landowners provide walk in public hunting access to private land

Doug Leier

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Last week I discussed a situation where a friend and I were denied permission to hunt on land that wasn't posted. From ducks to deer, if you’re a freelance hunter there's a good chance you have, or will, encounter a situation when your request for permission to hunt a tract of private land is not granted and the best option is to move on.
As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained, but every hunter should respect the landowner's right to determine who goes on their property.

On the other side, there's no shortage of hunters who’ve shared stories about attempts by landowners get them off public land, or private land where they have permission to hunt. I've been in those situations myself. Here's one from just last fall.

Like many hunters, I've forged relationships through friends and family and mutual connections. One evening last fall my son and I were hunkered down on private land where we had permission, waiting for late-day deer movement near a shelterbelt and corn field.

Off in the distance I noticed a pickup pull up, and a young driver exited hastily and advanced through the grass and brush toward us. The situation had the look of confrontation, but I knew exactly whose land I was on and was confident I'd not given any reason to be subject to a field interroagtion from anyone other than the owner.

I was fairly sure my son and I were not in any danger, but again, you just never know. I had my son stay back and I advanced to meet the young man and extended my hand. He pushed it away and asked with implied guilt, "Do you know who's land you are on...do you have permission to be here?"

Internally I was furious, but calmly replied that I sure did, and that Mr. and Mrs. Landowner were inside their house over yonder enjoying dinner.

He stammered and pointed toward the north land boundary and exclaimed, "Well that land over there is ours and it's posted."

I acknowledged him and replied that I was aware of that, and that's why I planned to sit right where I was with my son and hunt on the land where I had permission.

Finally recognizing the error he made, the young man retreated back to his truck. I'm pretty confident my young son wasn't intimidated from future hunts, but I can say it certainly ruined our evening.

I understand and have listened to many similar stories over the course of years and will admit my story is rather vanilla compared to others. There was no yelling, ranting, threats or physical altercation. Those are reactions to avoid.

If you're a hunter and are confident that you’re in the right place, there's no need to accelerate the discussion if another hunter, or landowner, wrongly subjects you to an in-the-field accusation.

I’ve also heard stories about, and witnessed, instances when private landowners have put “no hunting” signs on public land such as state school land or even national grasslands. A colleague of mine related a situation of a no-trespassing sign he encountered during deer season, bearing the signature of a local rancher, well within a block of U.S. Forest Service national grasslands.

Anyone who encounters a suspicious sign that appears on public land should contact the managing agency.
My point in bringing this all up is to emphasize that positive hunter-landowner relations is a two-way street. Hunters should hunt only where they have permission. Landowners shouldn't try to prevent hunters from accessing places that they have a legal right to access.

In reality, these types of situations don't happen very often, but we can all make a conscious effort to reduce their occurrence even more.

Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email:dleier@nd.gov

Posted by Doug Leier under Field Journals on September 9, 09 09:03 AM | Permalink

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