"Can I Hunt On Your Land?"

Sz_post_july_10_2008hickoff_photo Have you Strut Zoners been trying to lock up turkey hunting permission for fall? Why not? Now is the time to gain access to those autumn flocks. If possible, seek permission in the off-season. You are serious about your turkey hunting, but also safety-minded, right? Let landowners know that. Sell yourself in advance of hunting there.

Maybe you can meet the landowner in street clothes, under relaxed circumstances rather than desperate, ahead of Opening Day. Diners, feed stores, church suppers, fire-station fundraisers and other town social events are good places to start. Get an introduction from a mutual friend if possible . . .

Once you make contact, let the landowner generally know how you’ll turkey hunt, where you’ll do it on the property, what you’ll be doing in there, and who—if anyone—you’ll bring along.

Sometimes it’s best to approach them outside their home this way, so that they don’t feel any undo pressure to say yes. Talk to them wearing clean pants, a pressed shirt, and a smile on your mug, and you might pass the initial test. Image is sometimes everything. Sell yourself. Don’t intimidate.

Then again at times, wearing camouflage clothes might win you points! You might meet the landowner at a 3-D summer archery shoot, a hunting club event, and so on. That particular landowner might hunt too, just not turkeys. Your sportsman’s appearance might be welcome—again, especially before the season.

Still, show up at their farm in camouflage during the hunting season, and it might strike them as an unexpected assault akin to a telemarketer’s suppertime call, but with more longstanding, negative implications. Then again, that might work out fine too. You gotta try.

Though it might seem a little solicitous, you can also market yourself by running off a brochure at your local printing center or using computer software, which you can hand to them when you seek access. List your membership in certain conservation organizations. Record your professional credentials there. Indicate you’ve successfully passed a hunter’s safety course. Mention your wife, kids, even sportsman's club and church affiliation if applicable. Shape your image. I remember hearing a great story from fellow Strut Zoner Jamus Driscoll who gained permission to hunt a piece of property in New York State by tailing a landowner back to his farm because his rig sported a window sticker from Driscoll's alma mater. A bit of small talk later and Driscoll gained permission to turkey heaven.

Sometimes though it is definitely not in your best interest to tell the landowner everything you’re doing there. Keep it simple. Certain folks might not wish to hear every detail about how you eventually secure a turkey by the feet. You may love turkey hunting, but it isn’t for everyone. Think about your audience. Don’t lie to them, but if necessary, don’t elaborate too much either. —Steve Hickoff