One of my good friends works in insurance, and if he can’t sell you something, no one can. He just has a gift for small talk and befriending people. I’m the exact opposite. I would rather never talk to strangers, and if I’m forced into a small-talk-type situation, I spend most of it fantasizing about being somewhere else.
As you can imagine, my buddy finds places to hunt fairly often. It’s more of a struggle for me, which is why early in August I couldn’t quite believe it when I parked in a stranger’s driveway to unload a couple of treestands.
A 25-acre patch of woods in the suburbs, might not sound like much, but it is. A parcel that size, where I live, is bound to have big backyard bucks in it. It’s also filthy with turkeys. How I came to be able to hunt it is a lesson for all whitetail hunters.
The general griping in the hunting community, when we aren’t focused on taking hunting opportunities away from nonresidents, often centers on access and available hunting ground. They aren’t making any more land, the old cliche goes. It’s true, and the land that is out there that hosts deer populations, is more valuable than ever.
There are a lot of things working against the hunter looking to expand his or her horizons onto new ground, but not all hope is lost. The property I just secured, came through a friend of my twin daughters. Her family lives on that 25-acre property. Her dad, who is more introverted than I am, mentioned that he rifle hunts some but really just loves the venison.
He also owns a bow but has limited bowhunting experience. After a few awkward conversations, he offered up the spot and mentioned that he’d like to learn more about bowhunting. He also said that his wife had been pressuring him to load the freezer up with deer burger.
There are strings attached to nearly every property you might ever get permission to hunt. On this one, I have to take someone under my wing and then split up any venison I might be lucky enough to harvest off the place. That’s something I do every year without getting a new place to hunt, so the price is a mere pittance.
The lesson, however, is this—if you want to hunt somewhere, be prepared to offer up something.
If you’re out there tapping your network and happen to hear that your father’s nephew’s second cousin has a sweet 40-acre chunk of deer ground close to your house, get to work. I don’t mean this physically, however that is an option. We all know that if the access hinges on putting up some hay or working some fences, you better get your rawhide gloves on.
The truth is, most of the whitetails you’ll get permission to hunt don’t live on giant ranches. They’re more likely to be found on smaller parcels. Landowners are more likely to work in cubicles than run cattle on a fifth-generation farm.
While you might need to write a check for access, or at least deliver a gift card on Christmas, the best bet is to feel around for something the landowner wants. Maybe it’s a simple as keeping a few of the walking trails cleared of downed trees. Maybe you have to volunteer to dog-sit a couple of chihuahuas.
The main point is, nothing is free.
If you’re sniffing around on a potential deer spot, understand this. There’s something you should offer up, to make everyone feel better about the whole thing. It might be as simple as a couple of packages of snack sticks or deer steaks. It might be something else, but no matter what, it’ll be worth it. Keep that top of mind every time you’re fishing around on a potential lead.
What if your network is tapped out and you think there’s no way you’ll find a fresh spot to hunt? Then I say, pay more attention. I’ve earned permission through the years by chance encounters that just needed some time to develop.
I once gained access to 40 acres through a conversation with a lady who was working at a grocery store. Another time, I got the green light to park at a house that allowed me access some public land without going in the same way as everyone else. That happened simply from a quick conversation while walking my dog.
Some people will never let you hunt their ground. However, some will. You won’t find the folks in the latter category unless you’re looking for them, and you’re willing to offer something up that benefits them. Pay attention during conversations, and don’t be afraid to bring up your love of whitetail hunting and venison, no matter with whom you’re speaking. You never know what will come out of a casual mention.
It might seem like a lost cause out there, but it’s not. There are folks who will be willing to let a responsible hunter on their ground, but it’ll take a little effort on your part. There are no shortcuts in that department, but it’s always worth it.
For more information on whitetail hunting, check out these articles: Why Spring Is The Best Time To Gain Deer Hunting Permission, The First Thing You Should Do To Scout A New Property, and How To Find Hunting Permission.