As the decades have passed, hunting has evolved and developed with society. Public hunting land in certain areas of the country that doesn’t have a significant amount of hunting pressure is becoming harder to find and access. Hunting clubs are an option, but fees can be expensive and depending on your area, there may be too many members for the area. Instead, private vacant land (land not being leased to hunters or otherwise used) is the way to go for many hunters.
Private vacant land offers the opportunity for hunters to access areas with lower pressure compared to public lands, reap the benefit of more controlled management of the environment and game, and even have the opportunity to improve the existing game population.
Hunting on private vacant land can also be a unique experience. You can meet new hunters, hunt with friends, and go through a lot fewer hoops to jump through if you want to try a new hunting style, position, or gear.
Hunting With Friends
Who you know can definitely be a plus in a private land hunting situation. You can get to know the owners and neighbors personally, and even have friends around to go hunting with you (with the landowner’s permission, of course).
A close-knit local group like you can have when you hunt on private land can often create some long-term connections, relationships, and friendships. In a way this can lend hunters a closer access to knowledge and experience you might not get hunting on a paid lease out of state.
Being around people you know and having access to a landowner means that you can get information on the land you’re hunting in a more detailed and personal way. This can add an extra layer of safety, even. Hunting with others or even people familiar with the land close by can be a saving grace in a sticky situation.
Hunting on private vacant lands can also allow you to have more options as far as access methods go. Some public lands don’t allow certain equipment like ATVs and 4x4s (some private leases may not either, it depends on the landowner), but knowing the owner may let you sweet talk them. Who doesn’t want to get to and from a stand or kill site easier?
Deer Management Opportunities
The best advantage to hunting private land versus public land has to be the opportunity to manage deer populations in a group. The best way to bag bigger bucks is to grow bigger bucks. Through selective harvesting, culling, and strategic scouting, herds can grow to be healthier. After a few years or so, the buck population will be noticeably better than most public lands.
Less pressure overall can mean some serious opportunity in itself. With public lands you only know when others will also be hunting in general terms. With private land you may be the only hunters on the parcel at a given time, or one of just a few. Coordination of hunting spots, stands, and coordination of off periods to let the area cool down is a lot easier on private land.
Treat It Like It’s Yours
A hunt club and public land often have stipulations and many hoops to jump through to access the land, and then even more to actually hunt and harvest on the land afterward. Hunt clubs in particular, depending on the exclusivity, may have a waiting period for the board members to approve an application, with limits on memberships on top of that.
Public lands may not have strict limits on the number of people that can access them, but these lands are also used for recreation. Hunting parcels specifically within public lands are typically cordoned off from recreational trails and camping areas, and come with their own set of rules.
Limitations with hunting public land mostly come in the form of methods of hunting (such as no hunting with dogs), time restrictions, and gear restrictions (like nothing that will harm a tree) . This paired with the overcrowding of hunters, can sometimes lead to less-than stellar choices when it comes to finding a good spot on public land.
How to Keep Access
Now that you have access to some private land, you probably want to keep access to this land. Basic people skills and being a good friend will help foster a good relationship with the land owner. Although going above the bare minimum to show you genuinely care about the land and the animals on it, says a lot.
Quality deer management (QDM) practice is an important approach to take on private land that can lead to some great outcomes long term, and help the landowner out by maintaining equity in their land for you and them to enjoy. Remembering the four cornerstones of QDM (herd, habitat, hunting management, and herd monitoring) is key, not just the concept to pass young bucks.
Sharing kills is also another way to make good friends. Some hunters (or even the landowner) may not be able to get out and hunt as much as you, or just have a lower success rate. If they’re the type of people that appreciates a land-to-table harvest, sharing your kills if you’re able can be one of the most meaningful gestures you can make.
The Most Important Thing About Hunting Vacant Land
One of the most important components of hunting private land is to make sure there is a vacant land insurance policy in place. In the best interest of hunter and landowner, liability waivers are a best friend of sorts. The American Hunting Lease Association offers a fantastic land insurance policy with a team of knowledgeable and experienced people that are easy to get a hold of.
With the AHLA vacant land insurance policy (either the standard or premium option) there’s an incredible amount of coverage, even if an unauthorized person steps onto your land and does something not-so-smart and tries to sue the landowner.
Next day coverage is especially handy for anyone that has to do something last minute and coverage can extend for up to seven landowners for free. AHLA also offers an option to add an attorney-approved liability waiver for extra peace of mind.
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