Throughout a few decades of hunting on my own and also working for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, I’ve heard many stories relating to hunting access, and I’ve also experienced a few.
Most of these were positive, and I can’t thank North Dakota landowners enough for the hospitality they’ve shown me and thousands of other hunters over the years.
That’s why this one experience stands out, and it wasn’t even during pheasant, deer or duck hunting. One spring afternoon many years ago, a buddy and I headed out to shoot gophers. Yes, I know the technical term is ground squirrels, but I also know the problems ranchers sometimes associate with them, and most are happy to welcome a visitor willing to reduce the local population.
My friend was a lifelong cattle rancher, and when we spotted a good pasture, we first checked to see if it was posted. Even though it wasn’t, we figured we’d stop at a nearby farmstead to make sure the signs weren’t down, and to show we cared enough to ask, even if the land wasn’t posted.
Much to my dismay, the response to my request to hunt was a resounding “No…because if I let you hunt then I’d have to let everyone hunt.”
Even though it was spring and my buddy and I were not going to spread the word about this great gopher spot, we walked away and started looking elsewhere, recognizing that it was a good thing we checked, even though the pasture wasn’t posted.
Another memorable access story involved a completely different set of circumstances. My son and I were spotting deer on posted land where I had permission to hunt, and we knew the owner as a friend.
As sundown approached and deer were beginning to move, a truck stopped on a nearby road. The driver exited and marched across the ditch and through a shelterbelt to a patch of bushes where we were sitting, and proceeded to ask if I knew I was on posted land.
When you’re in the field hunting and a man is advancing toward you, the first thought I had was not good, especially when I knew it wasn’t the landowner and the guy was not wearing blaze orange late in the day during deer season.
Turns out, it was his land on the other side of the road, and he wanted to make sure I had permission to hunt on his neighbor’s land. In doing so, however, he compromised his own safety and ruined my hunt at the same time.
In both examples, I’m not really sure what I’d have done differently. In such cases, the best thing you can do is stay calm and keep control of your emotions.
In situations like the second example, a call to local law enforcement isn’t out of the question if someone is trying to prevent you from hunting on land where you legally have permission.
Genuine courtesy goes a long ways in establishing and maintaining good hunter-landowner relations. That’s a good thought for all of us to remember as we take to the fields and waters this fall.
Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.