In this third instalment of this series, we will explore the nuances of keeping hunting access to private property. Property access is a privilege, a privilege that is hard to obtain but easy to lose. Losing access to a property may mean you’ve lost your sole gateway to hunting, it may even mean you lose access to the rest of your properties, as word can travel fast. There are many factors in play when you are hunting on someone else’s property, leading this to being a highly nuanced topic. Understandably, not every property owner is the same or have the same thought processes and rules, however, this article aims to provide some advice to those who may not have much experience on private property in how to keep their access.
This advice has been provided by interviewing multiple property owners and asking for their advice.
Conversations with the property owner and upkeep of relations
People generally like to have an idea of who is on their property, what they are like, how they act, how responsible they are, and sometimes just like to get to know the person. Some advice was given to make time to sit down with the property owner and have a good conversation with them, which may include having a meal with them. This conversation won’t necessarily be about hunting, and if the property owner is staying away from that topic, don’t push it, they are trying to get to know you. This is a great time for good impressions, if they like you, they may be more likely to recommend you to others.
When the conversation naturally moves to hunting and what you’re doing, if you haven’t done so, ask about what to do if you’re successful in your hunt. Some property owners don’t mind if you shoot and drop, some may want you do drag the body to a certain location, the main point being you need to ask. Gauge what their rules are on alcohol, because while it may be some hunter’s personal traditions to have a drink while camping, the property owner may have their own rules on whether they allow people to drink on their land. They may have rules on drinking and access to firearms, drinking and driving around the property, or all of the above. It’s their land and their insurance if something goes wrong, respect their rules. If you haven’t already, ensure you have their contact details, including UHF channel. Lastly, check in on if they are happy with your frequency of visits.
Lastly, have a check in and check out system. Once the property owner and yourself have a good relationship, you may not need to check in with them in person every single time. But do ensure you have a system in place that lets them know you have arrived onto their property, and that you are leaving their property. After that, give them a message of appreciation after you have arrived home.
Ascertaining what issues the property owner would like to be reported is a conversation you should have when you first arrive, however it is also a good topic for this article, as there may be things that slip the property owner’s mind. Understandably the property operations are not your responsibility, however it doesn’t hurt to report certain things you may encounter on your adventures.
A common issue is damage to fences, which could be from weather events, livestock, even or damage from people who either haven’t reported it or weren’t supposed to be there. Take a note on your GPS or map and when you see the property owner next, let them know. This extends to gates, the usual rule on gates is “leave it as you found it”, however if you find a gate that is in a position that is contrary to what the owner said it would be, that’s information they need to know. Keep an eye out on where water is on the property. Different properties have different water systems, however not many appreciate losing water. If you notice a water tank is leaking, a trough is leaking, or major runoff from a dam, the property owner certainly needs to know this. Water runoff is rarely intentional, and they need to know.
Poachers and trespassers are issues property owners face regularly. If the property owner has told you what to do with the carcass of an animal, and it involves either some sort of processing or transporting, and you find a carcass that is not in line with what they have told you, this is a good indicator of poachers. Animals carcasses where they shouldn’t be and vehicle tracks in locations that don’t make sense need to be reported to the property owner. They need to know it wasn’t you and that there have been people on their property without authorisation.
The health of their livestock isn’t your responsibility, and if you’re not a vet or have experience in livestock management, you probably don’t know what to look for, but there are certain signs that should be reported if you come across them. First, if an animal is calving or lambing, that should be reported, and especially so if you can see that the animal is struggling to do so. This can end up requiring human intervention of two or more people, and quick intervention can make sure the property owner doesn’t lose thousands of dollars. If an animal looks severely underweight compared to the rest, and when combined with runny excrement that is building up on the back of their legs, this is a sign of worms. The property owner may know about it, but it remains helpful to let them know. Again, these aren’t your responsibility, but they would go a long way in keeping good relations with the property owner. They’re only a few examples of the most obvious signs to look for, and there are many more issues livestock face, but if you spent all your time checking livestock you won’t have time to hunt. So, just keep an eye out and report things that look weird.
A major issue hunters and property owners face is the issue of “friends”. Or more accurately, “friends of friends”, which leads to “friends of friends of friends”, and so on. Taking a friend out hunting is a great time and there’s no shame or harm in that. However, there is a reoccurring issue with bringing others to a property you have access to, and something a property owner can spot early and deny access. The issue is this; you invite a friend out after getting the okay from the property owner, and you two have a great time and head home. Sometime in the near future, that friend returns with one of their friends without your knowledge, using you or their previous time as a reference. Sometimes, they don’t inform the property owner. This creates a domino effect that spirals out to people you’ve never even heard of getting onto that property. These new people will come on and camp in locations wherever they please, leaving gates open, boxing stock or letting stock out, damaging crops, and so on. If caught, they will throw you under the base and claim they got permission from you, leading you to get an abusive phone call and no longer being able to hunt there again. Or, anywhere in that region, because word travels fast.
To mitigate this situation, have a conversation with the property owner that goes like this:
“if you haven’t heard from me asking permission for a friend to come on and hunt, and I’m not with them, they aren’t my friend and kick them off. It’s your property and I’ll never give anyone permission to come on here without you having knowledge about it beforehand”. Or similar. You need to have utmost trust in your friends before taking them anywhere.
Social media policy
The safety of the property is of critical importance. Rural thefts and break-ins are high, very common, and are always on the mind of property owners. Talk with the property owner about what type of photos you can take. This is usually to do with not having identifiable landmarks in view or sheds. Sheds, and the content of them, should always remain private. Most properties have a property name in lieu of an address, keep that off social media too. Trophy photos are usually fine, but anything beyond that, ask the property owner or just understand it’s a no-go.
These are just some of the thoughts conveyed by property owners on how to behave on private property, but there are so many more factors to consider. Always make sure to have conversations about this with the property owner so you can be safe, they can keep their property safe, and both of you can have a good time.If you’ve enjoyed this article, check out the rest of the website. We have hunting themed merch, camping gear, some hunting gear, and more articles to read!