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New to Hunting - Places

Russ Van Orman

In the last issue of Deep Countree, we covered how to lower the initial start up costs for someone new to hunting. In this issue, we will cover how to find a place to hunt.


Finding a place to hunt can be daunting task even for veteran hunters at times, let alone if you are new to the sport. Every state has a Fish and Game or Conservation Department. This will be one of your most important resources in your search. I would suggest going to their Internet site and calling the contact number listed. Ask if you can speak with the biologist familiar the specific game you will be hunting. If you don’t reach him or her the first time, be persistent.  Most game biologists cover a large area of their respected state and are busy people.


When you reach them, ask what areas have public hunting, what private land could be available, and which areas they would recommend. Have at least a general map (the more maps the better) of the state so you can refer to towns, roads, etc... After thanking them for their time, ask if you can call back again a month before your hunt to see if anything has changed. Prior to the next time you call, purchase specific topo maps for the area which you will be hunting.  


Recently, I talked with the game biologist for Deep Countree’s upcoming trip to Montana. I had a book of topo maps for the state, a district map, plus a road map. Without these I would have been Maps and guideslost when the biologist was suggesting places to hunt.  Other sources of information include hunting/gun clubs and sporting goods stores. People generally like to talk about their sport. They may not tell you where their honey hole is but they may give you a general area or district where they hunt.


Private versus public land hunting:


Hunting on private land has many advantages as it is limited to a few individuals and the game will be pressured less. However, the key is getting permission to hunt on privately owned land. Some state fish and game departments enter into agreements with land owners to allow hunting on their property.


Once you have determined an area, take a trip to the county assessor's office. Here you will be able to look at or purchase plot maps that will tell you who owns what property. After you obtain this information, start making calls to the various land owners. Time your call so it is not during dinner or late at night. If no one answers, try again at a later date. Once you have obtained permission, be respectful of the owner’s property.


On one hunt in north central Montana, my buddies and I talked with a rancher for over two hours about hunting, football and how he wished the game warden would catch the poachers that he had chased off his property a week prior. Finally, he gave us permission to hunt that day. When I went back to the truck I noticed several horses were standing on the highway.  I moved the horses slowly off the highway while my buddy went back to tell the rancher. The rancher was beside himself with gratitude so we had a great place to hunt large mule deer for the rest of the week.


Hunting on public land can be a challenge. I would recommend purchasing a map that shows you which properties are forest service land, BLM land, and state owned. When hunting on public land, take into account how close the property is to population centers. A common error many people make is they find the closest public land and then start hunting there. The problem is everyone else has the same idea.


A good example is the public hunting ground south of Rochester, N.Y. in the Bristol hills area. Late each fall literally hundreds of hunters descend on this area. When the sun rises it seems like there is hunter behind every tree. If some of those same hunters would drive another hour south, they would have some great state land hunting with 80 percent fewer hunters. Conversely, public land hunting in the West can be rewarding if you’re willing to hike a mile or two back in from the roads.


Finding a place to hunt takes time and research. Be persistent, talk with the game biologist, study your maps, and talk with landowners and other hunters about places to hunt and you will be more successful in your quest for game.  Do not wait until a week before season starts. Start your search at least 4 to 5 months before your hunt.


In our next issue we will discuss stalking and sighting in your gun.