Conservation Public Lands & Waters

Welcome to Open Country: Ground Truths with Tony Hansen

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I’m a public land hunter both by necessity and by choice. Seriously.

Sure, I have access to a couple of private farms in my home state of Michigan and I scrape together enough cash each year for a couple of small leases as well. But when you live in a state with nearly one million licensed deer hunters, there’s really no such thing as “exclusive access.”

I hunt several states each fall and the vast majority of my time will be spent hunting public land and I really don’t know that I’d have it any other way. See, I’m not much of a people person really. Knocking on doors and talking to someone is something I enjoy as much as eating bad sushi. Okay, any sushi.

I have had moderate success with the knock-on-door routine away from home. But I’ve also had run-ins with local hunters that didn’t take too kindly to a non-resident horning in on their locales. I guess I’ve just found public land hunting more enjoyable in a lot of ways, not the least of which is I don’t find myself looking over my shoulder and worrying about making someone mad.

That said, there’s no denying that private land offers a lot of advantages ranging from better habitat to less hunting pressure. But there’s something very special about the concept of public land ownership and knowing that it’s there for all to enjoy. Public land ownership is as American a concept as there is. It is a part of our heritage that should be valued, treasured and protected.

It’s no secret that the fabric of hunting is undergoing a change. As more focus is placed on “quality” animals and experiences – particularly when it comes to whitetails – more hunters are looking to secure exclusive access to prime habitat so that they can manage the land as they see fit.

As a guy who loves chasing big whitetails, it’d be hypocritical of me to find fault with that passion. But it does have drawbacks. Land ownership is not inexpensive. Nor is leasing. So where does that leave folks with limited incomes? It leaves them out of the game or left hunting public land.

With so much focus on hunter recruitment and retention, it only makes sense that focus should be placed on creating and improving public land opportunities. And that’s exactly what this blog will be about.

There are outstanding public hunting opportunities across the country. There are new programs being developed to create even more public access opportunities. At the same time, there are serious challenges facing our public land system ranging from subpar habitat to lack of funding for adequate amenities and upkeep.

Each week, we’ll take a look at public access issues. We’ll show you some great places to hunt and fish, we’ll talk about new programs that are taking shape and we’ll tackle some of the tough issues facing our public lands.

My name is Tony Hansen and this blog is about the millions of acres of hunting and fishing land that I own.

It’s land you own too.