By Clay Hickey, Landowner/Sportsmen Coordinator, Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game
As an avid hunter and an Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) employee who works closely with landowners every day, my experience in asking for and working with those who give permission to hunt has been considerable.
Over the years, I have experienced that there is clearly a "right way" and a "wrong way" to ask for the opportunity to hunt someone else's land.
Although there is no guarantee that you will receive permission to hunt, following the suggestions listed below will definitely increase your chances of obtaining permission to hunt from the landowner.
The first step is to be courteous and respectful. Common courtesy and good manners still go along way, especially in Idaho. Using yes sir, no sir, Mr., and Mrs. shows proper respect when speaking with someone you do not personally know. You will also greatly increase your opportunity to gain permission if you look like someone who is a responsible individual.
Whenever possible, ask the landowner in person rather than over the phone. People like to see who they are dealing with. In addition, it is always harder to tell someone no in person than it is to tell them no over the phone.
Also, the hunter who plans ahead and asks permission well in advance is usually welcome, while those who do not ask or wait until the day of the hunt, may not get the same kind of welcome. Don't show up at a landowner's door at 6:00 a.m. on the day you want to go hunting and expect the landowner to allow you access.
It is usually best to contact a landowner at least a week before you want to hunt on their property. You probably also want to follow up a day or two prior to actually hunting just to make sure it is still okay to hunt there. This may seem bothersome to you, but landowners appreciate a thoughtful hunter.
But what if the landowner denies your request? Remember the landowner has the right to say no, as it his or her private property. Hunting private land is a privilege granted to the hunter, not a right. Having fences cut or having hunters trespass on their property really sours landowners on all hunters. If hunters respect landowners and show their gratitude whether the answer is yes or no, they can establish relationships that both will appreciate.
If you do get permission, exchange Landowner/Sportsmen Courtesy Cards with the landowner. The cards are free and available at IDFG offices. The cards communicate important information such as hunter name, phone number and vehicle description. The two-part, pocket-sized booklet of six cards provides hunters with a handy way of exchanging essential information with landowners who, in turn, feel more secure knowing who's hunting on their property and how to contact them. Ask them if they want you to call or stop by before you go hunting, and if there will be other hunters out there.
Always remember to treat the landowner and his or her property with respect. Put yourself in the landowner's shoes. Remember, it is probably easier and less stressful for most landowners to close their property to hunting. If the landowner doesn't want you driving or hunting close to livestock then do not. Driving through stubble fields with a low clearancevehicle can start a fire, and driving on wet roads can create a mess. Utilize their property, but leave it untouched.
Landowners, just like you, can get upset when they have livestock, buildings, or property damaged from bullets or find litter strewn about their property. How would you feel if your neighbors emptied their garbage can in your driveway or shot out your living room window?
Gates should be left as you find them. If you are uncertain whether or not a gate should be open or closed, stop by and ask the landowner or leave them a note. Also, inform them of any suspicious activity on their property.
When done hunting, stop and thank the landowner for allowing you access and to let them know that you are done hunting. Often times, hunters will send a thank you card later or offer to donate a few hours of labor. While these practices are great and never hurt, treating the landowner's property with respect and offering a simple thank you when leaving is often enough.
Landowners can grant permission a number of ways, including face-to-face, by telephone, in writing or by posting signs that explain the type of hunting allowed and the conditions that may apply. Fish and Game provides property owners free signs that address the issue of respecting private property. The signs include "hunting by permission only," "road closed to vehicles," and "safety zone." For more information, drop by Fish and Game's Lewiston office at 1540 Warner Ave., or call 799-5010.
Clay Hickey is the Landowner-Sportsmen's Coordinator for the Clearwater Region. He has worked for IDFG since 2002.