In my many travels, I see and hear of some pretty amazing deer hunter-landowner related stories. Some are just funny and others are downright unethical. I want to share with you some suggestions to help all of us as outdoor enthusiasts to present a fair and ethical face on all fronts. Some of these may or may not apply to you, but I bet you can relate to all in some form or fashion:
Primarily for hunters:
- As politics and public perception slowly and steadily changes with big-city folks, we hunters need to make certain we do our part to not add fuel to the fire. Represent your hunting fraternity in a positive manner at all times and show respect to any and all harvested animals. You know the routine—lay deer down flat in the bed of the truck or trailer, don’t prop them up for all to see because not everyone WANTS to see.
- When taking photos of yourself and your harvested game, leave out the cigarette and adult cold beverage and make sure the animal is presented respectfully and tastefully. Clean yourself and the animal up to minimize any appearance of being bloody.
- When in town buying groceries and supplies, watch your conversations around others you don’t know, not everyone enjoys the stories of your hunting prowess over supper or wants to hear about the exit wound in the grocery store. Save that for the feed store and campfire where you likely know all of your audience.
- When wearing camo clothing in town or pulling a trailer full of ATVs, you are advertising that you are an active supporter of local folks and their property. Please remember that as you drive through town and down our roads and please do not litter — intentionally or otherwise. Round up all empty ice, corn, and seed bags and beverage containers and put them where they belong. Don’t let them blow off the trailer or out of the bed of the truck. Also, drive cautiously down our rural roads. Somebody’s mother or children are likely to be driving down that same road and we don’t want any accidents!
- When taking aim at a potential animal target, take your time and use proper shot placement. The idea of using a small cannon to shoot such lightweight animals is not required, but practiced and accurate bullet placement is. One well-placed shot is usually all that is required rather than five misplaced ones.
- A landowner cherishes their land. Some places are almost sacred to their owners and many have been in the same family for a century or more. Do everything you possibly can to prevent any damage to the land in which you hunt—if it isn’t your litter, pick it up anyway. If you find a gate closed, make certain you leave it closed. If you find a broken waterline, report it or fix it. If the cow is having trouble calving, report it and offer to help. If the goats are in the wrong pasture or in your feed pen, offer to help correct the situation and not make it worse. If it rains, walk or take a different route to the blind, do not tear up the roads. Make yourself an asset and not a liability and I guarantee you will be invited back next year to hunt again.
- Do not place your blinds or feeders within close proximity of the boundary fence. Use common sense and hunt your own property and not the neighbor’s. If your blind has to be close to the property line, as in an irregular shaped or small property, permanently block the window facing to the neighbor so it is obvious you are not even looking that direction. Use hills and trees to help block the view that neighbors have of your blind and feeder location.
- Practice real-world game management to improve the herd for everyone. Nobody likes a game hog and nobody likes a buck-only hunter (unless the management plan calls for such, very rare). If the herd needs thinning, females are usually the ones needing thinning and not immature bucks. Leave the egos at home and shoot as many females as prescribed in the management plan. You can live with shooting just one buck a year and you can’t eat all those antlers, so do your part to improve the herd for everyone.
Primarily for landowners:
- Lease and package hunters pay a great deal of money to borrow your land for a short period of time. Be respectful of their limited access and time and enjoy their enthusiasm as they pursue their passions at your profit. Almost all hunters are well-meaning and cooperative, so give them a fair chance to show their true colors.
- Be fair and honest in your dealings with them. Provide them a decent place to build a camp and set up for the season. If you can help by setting up the electric or water company accounts and construction, do so because it won’t take much time or work on your end.
- When presenting a legally binding contract, be fair. Don’t have unreal and unreasonable expectations and don’t assume all hunters are like the last ones you had to run off. Be flexible and give them a shot at returning the favor.
- Don’t be afraid to ask them for help if you need it. Perhaps you can’t pull that windmill rod alone or can’t find that one cow in the pasture. Why not use the extra eyes and muscles if they can help? Share your resources and work together. If they want to plant food plots for the deer, why not cooperate and use both parties’ resources? You might be able to turn the cattle in on the plots after the season, so building a temporary electric fence in August or using your tractor to work the fields is a good trade.
- Just because a gate was left open doesn’t always mean the hunters did it. Could the cattle have pushed it open, the wind, or the horse figured out the latch? Don’t assume the worst right off the bat.
- Don’t allow your hunters, or yourself, to place their camp, blinds, or feeders along the boundary fence. Not only is this unsafe, this is not being a good neighbor. Hunt your own land and not the neighbor’s, be a good neighbor!
- Don’t check your livestock at daylight or dusk during hunting season. Do something else until late morning before checking your stock and driving all over the ranch. Remember, the hunters are leasing your property, at a profit to you, for a limited amount of time basically for early morning and late evening hunting privileges, so don’t disturb their legal rights to give you their money! Work around the hunter’s schedule and keep them posted if there is an emergency need to be in a particular pasture during peak hunting times.
Now I know I didn’t cover everything, but these are certainly the more common issues I see occurring in the deer pastures these days. The list could be long and involved, but I hope it at least stirs some campfire discussions. Communication is the key to a successful relationship between hunters and landowners, so put yourself in the other’s boots for a few hours before making any comments or demands and certainly before any negotiations. We as landowners and hunters are in this deer industry together, and it is up to us as a team to make it look good for all involved.
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