concerns and engage in friendly conversation. Perhaps the landowner found some trash on his land, or a hole in a fence, or had issues with where you parked. This is your opportunity to clarify any problems that could otherwise become a source of difficulty in the landowners mind.
Most of the time the conversations will be about politics or a general back and forth on family matters each of which helps to establish a common bond and a trusting relationship. The better the landowner knows and respects you, the more difficult it will be for them to deny you permission.
This kind of relationship takes time to establish and is based on following any wishes the landowner may have including; respecting the property, closing gates, picking up trash, being their watchdog while on the property, and perhaps offering a helping hand when the landowner needs something. An occasional friendly visit or conversation will likely insure your hunting permission. Several landowners over the years became very close friends.
I have numerous public land location set-ups as well as numerous set-ups on free permission parcels and while I’m confident I can’t lose the public land, the same isn’t true for the free permission properties.
To me, retaining hunting permission is a year round endeavor as garnering new permission is becoming more difficult every year.