Scott Rall: 5 poison pills of landowner relationships
What follows is the five poison pills that the slimmest margin of people that call themselves hunters (but which are not) inflict on what is the much larger body of ethical, honest sportsmen also called hunters. The saying that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch is very true when it comes to private landowner relationships and gaining permission to hunt on those persons’ private land.
The first is a general trespass infraction. Entering private land for any reason without proper permission is poison pill number one. All agricultural land including CRP lands and other lands set aside in some form of habitat or grass cover is considered posted even if it has no signs indicating such. You always need permission to enter these lands. The one exception is that you may enter non-posted lands to retrieve downed game without permission.
An example of this might be when you are pheasant hunting a road ditch and the dead bird lands over the fence. This may only be done without a firearm and is a direct in and out proposition. If the land is posted you may not enter for any reason without permission, PEROID. I don’t care how big the pheasant or deer might be, you may not enter.
In the farm county of Minnesota there is no rational or reasonable excuse for trespassing. Up north in the woods property boundaries are much harder to follow, so an accident might actually happen there, but not down here.
The second on my list of poison pills are when a person actually gets permission for three hunters and then brings along 15 of their hunting buddies. When I ask for permission to hunt on private land I share with the private landowner how many will be in my party and what vehicles they drive. I also clarify if this permission is a one-time thing or is it good for the entire season. After I make these arrangements they can only be changed if I specifically ask again and receive permission for the change. My very favorite motto is to “do what you say you are going to do.” Be clear about your arrangements and then do exactly what you agreed to and nothing more.
Number three on my list kind ties in with number two by not doing what you said you were going to do. Poison pill number three in landowner relationships is to take advantage of the granted permission. An example would be gaining permission to hunt geese in harvested cornfield number one but when the geese start landing across the road in cornfield number two you move your decoys over there and start hunting under the rationalization that the same guy owns that land. So if he would let us hunt here it must be OK to hunt over there as well. This is NOT TRUE. The other property might be saved for a family member or is off limits for some other reason. Extending your prearranged hunting boundaries is a great way to foul an otherwise great land owner relationship. Stay put or ask again to hunt a different area.
Nothing aggravates private land owners more than driving where you are told not to.
Number four is disrespect for crops on the ground or livestock in the area. When gaining permission, ask if you can drive out to off-load the decoys or where you should park as to not interfere with the farming operations. Leaving open a closed gate or knocking down a few rows of corn might not seem like a big deal, but it can turn into one is a big hurry. How about parking in a road approach that the farmer needs access to that day in order to conduct his business?
If you make your hunting activities an inconvenience for the farmer you will just be shown the door the next time you ask. If the gate is closed when you got there, then close it again. If it was open then leave it open. Pick up your bottles or wrappers and make sure that no one can tell that you were even there. Leave a very small footprint and this will help make sure you are welcome again the next time.
The last one on my list is not actually a poison pill but doing it can cause some landowner heartburn. In the land of huge white tail bucks or hundreds of pheasants in each quarter section there is normally a daily or yearly hunting fee. It is usually charged on a per gun per day basis. In southwest Minnesota we have game to hunt but not thousands of pheasants at a time or large numbers of Boone and Crocket trophy bucks. Just because you are not asked to pay does not mean you should do nothing.
With every hunting permission I receive, I asked the property owner if he would like to share in any of the game I harvest. Just last week when I offered he told me that he did not know how to clean it or cook it. I then extended my offer to process the game and prep it so all he had to do was toss it in the oven. He still declined but it was the offer that counted. Some land owners like pheasant and others don’t, but you need to make an effort to show your appreciation for the hunting permission. At the end of the season a gift card to a local restaurant can show your appreciation in some small way.
I have even offered to help spray thistles in exchange for hunting permission. This one is often accepted. A few dollars of chemical can go a long way to developing great landowner relationships. These ideas are only common sense but it is up to you do them and encourage all of the other hunters you know to do the same. Now that I have given you, the hunter, a few tips to help make getting permission more successful there is one request that I will send out to land owners as well.
Please do not judge all hunter experiences by your interaction with one or two. Many land owners will have a bad hunter experience and then just post all of their land as off limits. This is too bad. There are many, many more ethical hunters than there are slob hunters. Every ethical hunter knows the slobs exist and deal with their poor behavior every time they ask permission. All any ethic haunter can ask is that the land owner prosecute the slobs to the fullest extent of the law and then allow those who would do everything proper the opportunity to prove that ethical hunters want to do the right thing every time.
There is game on state-owned lands but you share them with every other member of the outdoor community. A little effort to develop and nourish a few private landowner relationships just might land you a pheasant hunting honey hole all to yourself.