Cooler nights, county fairs, pick-ups hauling firewood, fields and roadsides turning brown...all are reminders that Idaho's great fall hunting seasons are just around the corner. Hunters are sighting in rifles, poring over maps of hunting areas and in general "gearing up" for good times ahead. There is one other important item hunters cannot overlook, and that is making contact with private landowners on whose property they may wish to hunt.
According to a survey of rural Idaho landowners, 88% will allow hunting on their property if hunters ask permission first. In addition, the vast majority of those landowners are more likely to grant access to their land to people who ask well in advance. I suggest hunters contact landowners at least two weeks before a hunting trip. I like to ask even sooner on prime properties because some landowners set a "quota" on their property. I want to be included on that list because the limit they place on the number of hunters makes for a high quality hunting experience. Now is the time to make sure you are included. Certainly every hunter has asked for permission at least once when the landowner said he/she had already given permission to as many hunters as they would allow for the season. That can be frustrating, but as they say in Idaho water law..."First in time, first in line!"
Sportsmen may pick up free hunter courtesy cards at Fish and Game offices. These contain spaces for the hunter's (or angler's) name, address etc. to be given to landowners who grant access to their land. Landowners in turn sign a card the hunter keeps which verifies permission to access the property. The cards do not increase the landowners liability in the case of an injury. These simply provide proof that the landowner has been personally contacted prior to entering private land.
Idaho law provides that it is a misdemeanor for a person to enter another person's property without permission for the purpose of hunting, trapping or fishing if the land is cultivated or irrigated. In these instances, permission must be obtained even when the land is not posted. If the landowner wishes to restrict hunting, fishing or trapping access on land that is not irrigated or cultivated, e.g. forest land, the land must be posted every 660 feet. But if a hunter is aware a piece of land is privately owned, even if it is not irrigated, cultivated or posted; it is most appropriate to ask permission as a courtesy.
Sportsmen can improve landowner/sportsman relations considerably by their behavior. In addition to always asking permission in advance, there are other princlples that apply to hunting activities. Road hunting is one of the most irritating practices to landowners since this leads to shooting from roads onto private property near buildings, livestock and people. In addition, shooting from or across a public road or from a vehicle is illegal and dangerous as people (poachers) climb in and out of vehicles with loaded firearms. While Idaho law does not prohibit possession of a fully loaded gun in a vehicle, common sense and accident statistics indicate this is a foolish practice and one which can only hurt the image of the fine sport of hunting.