Having access to a place to hunt is one of the major issues that keeps people from getting out in the woods or into hunting entirely. Unfortunately public land is not widely available to some people. In my case I hunt public and private, as the closest public land is a minimum 30-minute drive. Plain and simple I just don’t have time some days and squeezing a hunt in after work for example is my only option besides not hunting.
Because of this I have spent the past couple years getting permission to hunt private property near my home.
From these experiences I want to share the “How To Hunting Permission” blueprint I use. Through this process I have learned a bit about what works and how best to approach getting someone to grant you permission to hunt their property for free.
Thinking outside the box, researching property, and some effort has gained me permission to hunt over 300 acres within a 5-minute drive of my house. This has taken a couple years but it is worth the work. For this article I am going to break it down into the following.
- How to Find Property
- Formulate A Plan
- How To Ask
- Questions To Ask Once Permission Is Granted
- How To Keep Permission
- Now It’s Your Turn
Now, before I get into the article I’ll be honest with you. To this day I still get nervous going up to knock on a door, fumble over my words, or forget to ask a question. I’m still a work in process but it’s gotten easier the more I do it. The important part is just start.
How To Find Property
From talking to new hunters I feel this is a big hurdle. Hunting comes with a big learning curve and this is one area that holds a lot of new and even long time hunters back. Here is how I go about it.
What Type of Property To Focus On:
For this process I use a couple different tools. Google maps, OnX, and County GIS Maps. You could get away with one but each has their pros and cons. This is what I like and dislike about each.
Google Maps: Free. I use it more in the beginning stages for an overview of the particular area I’m looking at. Also, handy if you want to see how far away it is from your house.
Pros: Photos generally up to date, can zoom in and still have clear photos, can measure distance
Cons: Can’t store way points, not as user-friendly, no property lines or owner information
OnX: Annual Cost: $29.99/state or $99.99/50 states. This is a great tool. Not only for e-scouting but also for when you are out in the woods. I have used it for 2 years now and really like it.
Pros: Can set way points, hunting layers, topography layers, tracking ability, property lines and owner information, share locations, app and desktop. OnX has a lot going for it. It’s a great tool as it should be because you pay for it.
Cons: Because it offers so much their is a learning curve to it. It’s an all in one package. I am still learning the ins and outs and have been using it for 2 years now.
County GIS: Free. I have found this to be a great in between option for Google Maps and OnX. Just google the county and state you live in followed by GIS map server. Due to it being county specific everyone is different and some counties don’t even have one. I’m seen some that are great and easy to use while others take some effort to find what you are looking for.
Pros: Up to date images, property lines, owner information
Cons: No way points, can’t measure distance, variable availability due to county specific website
Step 1: I start out to get a broad overview of the general area I plan on hunting. Here in Ohio I am surrounded by a lot of crop fields that have pockets or islands of woods. In my area it’s hard to find a wooded lot over 70 acres and 15 to 30 acres is the norm. Due to this I try to find areas that may have a strip of trees, wooded fence line, or drainage ditch that connects these pockets of woods together. If that is not possible I look for pockets of woods that are close together divided by a crop field or CRP field. In the photo below I have identified a couple spots of focus within a general area.
I may not be able to get permission for all the pockets of woods but I am looking at what is surrounding a certain area I am wanting to hunt. How does the land flow into and out of the area you are looking at? Where do you think deer will be concentrating? What looks like the best cover and safest travel routes between wood lots?
Once I have found a general area that looks good I’ll start to focus more on the specific property.
Step 2: As for focusing in on a specific property I look out at how the land is broken up into parcels. Some sections of woods can be broken up into 3 or 4 different owners. Preferably 1 to 2 is what I look for but that isn’t always an option. One thing to keep in mind is the same owner can have multiple parcels so always check and see who owns the parcels before passing over an area that is broken up.
Another topic I want to touch on is look for property that doesn’t have a house on it. The property that I have been able to gain permission on is land with no buildings. I feel this is due to the fact that people don’t want a stranger wandering around their house. Plus that stranger is walking around with a bow or gun and it makes sense why people are against giving permission. As hunters, we understand and think this is normal but more often that not I am asking permission from people that don’t hunt and may have a different viewpoint.
