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Kristen A. Schmitt | Photos: Brett Seng | 7.11.2019

Knocking on Doors

  • Pursuit: Everyday

Gaining access to private land can be an intimidating hurdle for most hunters, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, knowing how to ask permission can be a hunter’s secret weapon, especially when it comes to accessing public land drainages only reachable via private land or, even, opening up a door to private land access for years to come. Andrew Whitney, an avid duck hunter turned big game bowhunter, has been knocking on doors for over 10 years and has gained access to countless tracts of private land, including one that resulted in a long-term turkey hunting relationship on nearly 400 acres. Whitney views achieving private land permission as more of an opportunity than a challenge.

Want to give a try? Here are five tips to help eliminate the private land roadblock standing between you and your next hunt:
Hunter scopes out private land for opportunities.

Choose wisely.

Once you draw your tag and start scouting in your unit, look for landowners adjacent to public land or whose land bridges public, giving you unencumbered access to acreage only a handful of hunters may have admission to. In Montana, look at landowners in the Block Management program, which is often under-utilized and full of hunter-friendly, lenient landowners.

Every quarry will not be met with equal results.

Ranchers are more likely to allow access if the animal you’re after isn’t one they’re interested in. If you want to fill an antelope tag on private land, the odds are more in your favor than filling an elk or deer tag. Most landowners want to fill those ones themselves.

Recon from the comfort of a vehicle.

Know what to wear and when to knock.

Opt to visit private landowners during summer scouting; not opening day. Go early--summer months are ideal--and steer clear of dinner time. Mornings are usually best. And don’t wear camo. The whole point is to look approachable and presentable when asking for access.

Know what to say.

Be direct. Once they open their door, tell them why you’re there. If they’re not sure about letting you on their land to hunt, you can always offer to help out a bit, fixing fences or doing other side jobs they may need assistance with in exchange for access or offer to bring them some meat from your harvest.

A hunter knocks on the door of a landowner in an attempt to gain hunting access.

Be respectful – even if the answer is no.

Gaining access is about gaining respect. Even if someone says no, it’s better to respond positively, showing the landowner what it means to be a hunting ambassador. Always thank someone for taking time out of their day to answer the door.

And if you get a yes? Make sure to stop by every year to check in and make sure it’s still OK. They won’t always remember you and it’s a great way to foster a long-term relationship.