Ah, the frustrations of not owning your own piece of hunting land!
It can be something of a frustration to be a hunter who doesn’t have access to private land to hunt on. Hunters with ready access to private land may not always understand some of the trying things hunters who have to rely on door-knocking or public land have to deal with.
Aside from being insanely jealous of those with their own private hunting paradises, here are 10 things most hunters without private land can easily understand.
1. The frustration of door-knocking
If you do want to hunt private land, a long-time tradition for the landless hunter has been door-knocking. Simply put, it’s going out in the country and knocking on doors and asking for permission to hunt someone’s private property.
Sometimes you get lucky and find a farmer having deer problems in the crops, but more often than not, it’s a pretty fruitless search. You get turned down time after time because the landowners or their family are already hunting the property.
Or even worse, you run into anti-hunters who not only turn you down, but lecture you on how hunting is wrong!
2. Reliance on friends and relatives
If you don’t own land, your next-best best is likely going to be hunting a friend or relative’s land. Usually this isn’t a big deal. Help out them out a little bit around the property, share the meat if they don’t hunt themselves to thank them. Take part in their management plans if they have them. You are their guest after all.
There are however, every season the horror stories of hunters who lose access because a friend or relative suddenly and unexpectedly sells off their land. I’ve even read a few cases where an inner family feud started and access was suddenly cut off.
Relying on friends or relatives is probably your best-case scenario if you don’t own land yourself, but deep-down you still yearn to own your own hunting paradise where you make the rules.
3. Special regulations on private lands
If you’re a public land hunter, no doubt you’ve run into some confusion before regarding special regulations for public and private lands. Almost every state has some in some form or another. For instance, some parts of Michigan offer extra opportunities for antlerless deer tags on private land sometimes.
In Indiana this upcoming season, deer hunters will be able to utilize rifles on private land. But public land hunters will still be limited to shotguns. This means if you’re hunting public land next door to private, the hunters on the other side of the fence have a potential firepower advantage.
Sometimes the private land hunters get extended or extra seasons public land hunters do not. What’s up with that?
At times, it just doesn’t seem fair the extra little opportunities the private land hunters get while you’re still trying to fill the freezer for the season.
4. Scouting public land and finding signs of hunters
Nothing is more frustrating for the public land hunter than finding a bunch of great deer sign on a well-traveled pathway and then turning around and seeing someone’s freshly placed stand 30 yards away. It means someone else has already beaten you to the punch.
You’re not rude, so you move on to other areas but find signs of hunters near all the great deer sign there too. The one corner of public land you find that isn’t plastered with signs of hunters also has no deer sign so you drive away frustrated.
Ah, the joys of public land hunting.
5. That ONE guy on public land – you know the one I mean!
You’ve done your homework. You’ve scouted out a spot on public land for opening day of firearm deer season that looks perfect. Deer sign is everywhere and there are no signs of other hunters anywhere nearby. It looks like you’ll have the place to yourself on the big day.
Opening morning, you get to your spot well before dawn and settle in with a great deal of excitement waiting for first light. Just as the sun is cracking the horizon and it is just getting light enough to shoot, you hear movement. You excitedly train your binoculars on the source of the noise.
Instead of that 10-point buck you were hoping for, you see another hunter loudly stumbling in your direction. He sits down in a ground blind that was obviously hastily-constructed last night and you didn’t notice in the dark. Usually this guy isn’t wearing the legal amount of orange. He noisily plops himself down on an overturned bucket and often begins a very loud and unnecessarily aggressive grunting/rattling sequence guaranteed to scare whatever deer were left in the woods away for the rest of the day.
This guy may spoil many different hunts, not just firearm deer season. I just noted one of most common times to deal with him. Why is there always that guy who never scouts, comes in late and sets up right on top of you? It’s infuriating and can ruin weeks of anticipation. This one is so frustrating I can’t even talk about it anymore! Let’s move on.
6. Non-hunters spoiling the hunt
This one is similar to another hunter spoiling your public land hunt, but instead, it’s a non-hunter. It may be a hiker or backpacker. Maybe it’s just a nature photographer. Whoever they are, they fail to see you and bumble right into your setup at the magic hour and spoil a whole morning or evening.
It’s even worse if they stop to talk to you. You’re almost guaranteed to get the “Did you catch anything?” question.
Years ago, I was bowhunting a county park when I had a woman on a horse do just this. Thankfully she saw me and tried to back out quietly. But her horse took her face-first through a bunch of low-hanging branches in the process. She nearly fell off!
Needless to say, I didn’t see any deer that night, but I did get a little laugh that made the pain of having the hunt ruined easier to swallow.
7. Someone is using my stand!
Nothing is more frustrating than putting in the work to set up a perfect blind or treestand on public land, and finding another hunter sitting in it! While it is public land, there’s a common courtesy that comes into play here.
You’ve done your homework with hours of scouting. You’ve done the work of placing stands and cutting shooting lanes (if it’s even legal on public land where you hunt). And now, someone else is attempting to just come in and profit from your hard work.
Unfortunately, spend any time in hunting forums or Facebook groups and you’ll hear countless stories of confrontations with other hunters that happen like this every season. Use a little common sense, don’t use others’ stands and blinds!
8. The uncertainty of your season
If you don’t own private land, there can be a certain uncertainty to your hunting season at times. If it’s getting close to opening day and you still don’t have a spot to hunt, you’re likely in panic mode wondering if you’ll even get to enjoy the thing you love this year.
If the situation is really bad and for whatever reason, you’ve failed to secure a place to hunt, you might find yourself walking into an area blind just hoping you get a glimpse of an animal. Not exactly a confidence-building option. One thing is for sure, hunters who own land will never know this stress of finding a hunting place in a short time before a season opening.
9. Worries about equipment being stolen
If you have to hunt private land, you don’t enjoy the same sense of security for your equipment private land hunters do. Your stands and trail cameras are much more likely to be stolen on public land, if you put them out ahead of time at all. You have to put multiple locks and identifying marks on everything you leave out. But the thought they could be stolen is always in the back of your mind.
There’s also always that moment where you hold your breath right before reaching a trail cam or treestand. You breathe a sigh of relief every time you find your stuff is still there.
While stuff can be stolen off private land too, it’s safe to say this is a much lesser concern for the private land-owning hunter.
10. You take less and smaller game
It doesn’t matter what you’re hunting, if you don’t own or have access to a private spot, you’re probably going to take fewer animals than those that do. Here in Michigan, that’s especially true for the most part. The animals get heavy pressure in state game area and are much harder to harvest, no matter the species. It is little wonder many of them take the first legal animal they see. They may not get another chance!
In some public areas, you may feel more pressure to drop larger game animals on the spot. This is because there are other hunters in the woods who might take a shot if the animal runs off wounded. We won’t even get into the multiple hunters shooting the same animal messes that happen every year. But needless to say, determining who has rightful possession of an animal in some of these situations can get messy.
As if it isn’t obvious, there’s a whole bunch of problems you run into as a hunter if you don’t own your own public land. I could easily go on with more, but I think most will agree these are some of the most frustrating ones. Share this with your private land buddies who don’t understand your frustrations year after year.
Do you have any other examples of things you wished private land-owning hunters knew? Let us know!