The inevitable question that comes up with alarming frequency is:
"Where can I go to hunt?"
If you live on either of the coasts, any blue state, or one of the major metropolitan areas, you are probably one of those folks that ask that question. Whether because of time constraints, responsibilities, or access issues, people who hunt or want to hunt are increasingly wondering how they are going to practice their craft.
I have been studying the High Fencing issue, (and by-the-way I'm almost done), and many times I have found that for many people, a high fenced property that is the only alternative they have, and they are willing to pay for the privilege of accessing someones property in order to hunt.
Permits for Wildlife Management Areas, WMAs, are harder to come by as the number of people that need to use them increase. Florida in particular, and as I believe it is in most places, suffered through a vast change in the last 15 years. The accessible land has been fragmented and lost through construction, ownership changes, and habitat loss.
The construction boom alone destroyed untold thousands of acres in the race to build as many homes as could be fit on a parcel. All of these properties were close to centers of existing commerce and living. These properties were at one time ranches, farms, or lands left fallow by the owners for various reasons.
Many of these properties were hunted by family members, friends, and associates. Now they are subdivisions, shopping malls, and commercial space. When I was thick in the middle of building homes, I frequently was asked if there was some way I could get them permission to hunt "over there," or could access be granted for property "X or Y." I was never able to get permission for myself or anyone else for the simple reason that the corporate lawyers wanted nothing to do with hunting on the companies' land; liability they would say. It is interesting, that many of these properties are now lying abandoned.
So, what to do...
If you are looking for a place to hunt, first consider what public properties are available to you. Call your state Fish and Game Department and ask them what they would recommend.
Have some cards made up. You can got to the local stationary shop, and buy a package of business cards that you can print out on your home computer. On the card put your name, a phone number, and something that says "I am looking for a place to hunt please help." I'm exaggerating of course, but come up with a clever phrase. On the back of the card print a list of things that you are willing to do and abide by. For example:
- I will close all gates I open.
- I will pick up any trash I find.
- I will report anything strange or unusual that I find.
- I abide by all the game laws.
- I will not allow anyone else access without permission.
- I will share my game.
I'm sure there are other ideas you can come up with.
When you are out looking for places to hunt, dress appropriately. Think about the impression you are making. Dress neatly, look smart, speak properly and be well mannered. These folks didn't get to where they are by tolerating fools, so don't be one. You are the one asking for permission, and they don't have to give it. If no is what you get, accept it graciously, shake hands and tell them you'll check with them again next year.
Be prepared to trade your knowledge for a permission. Be prepared to trade hard work for permission. Offer a trade in what you know you can do and deliver. I've traded honey for a weekend of access, which then turned into permanent access.
You may have to work at it for several seasons before they finally relent; keep at it. It's better than not having anyplace to go.
I touch on the next point briefly as I have a full length post in the works on the subject.
Think about this, if there is no public access available, who's fault is it?
Write you local congressmen, write your national congressmen, write the Dept of the Interior! Get involved, do something. Pick a fight and go for it. When that one is done, find another and slug it out there too! Start a local group specifically looking to push the government into land acquisition for the use of sportsmen.
All of us should make an effort to do a number of things to guarantee the future of hunting, shooting, and gun ownership.
- Teach children about the outdoors. Do it on your own, or join an organization like Pass It On!
- Become a member of the NRA, GOA or any other organization that promotes shooting and hunting.
- Write to your Federal and State Congressmen and Senators. The links are on the right hand column.
- Write your local elected officials. It only takes a few minutes to find out who they are through the internet.
Just go out and do something, that's all it takes!
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...