Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Hunting is a great way to fill the homestead freezer but what do you do if you don't have a place to hunt? Many modern homesteaders don't have a hundred acres of fields and woods, many are living out their homesteading dreams of self sufficiency on urban city lots and suburban lots and because of that they may be struggling to find good locations for hunting. Here are a few ideas on how you can find a place to hunt and provide potentially hundreds of of pounds of meat for your family.
Hunting Public Land
There are many millions upon millions of acres of public hunting land in the United States. I just happen to live about five miles from over 1000 acres of such hunting ground and it has provided me with many hours of hunting adventure as well as many pounds of meat for my family. There are a few guidelines, tips and tricks however that will make hunting public land better, safer, and more successful.
A few tips for hunting public land
Be mindful of the fact that you are sharing the woods with other hunters.
More than once my hunt has been interrupted by a hunter or forager stomping through the woods and to be honest I have committed this same offense for other hunters. Some ways to avoid this is to try and do your scouting for good hunting spots before the season begins. You may also want to avoid any stalk hunting in public woods, just find a good place and have a seat.
Always be aware of the potential of other hunters that could be closer than you think when taking a shot. Hunting from a tree stand is much safer when taking a shot because at that angle bullets will hit the ground if you miss, of course this is when hunting larger game, when hunting small game take extra care as to where your shooting as your often shooting up.
If your leaving ladder stands and other equipment set up in the woods you need to secure with cables and locks.
Ask me how how I know. That's right, It happened to me. A few years ago I bought a brand new two person ladder stand for me and my daughters to hunt from, I took it out and set it up a week before the early youth hunting season and went to check on it a couple days before our planned hunt and opening day it was gone. It was a disappointing hunting day for me and my daughter. So make sure you secure your equipment as good as possible, although I am aware this sort of thing happens on private land as well it seems to be a bigger problem on public land.
Where plenty of hunters safety orange.
Even when the rules don't dictate it in certain seasons I wear it anyway. Our goal is to bring home the kill and not get shot doing it. So whatever you can do to help other hunters know your there can help.
Try to find the areas least hunted.
I'm going to share a secret here that I'm hesitant to share. Most hunters think you need to go deep in the woods on public ground where less people have been and where sunlight has to be pumped in because it's so far off the beaten path. But it has been my experience that animals (deer especially) on public land are pretty acclimated to the sounds, sights and smells of people and the best deer I shot on public land was taken about 100 yards in the woods right behind the DNR office. It was a location almost no hunters had thought to hunt and obviously the deer knew it because that's where they were hanging out. I seen many deer there and was able to wait and pick the best one.
If you're not a bowhunter than you may want to start.
It has been my experience that archery seasons are the best time to hunt public land. There are a few reasons, first is there are just less people that hunt with a bow than a gun which means less pressure in the woods for the deer. Second, most archery hunters hunt from a tree stand which means they are more likely to stay put and not be stomping around the woods messing up other peoples hunts. Third, when a shot is made it is quiet and it doesn't spook the animals several hundred yards away. And lastly is the safety issue, you are far less likely to be shot by a stray arrow than a stray bullet.
Get to know your local DNR officers.
Most of these folks do this for a living because they are avid hunters and love the outdoors. I have found that they love to help and they can provide you with great information about good hunting locations and techniques. I even had one help me drag my deer out of the woods once and he seemed as excited about my successful hunt as I did.
These are just a few tips to help you get started hunting public land but as you do it for a while you will discover what works best for you and in your area.
Hunting Private Land
Getting permission to hunt on a prime piece of private hunting ground that has very little hunting pressure is the equivalent of finding one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets, it can change your life, But it may not be easy. So how does one go about finding private land to hunt on? Here are a few ideas that just may help.
Yes it really can be just that simple, but perhaps you should follow a few guidelines.
You need to realize you're probably not the first person to ask so be respectful and friendly even if they say no, there may be other opportunities later and even if there isn't it's just the right thing to do.
Be respectful of a landowners space and time, understand they may be busy or in the middle of a job so try and be aware of the situation as you approach the landowner.
Be presentable, I'm not talking suit and tie here, but you may not want to show up in all your hunting clothes on opening day and expect them to say yes.
Understand their concerns of liability and be ready to put their mind at ease by presenting them with a hunting permission form that covers these concerns.
Offer to share meat
Most people would love to stock their freezer with fresh meat that didn't cost them anything and required no effort so this just may be your way in. But make sure they don't have a vegan bumper sticker on their car or it may not go the way you want it to.
Trade hunting privileges for work
Most landowners have plenty of work that needs to be done on the property and they could use some help. This can be one of the best ways to gain hunting privileges, especially if you have a particular skill they are in need of.
Offer To Rid Varmints
Many landowners are farmers and are constantly being invaded by some kind of animal. It may be that something is eating more than a fair share of their crops or a threat of larger predators on livestock, either way you may want to mention that you would like to help with any problem they are having like this.
This is a way many hunters in my area acquire hunting privileges from local landowners. Several hunters will get together and offer money for sole permission to hunt their land and then set up a hunting schedule among themselves. This is not one of my favorite ways because it can get pretty expensive and can put a lot of hunting pressure on the woods driving out the game. This option seems a little better for sportsman hunters than for those of us who are looking for an inexpensive way to fill our freezers with healthy meat.
However way you do get permission to hunt a piece of private land remember to always leave things better than you found them. If you see trash, even if it's not yours, pick it up. If you spot some sort of problem let the landowner know. Doing this will help you maintain your right to hunt there and help hunters in general shine brighter in the eyes of landowners everywhere.
Hopefully this will be some helpful information that will get you in the woods enjoying nature and filling that freezer. May you have a safe, successful and enjoyable hunting season. Happy Homesteading.