Access to Private Land
I hear from so many people that say they were taken along hunting years back and would like to go again or would like to take their child to experience the outdoors. The main set back is “I have nowhere to hunt”. Obtaining access to private land is the key.
There is plenty of public land in Virginia and most states but depending on what game you are after there will usually be a lot of pressure on it. I have managed to gain access to thousands of acres over the years and I want to share the approach I have taken. I would first search online for a Geographical Information System that has parcels and property lines with landowners names in your desired area. If you can’t find a G.I.S. use Google Earth. Next I would start by getting an understanding on how to read aerial photos and determine what type of land it is your looking at and if it holds the habitat you are looking for.
Then I would contact the landowner and be as polite as you can, explaining how beautiful the property is and how you would greatly appreciate the opportunity to hunt once or twice a year. Make it apparent that you respect the animals and you are an ethical hunter. Explain to them why you love to hunt and what it means to you. Try to make a connection with them. Say how you use to hunt with your father, but now have nowhere to do so. Or how you would really enjoy introducing a kid to the outdoors. Some say no and some say go right ahead. I bet you will be surprised, when asking the right way, how many land owners will let you. Do this fifteen or twenty times and you will definitely have a private property to hunt the following year.
Before hunting season even comes in I bring the landowner a box of oysters and fresh fish since I live on the coast, and tell them how much I appreciate them letting me enjoy their farm. If you don’t live near the coast, any friendly jester or gift will go along way with them.
It is also essential to be very observant and conduct the right etiquette if someone else is already hunting or set up when you get there not to cause confrontation and terminate your access to that farm. Also avoid going after a lot of rain which would cause deep ruts or leave tracks on their paths. Stay out of their agriculture fields and don’t break any laws like shooting late or over the limit. I would avoid bringing a lot of friends or trucks that would appear to the land owner that he is being taken advantage of. All in all I would stay under the radar as if you were never there – out of sight out of mind. Do all you can to build a long term relationship with your landowners. Good luck.