For area hunters, now is a time of preparation.
Dove season starts September 1, teal season opens September 10, archery deer and turkey season begins September 15 and other seasons are soon to follow. That means many people are getting ready for those hunting trips they’ve looked forward to all year. They’re making sure their firearms are in good working order, their shotguns are patterned and they have the proper permits (hunting permit, migratory bird permit, hunter education card, etc.). They have a good knife, good boots and plenty of ammunition. All these things are important, but if you’re planning to hunt on someone else’s land, now is the time for another extremely important part of hunting preparation: Making landowner contacts.
Few outdoors events put a greater number of people on someone else’s property than the fall hunting seasons. Even though Missouri has some great public hunting areas, a large portion of the hunting activity in the state each year occurs on private land. That should come as no surprise since more than 90 percent of land in the state is privately owned. That means many people who want to hunt will be looking for opportunities on land owned by someone else. If you’re someone looking to hunt on someone else’s property, here are some guidelines:
First, don’t assume that past hunting trips on someone’s property means you have permission to be there this year. Always ask first. If you’ve established good relations with the landowner, this will be a mere formality. The landowner might even chuckle that you’re still treating your hunts on his or her property like a first-time event. Inside, however, the landowner is admiring your courtesy and you’re accumulating solid “preference points” for future hunts.
If you have been granted hunting privileges on someone else’s property for the first time, congratulations, you’ve attained an opportunity that’s not always easy to get. So, don’t blow it by being irresponsible. Sometimes hunters make mistakes that, though they may be honest errors, are nevertheless very irritating to landowners.
For instance, make sure you know where the landowner’s property lines are. This sounds obvious, but sometimes, hunters can easily stray onto someone else’s property. Unless you know where boundaries are, the seemingly harmless crossing of a run-down fence or an old road may unknowingly transform you from a hunter into a trespasser because you may be entering onto someone else’s property.
Unless the landowner tells you otherwise, assume all gates on the property need to be shut behind you. Ask if you can drive your vehicle onto the land and, if you can, ask if there are any fields, pastures or other areas that should be skirted or totally avoided. Ask about the location of livestock; not only the landowner’s, but the neighbors’ animals, too.
If you’re planning on hunting deer, explain to the landowner that you would prefer to field-dress your harvested deer on that property. Ask if there is an out-of-the-way spot on the property where waste parts can be deposited or buried. If the landowner is unfamiliar with deer hunting and comes across a gut pile in the middle of his/her field, your hunting at this site may be a one-and-done experience. Conversely, if you explain to a non-hunting landowner that field dressing is a vital step of the hunting process that needs to be done shortly after harvesting a deer, but you make it clear you won’t leave an unsightly mess behind, you’ve scored big points with the landowner.
If you’re bird hunting, pick up spent shotgun shells whenever possible. It’s little steps like these that can make a huge difference in whether or not you’ll be able to hunt this same spot next year.
Finally, in the near future after your hunt, be sure to thank the landowner for letting you hunt on his land. Sharing a portion of your hunting harvest with the landowner or providing some other token of appreciation can help pave the way for future hunts at that site.
More information about Missouri’s upcoming hunting seasons can be found at your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at www.missouriconservation.org