Out of this area this would be my number 1 option. No house, plenty of woods, and the surrounding land flows through it well.
This would be option 2. Large chunk of woods and even better looking travel/cover corridors for the deer. It does have a house on the property so that is why I rank it as a 2.
Here would be options 3 and 4. If you get a “no” from the land owners on option 1 and 2 try to find spots that connect to the better spots. Just because it is a small parcel doesn’t mean it can’t have potential.
Also, don’t forget to look for overlooked spots. Check out this photo below. The parcel is sandwiched between a highway to the south and the edge of a city to the north. Its 40 acres, no house/barn on the property, and crop field on the west side. If you look closely in the photo you will see a yellow line. That distinguishes the city limits which this property is just outside of so you don’t have to worry about no hunting laws.
In less than 30 mins I was able to find 5 properties to ask for permission on that are within a 15 min drive of each other. Yes, not every area will be as promising but if you put in the time looking over maps I’m sure you can find a handful of spots.
Keep in mind you don’t need a huge tract of land to have good hunting. Having more land available to you gives you more options but for a couple years all I had permission on was a 30 acre piece. It just happens to be in a good location. I have hunted it for 4 years. 2 of the 4 years I was fortunate enough to take a nice buck and last year I missed a dandy buck but was able to fill a tag on a doe.
Last year alone I saw 4 different bucks from the stand.
I would worry about property location and the lay of the land surrounding the area more than I would having a large acre property. It is nice to have but not needed.
Step 3: Rank the properties by most appealing to least. Whether that is 3 or 10 properties it doesn’t matter. Once you have done this look up who owns the specific properties and include that information with the particular property.
If you are still having trouble finding property start using your connections in the area. Friends, relatives, church members, parents at your kids little league games, or people you work with. Before moving to my new house I hunted a property a farmer owned. My father-in-law was friends with him growing up. That was the connection I needed to gain permission.
Now that you have a list of some property lets talk about the ways to ask for permission.
Formulate A Plan
What I mean by this is to make a plan on how you are going to ask your list of perspective property owners. I have used 2 techniques and both have worked for me.
1. The Numbers Game: This technique involves blocking off a chunk of the day, starting at the bottom of your list and make your way up going door to door asking permission. Start at the bottom of your list so that you have some practice before getting to your top priority spots. I like this technique because if you are nervous about asking someone for permission you will get over it quickly due to the fact of the number of people you will talk to. On the flip side it is easy to get discourage when you hear no.
I’m not going to sugar coat this, especially in the beginning your going to get “No” a lot. It just comes with the territory. Don’t get discourage. Just like a rut hunt in November it can all change in a matter of seconds.
2. The Spot and Stalk: This is a good technique if you only have a couple properties you are interested in or you only have a 30-min window free to go ask for permission. I have been leaning more towards this technique because now that I have some property available I can be more selective on the property I am interested in asking permission on.
Downfall of this technique is it’s easy to talk yourself out of going because you may only be asking permission for one property. This has happened to me in the past and before I knew it a couple weeks had gone by of excuses I’d given myself not to ask. Don’t waste time just go for it.
How to Ask
I’m not an extrovert so I still get nervous every time I walk up and knock on a door. I promise it does get easier and in the end it is well worth being uncomfortable for a couple mins once you land permission from an owner.
Face to Face
When asking for permission face to face I like to prepare for the specific situation. Drive by the property to see if you can pick up any clues. Are they a sports fan with their team’s flag flying, what kind of car do they drive, or how is the landscaping of their house. These all give you clues on how you should present yourself when they first see you standing at the door.
For this example lets break down the questions I mentioned above.
“Are they a sports fan?” If you are a fan of the same team wear the team’s shirt when you go to ask for permission. If your not you can always ask them how their team is doing this year for a conversation topic.
“What kind of car do they drive?” If a property owner drives a Chevy truck I am not going to wear a Ford Rules t-shirt.
