BOISE — With many of Idaho’s hunting seasons in progress or to begin soon, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game urges hunters to be conscious of their actions and act responsibly when hunting private land.
Access to private land can be a challenge for Idaho hunters.
Each year, landowners restrict access to their property because of conflicts with hunters — trespassing, litter, property damage and discharging firearms close to livestock or buildings being the main reasons. Unfortunately, the careless actions of a few are causing access to quality hunting to disappear for the rest.
Whatever the reason for complaint, most circumstances boil down to a lack of common sense and lack of respect for landowners and their property.
“It’s important to remember that your actions represent all hunters,” Sal Palazzolo, private lands coordinator for Idaho Fish and Game, said in a statement. “Always be the best ambassador of hunting that you can be by treating the landowner as you would like to be treated and their land as you would like yours to be treated.”
Getting permission to hunt private land may seem daunting, but the extra effort is worth it. According to a survey of rural Idaho landowners, 88% will allow hunting on their property if hunters ask permission first. However, how hunters behave before, during and after the hunt will determine if they are allowed back.
Before the hunt
Hunters seeking permission are required to get written permission from the landowner, preferably before the season begins.
A permission form is available on Page 2 of the 2019/20 Big Game Season and Rules booklet, at Fish and Game offices and at any county sheriff’s office. Other methods of permission are still legal, but written permission is the best.
Before asking, sportsmen should consider the landowner’s perspective. Hunting season falls during a very busy time of year for farmers and ranchers as many are rushing to get their fall work completed before winter. A steady stream of phone calls and hunters appearing randomly at their front door takes time away from getting work done and can be overwhelming.
When asking permission, be polite, friendly and arrive during reasonable hours. Calling or knocking on a rancher’s door at 6 a.m. the day you want to hunt is the best way to get turned down. If you haven’t already obtained permission before the season begins, a face-to-face meeting at the landowner’s house a few evenings before you plan to hunt is usually appropriate.
If allowed to hunt, both hunters and landowners should clearly understand what kind of permission is being given. For instance, is permission for a single day or for the whole season? Is permission only to hunt deer, or is it for elk or just upland game birds? Also, are you asking permission just for yourself, or will others be hunting with you?
Never assume because permission was granted last year that the same applies this year.
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Landowners want to know who’s on their property, and some even manage hunter numbers by setting a limit. The limit makes for a higher quality hunting experience and helps the landowner keep track of who will be on their land and when.
If your request is denied, don’t take it personally. Be understanding and remain polite, whether or not the landowner explains the reason for the decision. Remember, your courtesy and respectfulness may affect the outcome of future requests.
“Hunting private land is a privilege, not a right,” Palazzolo said. “If hunters respect landowners and show their gratitude whether the answer is yes or no, they can establish relationships that both will appreciate.”
Fish and Game encourages hunters to exchange contact information with the landowner. Provide them a business card or note card with your name, contact information and vehicle description including plate number. Landowners feel more secure knowing who is on their property and how to contact them if necessary.
During the hunt
How a hunter behaves while on private land is critical.
Many times this involves knowing where to park, keeping safe distances from livestock and buildings, leaving gates the way they are found and knowing property boundaries. Keeping vehicles off fire-prone vegetation and muddy roads are other concerns for landowners.
Landowners also appreciate if you leave the area better than you found it. Again, boils down to good manners and shows respect. It includes picking up your empty shell casings, other litter you may find and not cleaning birds or other game near roads, ditches or in areas frequented by people or livestock. Remember, not picking up your empty shell casings is considered littering under Idaho law. If you notice something wrong or out of place, notify the landowner immediately.
After the hunt
Landowners generally welcome those hunters who are thoughtful and respect their property. When you are done hunting, drop by and thank the landowner for allowing you access. Send them a thank you card, gift certificate to a local restaurant or other tokens of appreciation. Simple gestures will improve your relationship with the landowner and help build a positive image of hunting.
If mentoring a young hunter, consider providing them with an opportunity to ask a landowner for permission and to express their appreciation after the hunt.
As part of the mentoring process, it is important that young hunters understand they must respect landowners and their land.
At the end of the day, remember that responsible hunters do not have to harvest to have a successful day. One can have a great experience by recognizing the challenge of the hunt, the pleasures of being in nature, sharing companionship and serving as an ambassador to the sport.