It’s Time To Get Your Hunting Land Lined Up For 2014

It seems that folks are doing more and more posting of property here in Chautauqua County. While I do not have first-hand knowledge of this, I caught wind that the local BPU will be posting all the land they own, only to let employees hunt on it and not giving the folks who been hunting the property for years access. Of course, its been said that folks who aren’t lucky enough to work for the BPU can get on a list to hunt the land, but employees will have first rights.

I ask for, and mostly generally receive, permission to hunt new ground each year. While it’s not as easy as it was a few years ago, hunters can still get permission to hunt private land.

Often times it’s how and when we ask for permission to hunt on another person’s property.

Many people long to find a honey hole to hunt on private land. Many private landowners, whether they hunt or not, are most sick of folks – whether they hunt or not – walk on their property.

The first and most important thing we all must remember when we are looking to request permission to hunt a section of ground, is that the folks who own the land you are trying to gain access to have a connection with land. They pay taxes on the land, which in today’s world is a good chuck of cash; they take care of the land; and often times the land has been in their family for generations.

The first thing I do before I stroll up to somebody’s door to ask permission, is think, ”Would I let me hunt my land?” Asking permission with that mindset is like asking permission to sit in their kitchen.

If you want to bust that stereotype, embark on your quest to hunt private land knowing that you might have a long row to hoe.

The lazy hunter is what I call the hunter who has waited until just before the season to seek access. The surprise visitor showing up unannounced at the landowner’s residence, is surely going to get you a big no.

These examples might be typical of the “hunters” who the landowner has met to date. The landowner might have never had contact with, well, people like you – who love hunting enough to do his homework.

Getting permission to hunt behind the ”no trespassing” posters isn’t going to be easy, and it could take time – sometimes a year or more. This past year I finally gained access to a piece of ground that I have wanted to hunt for several years. Now, this piece isn’t all that big, but is located in a great spot. Imagine my surprise when talking with the land owner, she said that I was the first person to ask permission to hunt her property. Everybody else just hunted it and never asked permission. Now that isn’t a good thing.

Don’t be a lazy hunter, waiting until just before the season opens to ask for permission. Recognize that the effort to gain permission to hunt private land might mirror your toughest hunt, and as is common with many hunts, start at the beginning.

Your hunt begins in choosing a farm or piece of land to hunt and finding out who owns it. Don’t limit yourself to places which are already honey holes. Keep a mindset that, should you gain access, you might be able to make improvements to the land. And don’t write off places where others have tried and failed. Your approach is going to be better than average.

Finding out who owns the land can be as simple as getting a name from a mailbox. If that’s not an option, your next step is to search for the owner using a computer, or by making a trip to the county courthouse, if you don’t have a computer.

An office in the courthouse, usually the recorder of deeds, will have a list of all properties which can be searched using the owner’s name or the property’s physical address.

Some folks are finding that the first contact with a landowner is by writing a letter. While that may work for some folks, I prefer the personal approach.

It may take several attempts to find the proper time to make that first contact. Times to stay away from should include dinner time, holidays and early morning. I scout out the proper time. I have found midday on a weekday seems to work best. But for out-of-town owners, a letter can be a good approach.

Although a suit and tie aren’t expected, you should make an effort to make a great first impression and wear clean clothes. Dress on the assumption that the landowner is a non-hunter, and might have had a bad experience with hunters, stay away from the blaze orange and camouflage for that first meeting. Don’t smoke. Cover the tattoos. Shake hands, make eye contact, introduce yourself and immediately thank the landowner for taking time to speak with you.

If you’re meeting at the farm, keep your eyes peeled for incomplete projects and be quick to offer your help. If nothing catches your eye, ask questions such as, “What keeps you busy in the winter/spring/summer?”

Often times I leave a business card and some times a short intro letter/resume is in order. This doesn’t have to be the glittering gem you’d send to prospective employers, but it should include the same basic information. This should include your name, address, phone numbers and email address; your place of employment and its address, and the length of time you’ve worked there; any professional associations and memberships; and also hobbies. Basically, it should include anything that proves you to be a good person and supports your effort to gain access to the land. For example, Lifetime NRA member, veteran, member of No Gutters bowling team, Green Acres Sportsman’s Club, etc.; and finally, references and their contact information.

If you’re lucky enough to gain access to the land, keep the landowner updated with your season. Let him know what game you’ve seen and if you’ve been successful. And it goes without saying that you should offer to share the harvest. If the landowner doesn’t enjoy deer meat, he would certainly enjoy a thank-you card with a gift certificate to a local restaurant or department store. It doesn’t have to be for some huge amount of money as the saying goes. It’s the thought that counts.

Somewhere, there’s a piece of land you’d love to hunt, and on that piece of land, there’s a chore or project that no one wants to do or can’t do alone. This is your off-season hunt challenge, so find it. It may be the most rewarding scouting you ever do.

FISHING REPORT

LAKE ERIE

With a combination of warm temperatures, snow melt and upwards of two inches of rain landing this past weekend, creeks will be running at very high levels. On a positive note, much of the ice will be flushed out of the creeks. Cold temperatures will return during the first part of the week, trib levels should be down to fishable levels by mid-week. There will be steelhead fishing opportunities around mid-week when water levels come back down. Some of the smaller streams could be ready even earlier.

Lake Erie steelhead commonly hit natural baits, like egg sacs and worms, flies such as egg imitations, streamers and bugger patterns, and artificial lures like trout beads, minnow-type stickbaits and in-line spinners. In cold water conditions, it is best to keep drifted offerings slow and deep, as steelhead are more lethargic and hugging the bottom. It is also good to concentrate efforts during the warmest part of the day when chasing winter steelhead.

CHAUTAUQUA LAKE

Due to heavy rains, unseasonably warm temperatures and snow melt in Chautauqua County this past weekend, the ice that had become to form on Chautauqua Lake is not safe for fishing. The good news is some of the channels and channels have opened up and is offering some good Holiday Season shoreline fishing opportunities for perch and sunfish.

UPPER NIAGARA RIVER

Shore anglers can target yellow perch from Broderick Park. Emerald shiners are available for dipping at that site and are the best bait for perch. Anglers also catch the occasional rainbow trout from the park by drifting egg sacs or by casting spoons.