Living just outside of a major Midwest city has presented the year after year challenge of the “urban sprawl.” One year you will find a spot that is a guarantee for consistently harvesting waterfowl. The next year, that same spot has been developed into a subdivision or an industrial complex. Experience has taught me that doing the research and putting in the windshield time in the off season will without a doubt pay off when season comes in and the birds are piling into those flooded spots or snow-covered corn fields.
Here are a few tips that have I would recommend to my fellow “Hard Core” waterfowl hunters that will keep your barrels hot, your freezers full, and memories to last a life time:
- It’s never too early to start scouting. During the summer when everyone else is at the beach, scout the areas that you hope to hunt when season comes in.
- You will be able to determine the types of crops that farmers have planted that spring that may assist you in keying in on potential feeding areas for the fall and winter.
- Use on-line or local county resources to determine who owns the areas that might be “hot” when season comes in. There are several private entities that have created on-line plat maps which indicate the names of landowners along with the landowners contact information. These resources are priceless. When you can approach a landowner and address him or her by name, you will already have one foot in the door and it’s just up to you to seal the deal.
- Most farmers have some down time in the summer and have more time to speak with individuals requesting hunting permission.
- Other hunters are not out knocking on doors in the summer and you can beat them to those potential spots and hopefully secure that priceless permission.
- No one likes trying to find out who owns land the night you find hundreds of birds in a field with the hopes of hunting it the next day. If you get the permission early, this is not an issue.
- Never be afraid to ask. Remember, the worst the landowner can say is no.
- Whether you obtain permission or not, always be professional and courteous. Remember without landowners, we would not be able to do what we do.
- Prepare a permission slip with all of your contact information.
- Take two copies. One for the landowner to keep and one for yourself. Keep your copy in your game bag and if an issue ever arises while hunting, you will have it ready.
- A lot of state rule books and on-line resources have examples.
- Landowner liability. This is a major concern among landowners.
- Some states have laws in place that are favorable to us as hunters while hunting on private property. Research the laws in your state so that you understand them and can explain them if the issue comes when requesting permission
- Show appreciation. For those landowners that are nice enough to give you permission don’t forget about them around the holidays or after the season.
- Get them a restaurant gift card or offer them some birds after a hunt.
- Summer sausage or jerky is a great idea.
- Did I mention to be courteous and professional?
- If granted permission, make sure the landowner understands what you are hunting, when you might be hunting, and if the landowner has any specific requests. (i.e., call the night before, park in a particular location, etc.)
- Determine if the landowner has an issue with you driving in his or her fields. One of the quickest ways to lose a spot is to upset the landowner by doing something they do not approve of.
- The impression that we as hunters make on landowners today will have a direct impact on the perception of our sport and the continued success for those to come.
Your success in the future will greatly increase when you put in the time in the off season. Remember, hunting season is only a couple of months long. Most of us are so busy with the hustle and bustle of daily life that when we get the chance to hunker down in a blind during the season, we want to make the most of it. Hard work pays off and if you follow a few of these tips, success will come your way. Keep it Hard Core!