“How is the landscaping?” This gives me a clue on how dressed up I need to get. The more well maintained a house and lawn is the more I will get dressed up.
Usually, if I don’t have any clues, I wear a clean ironed shirt (one color, no text, plain shirt) and nice jeans with cleaned boots. I live in a rural area so a collared polo or dress shirt would be over kill. If you hunt close to town or around the suburbs you may want to consider a collared shirt.
We as hunters pick up and leverage clues we see out in the woods. Why not do the same here? Any advantage you can use to increase your odds of getting permission is worth trying.
Here are 2 things that I always do when I knock on a door.
Step Back From The Door: I picked this tip up from a podcast talking to the Seek One Productions guys. They hunt in Atlanta and have to gain permission for every piece of property they hunt. During the interview they talked about the importance of taking a step back from the door and if possible a step down off of the porch. This puts you into a less aggressive position as you are now below the person at the door. Also, you don’t want to be right in the person’s face either.
Those first couple seconds are important because the owner is immediately going to start sizing you up and the decision could be made throughout your interaction with them so start off on the right foot.
Be Prepared: The first couple times I gained permission to a property I didn’t have a permission slip ready for the owner to sign. Came back a couple days later and the owner was gone and this played out for about 2 weeks before I could meet up with them for a signature.
From this I learned to always have a pen and permission slip with you. Take care of the documentation upfront. It shows the owner you know the rules and regulations and will save you the headache of trying to come back at the right time.
As for the actual process of asking for permission I get straight to the point. Again, I don’t have the gift of being able to talk to anyone so I don’t go that route.
Introduce myself. Ask to speak with X person (land owner). Then I go into why I’m here. I’m a hunter (bow or gun) from the area and am looking for a property to hunt for the upcoming season (deer,turkey, rabbit, etc,) I came across your property and would like to ask permission to bow hunt deer on your property this year? (be specific on what type of hunt and animal you are pursuing).
And then I let the conversation flow from their. Whether that’s a straight no, a couple questions, or they pause to think about it. I let them continue the conversation. By that time your nerves have started to calm down and you feel more comfortable.
If it’s a no, not all is lost. This is something I am working on myself but you can always ask if they know anyone in the area that allows hunting on their property. You can also try to connect with them on another angle. Thank them for their time tell them they have a beautiful property and ask them how long they have lived their?
You never know it might spark a conversation that could change their mind. This hasn’t happened to me personally but I have heard other people talk about striking up a conversation with the owner after being told no and the owner changes their mind and allows them to hunt.
The best advice I can give is to make this process personal. Put your own spin on it, be genuine and respectful and eventually you will get a yes.
Writing a letter is something I tried last year and it led to me getting permission on 30 acres. This was the same parcel I had hunted for the past 4 years but it changed owners. The new owner lived 3.5hrs away. “It’s worth a shot” I told myself and it ended up paying off.
I wrote a letter this year to a real estate/farm management company in another state and landed permission on over 260 acres.
2 letters and now I can hunt over 300 acres. I’ll take that deal any day. Because of this success I am adding this to my process for the foreseeable future and I want to share with you what information I had in my letter so hopefully you can have success as well.
Beginning of Letter: Again, I get straight to the point. My name is X and I am asking permission to hunt X property in X city and state that you own. I will include the address provided by either OnX or the County GIS system as well as a screen shot of the property. The County GIS for the county I live in provides the exact acreage as well so I include that for a better description of the property.
In this section I talk about what type of hunting I am asking permission for, the season dates, archery or gun. The reason why I am specific is that this way there is no misinterpretation between the land owner and I. Also, I could be talking to a non-hunter so any detail I can provide will help them understand the situation better.
Middle of Letter: This is where I talk about myself. Tell them what you do for a living, do you have kids, how long have you been married, how long have you lived in the area.
In this section as well I talk about the organizations I below to (Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, National Deer Alliance, etc). Tell them how you volunteer and give money to the organizations. Talk about how long you have been hunting, why you hunt, what you do with the meat.
