It wasn’t until my buddy Dave came down from Wisconsin to hunt the elusive Osceola Turkey with me that I really noticed how difficult a time I had living in South Florida and trying to find new and exciting areas to hunt. Most of the prime hunting land down here is either privately owned and leased to Hunt clubs for more money than I can afford, or if public land, part of a quota hunt system that is kind of liking hitting the lottery for the best wildlife management areas. Since almost all the land we hunt in Wisconsin is privately owned, I decided to learn how to make some of the same arrangements to hunt private land in Florida too. This is not to say that I don’t take my share of game hunting public land, but when you have set up nicely in a blind for Turkey and several sets of inexperienced hunters come clattering through the area you have worked a bird in close, well, it gets a bit frustrating. One such group came crashing through the brush with a big aluminum ladder to sit in trees, go figure!
It’s not easy without connections or introductions to gain the privilege of hunting private land or on someone’s farm, but it can be done. Remember, you want to hunt private land, and the owner’s of this land have little or no incentive to allow strange people to traipse about carrying weapons. All the methods to obtain permission to hunt private land are based primarily on one important factor, you and your personality. Being well-mannered and showing a consideration for the land owner’s concerns as well as safety can get you the combination to that locked gate that you have driven by a hundred times on your way to the public hunting areas.
The key to getting started hunting on private land is to first go on a scouting mission and find the areas and particular lands you wish to hunt. Drive around some areas and look for animals on that land. How many times have you been driving by and seen flocks of Turkeys or Deer mulling about on some private farm. Once you do this one can then go about the task of discovering who the land owner is. Most of the time this may be done merely by checking the name and address on the mailbox in front of what looks to be a primary residence. If you get the name and or address, the Internet may be a great method to check your information as much of this is public record. The next step is to make contact with that person.
Just walking up to the door with a bottle of scotch and knocking used to be the preferred method of securing consent on hunting private land, but today it may not only end with a no, but it may also end with a few dog bites and a butt full of bird shot! This method only puts the landowner on the spot and is uncomfortable for both parties, and if he or she is not having a good day, your chances are slim to none. By having the address of the owner you can construct a letter merely introducing yourself and telling a bit about what kind of person you are, without directly asking for an answer on the subject of hunting private land. You will of course mention that you’d like to stop by and discuss the possibilities, but don’t ask for definite answer.
You can communicate with the landowner via mail, email or by telephone, if they have responded with any of the above mentioned forms of communication, and if the mood seems friendly and inviting, you may then ask if there is a convenient time for you to stop by for a visit. When discussing the possibility of you hunting private land, be as friendly as possible and try to pick up any signs that will help you understand the landowner better. If you notice he is a hunter as well, talk about hunting and how you would be willing to hunt on days when he will not be hunting himself, and that you will not hunt any prime times such as opening day if he wishes. Try and make the conversation light and easy for the owner to say yes to this request.
You would hope that this becomes a long term prospect and you will be able to hunt that land for years to come, so don’t forget this person at Christmas or any other time when you can reaffirm your budding friendship and gratitude for the privilege of hunting private land. There have been many times when a land owner has seen a flock of Turkeys working a neighboring farm and has made a call to his neighbor on my behalf in order to secure a day of hunting on that property. Remember, you are not just hunting private land; you are making new friends, so keep in touch even if it isn’t hunting season and on occasion, it doesn’t hurt to offer to help with some of the chores!