Yes, there is a skill to it.
As many of you know it's getting harder to find land to hunt. I own around a half acre that my house sits on and that is it. The properties I hunt here in Wisconsin make up about 80% public and 20% private. However, don't get me wrong, I don't believe anything should ever be free. I believe I have a very good system in place in acquiring permission to hunt private parcels. Here is how I do it.
First is how you present yourself and the perception of who you are. You literally have just a few minutes to sell yourself. When you pull in, park so that your vehicle can be seen easily. Next, approach the door and ring the doorbell or knock. Then, step far enough away that you do not seem imposing to them. If steps lead up to the house then stand on the ground or off the porch. If they step towards you, take one step back. You are letting them know that this is their property and that they are in control. Also, clean shaven or very tidy facial hair, hair combed, nice looking pair of blue jeans with a nice shirt whether that be a plain polo or plaid shirt. Preferably something with buttons. And no hat, no shorts and no khakis or dress pants (you are not a chemical cleaner salesman or a seller of religion)
Probably not the best look.
I like to introduce myself with a simple handshake. I then tell them who I am and my purpose. My goal is to build their trust. I usually start off with this statement or something similar. "Hello sir, my name is Clint Ward and I am looking for a place to bow hunt this fall. It is just myself and I carry my portable stand in with me, so no construction of blinds or stands. In return for hunting I would be more than happy to help you with chores and you will receive some venison assuming that I can connect with a nice deer. While I enjoy hunting, I really enjoy spending time in the woods and you have a beautiful piece of property here. I am just looking to hunt the last weekend of October."
As you can see in that statement I am showing that I respect them and their property. I want them to know that I do not want anything for free. I am not there just to hunt but to enjoy their property just for what it is, not what it can offer me for my wall. Do not use the word kill, shoot, or any other words that could put you as an undesirable person.
One component I want to stress is the ability to get the foot in the door. First I am a big believer in virgin sits and not sitting in a particular area more than once a year, sometimes twice. Why not utilize that to your advantage when getting permission to hunt a property then. Asking for 2 days to hunt a property goes over way better than 100 days.
Look at the property and try to determine if it's an early season, pre-rut or rut property. Then just ask for a particular weekend that coincides with the strength of the property. You will be surprised how many landowners are open to that idea, over the whole season. However, if you say those are the 2 days you're going to hunt you better not go outside of those days and you better commit to being there as well if they are expecting you.
Southern hospitality goes a long way in the upper midwest. People in the upper midwest are not always used to "yes sir" and "yes ma'am". You will be surprised when you start to utilize those words in conversation. It shows a lot of respect towards the person and that you are also a respectable individual.
Also, show interest in their dog. As a dog owner myself, if my dog doesn't like you, I probably won't either.
Personally I have around a 10% success rate on acquiring permission to hunt. Get used to being told no and use it to your advantage. At this point I like to keep the conversation going unlike most who just walk away. What I try to do next is I'm trying to get a feel for how their property can be hunted. Sometimes the landowner likes to brag and shows you all the big bucks that he shot or especially HOW THEY TRAVEL HIS PROPERTY. Bingo! This has worked to my advantage in several locations. Then if I get permission on the adjacent properties I have another piece of the puzzle on the board just for being persistent.
One problem I see most individuals do is they try to get that big piece of property to hunt. I used to use a plat book and now Onyx Hunt to find new properties. In reality I only need around 2 acres to kill a deer. When I look for permission for properties to hunt, I look for small and odd parcels connected to habitat that can hold big bucks. These usually range from 10 to 30 acres.
Funnels are obvious but also look for grassy fence lines, gravel pits, small dogwood thickets, and especially farm ponds with brushy growth that surround them. Because of these odd and small parcels these individuals usually don't have everyone and their brother knocking their door down to hunt and are way easier to grant permission. Also, because they get overlooked at times they can hold big bucks just because they don't get hassled. However, it takes some smarts and wits trying to kill a buck that beds near a 2 acre farm pond in the middle of a wide open farm field, but that's for a different time.
Be creative. The picture of this buck came off of a unique property in central Wisconsin. A gentleman who didn't hunt purchased approx 80 acres of marsh grass with 10 acres of pines on the property as an investment. After talking to the owner, my brother and I agreed that we would put a portfolio together of all the bucks we harvested as well as all the game camera photos of the bucks that we received from our cameras. We essentially had 5 years of free hunting for creating this portfolio of the nice bucks we put on the ground. We got to hunt and the landowner increased the value of his property through our hard work/hunting. We no longer have permission as he sold his land as a hunting property but it was a great payoff as my brother and myself harvested some really nice bucks from that 80 acres.
When you do get permission I abide by the rule of under promise and over deliver. Like I stated earlier I will not pay to hunt somewhere, but it doesn't mean that I can't offer something of value. Giving a gift card may seem like a good idea but it can also make it look like you're trying to pay the farmer off. If you are a tradesman, maybe offer to do some electrical work or plumbing, etc...
Personally what I do is every Christmas I put together a basket that includes venison, homemade maple syrup and honey, a pancake batter mix and a fine wine that goes to every owner that lets me hunt whether I got a deer on their property or not. Then the most important component is to make sure you spend time with the landowner. For some of these farmers they don't get to see much outside of society let alone always view the non-farmer folk in a positive light. I have literally spent 5 hours just chit chatting with a farmer because he enjoyed my company and was worth more than anything I could give him. Also, reiterate how you're willing to help them with bailing hay, cutting firewood or any other work that can be done.
A little hard work never hurt anybody.
It seems like for every 3 properties I get I lose one and another turns out to not produce the caliber of buck I'm looking for, and that's ok. The key is to stay persistent and do not worry about rejection. I even had one landowner tell me no but he checked with his cousin who let me hunt his property. With multiple winds and if you're like me and strongly believe in virgin sits it seems like properties can get burned up fast. Even with a mixture of public land it's nice to have a plethora of options. I also love breaking down new pieces and how to solve those puzzles and how big bucks use them. Therefore I would get bored quite easily if I had to hunt the same piece over and over.
Hopefully this helps you think outside of the box when you are looking for a new place to hunt this fall. Good luck and shoot straight.
~My name is Clint Ward, My goal is make you stronger physically and mentally to handle everything the outdoors can throw at you. ACE certified personal trainer, associates degree of physical therapy, associates of chiropractic (chiropractic technician).
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