What my focus here is making a connection with them. Especially if they are a non-hunter I want to show them I am more than just a person wanting to kill something on their property. Tell them how you butcher your own meat, like to slow down and enjoy the sunset/sunrises and watch the natural world.
You’re selling yourself here so make it count.
End of Letter: In this section before wrapping it up I will talk about if I gain permission. I’ll give a description and or include a picture of my truck. Provide my phone number and email.
I also let them know I have included a permission slip provided by the specific state I am asking permission for. In Ohio, the landowner is not liable for any type of damage or personal injury caused to myself while I am on their property. Ohio does a great job of including this on the actual permission slip.
I do add that into the letter though and point it out. This is a gut feeling but I think that adding the release of liability information helps a great deal in persuading the landowner to grant permission.
Before wrapping it up I thank them for their time and ask again for permission to hunt. Tell them they can mail or email me the permission slip and end the letter.
Initially the letter took me 30 to 45 mins to write up but now that I have a template I can easily modify it to the specific owner, customize it with any additional information, and have it done in 10 mins.
So far this has been well worth my investment of time.
Questions To Ask
Ok, now that you have gotten permission their are some questions you need to ask. Not only will this protect you and give you a better understanding but also shows the property owner that you care and won’t be a thorn in their side.
Would you like to show me the property boundaries? Sometimes you will just get a quick description and lay of the land. Other people like to show off their property and this is a great opportunity to start building a relationship with the owner.
Any areas I’m not allowed? Goes along with the question above. Maybe they don’t want you to hunt close to the house or a pasture with horses/cows.
Any dates off limit? Always good to ask especially if you plan to hunt the property around the holidays.
Am I the only one who has permission? In my opinion this is one of the most important questions to ask. Trust me I have learned this the hard way. I got permission to hunt a property 6 years ago and I just assumed I was the only one. I quickly found out that I was one of many to have permission to hunt. This private property had more pressure than any public I have hunted.
Whether you are the only one or their are 3 other people it is important that you are aware of the circumstances. It’s not fun to be blind sided.
Can I trim branches? Walking lanes? Always ask before doing anything to the land owners property. What may not seem like a big deal to you might be very important to the land owner.
How To Keep Permission
Be a responsible hunter. Plan and simple but I need to say it because all it takes is one bad apple to ruin it. Not only are you representing yourself but all hunters. How do you think a land owner is going to react to a new hunter asking for permission when the last hunter left trash, or damaged their property? Don’t be that person who ruins it for everyone else.
Build a relationship with the land owner. At the end of the day you’re hunting a property for free…you need to provide some type of value to the owner. Flip the script and think about it from the land owner’s stand point.
How would you like someone to treat your property?
Around the holidays I always send a thank you card to the land owner. Thank them again for permission and wish them the best for a happy new year. I will also put a gas card in the envelope as well. Iv’e heard people dropping off a ham or if you know their favorite beer/wine that’s always a good go to.
$20 to $50 bucks isn’t much to part with when you think about what you are getting out of the deal.
Another great option is to stop by and offer some meat from your kill and harvest. I’ve had mixed results with this as some people were not interested while others gladly accepted. Either way it’s a nice gesture.
One thing I started doing last year with the non-local property owner is to write them a letter at the end of the season telling them about some memories I made hunting on their property. On that property I had shot a doe that died within eyesight.
Knowing it would be an easy blood trail I called my brother-in-law and told my little nephew (4 years old) I needed some help. It was a great experience for him and myself and without that property that memory would have not happened. I’m sure it put a smile on the land owners face reading about that story.
To sum it up treat the property like it was your own, close gates, and pick up trash even if it’s not your mess. See if their is any yard work you can help with. The little things can go a long way.
I look at these properties as long term hunting investments. Yes, I could lose permission tomorrow but I plan to hunt these properties for years to come so I need to put in the work to build a relationship.
Now It’s Your Turn
This is what has worked for me. It takes some work but it is possible to gain access to hunting ground just off a handshake. Take these ideas and run with it. Customize it to your location and personality.
Have any additional questions? Leave them in the comment section below.
If you have any different techniques let me hear them. I’m curious to see what has been working for you.
Have a good one.