Approaching private land owners about hunting permission.
Asking permission to hunt private property is kind of like asking someone for a first date: you don’t know what to expect, whether it’ll be worth the effort, or if the other person is going to come after you with a shotgun shouting expletives about property rights and liberal Bozeman city-folk. Man, that was a rough date…
But asking permission isn’t just the only way to gain access to great new hunting land—it’s a way to be an ambassador of the sport, and a way to form lifelong relationships with good people you’d never otherwise meet. Here are a few tips before you knock on that door.
Even if you have a truckload of buddies, only one person should go to the door. A gang of people in camouflage is about as intimidating as it gets.
Sounds dumb, but don’t jump right to the point; make some small talk, introduce yourself, and ask some questions about the land and the landowner. Ranchers are fiercely protective of their property, but also proud—tap into that.
Bring your kid.
An excited kid on their first hunt will melt the blackest heart. Plus, it teaches the young’uns about respect and how to ask permission.
Don’t be impatient.
It may take a couple years of asking. Maybe you offer only to shoot does, or help the rancher take care of some varmints—make it a mutually beneficial relationship over time. Once you have rapport, you’ll likely have greater hunting freedom.
Pay attention to who you’re asking.
Montana Grizzlies bumper sticker in the drive? Probably don’t bring up how the Bobcats crushed them last game. Same goes for political, religious, or social signs or stickers. Stay neutral.
Showing up in a bloody jacket that reeks of the last hunt, or driving a mud-covered truck can make it seem like you’re undisciplined or might not respect their property or animals. On the other hand, brand new gear might make it seem like you’re inexperienced.
Property closest to towns get asked more often than off-the-beaten-path areas, and the hunting may be better in the middle of nowhere anyway.
Pay it back.
After you get permission, share what you kill (if they’re interested). If not, some other small token of appreciation goes a long way. A six-pack or bottle of whiskey is a pretty safe bet.
ABOVE ALL, when you do get permission, treat the property, livestock, and wildlife with respect.
Close gates. Drive slowly. Observe hunting laws. You represent all hunters and Bozemanites; don’t make us look like assholes.