The Lost Art of Obtaining Hunting Permission

Planning on how to be successful for the upcoming deer season has already begun. Post season scouting has taken place, digital scouting is continuing, and summer trail camera inventory is underway. But if you are in search of new hunting ground the clock is ticking and you're likely a few steps behind.

There's no reason to panic but you do need to plan and execute some type of strategy to gain access. When planning, reflection enters the equation which leads to self-improvement. Self-improvement is all encompassing. It includes your gear, tactics, and where you hunt.

Where you hunt is the most important exponent in your equation. It can dramatically increase or reduce your opportunities for success. It is also the non-constant variable because you cannot have success when the behavior factor is out of your control.

Public vs Private

public hunting sign

Good, bad, or otherwise, if you want to hunt, two options exist: public or private land.

Leasing property to hunt is at the highest cost it has ever been – and that is not likely to change. The marketplace for recreation ground has now been established driving up the costs to purchase or lease ground. If you are fortunate to live in an area that has not been affected by this trend, it is coming. Is hunting becoming a "rich" person’s hobby? Some like to point their finger in that direction, but why cast shade on someone who has built financial freedom to afford them better life opportunities? Unless folks were born into wealth somewhere there was sacrifice and solid decision making. 

Rising land costs has made hunting public land an extremely popular option. In addition to all the content put out across podcasts, blogs, and Youtube. Depending on where you live, public ground can be abundant or non-existent. Hunting public ground will make you a better hunter as you will be forced to deal with variables outside of your own control. Hunt public ground long enough and you will learn public land frustration for that same reason. Not all hunters hunt the same way, nor should they. Someone’s schedule and what hunting means to them will not usually align with yours – even if you have the best plan.

If you cannot afford to lease ground and public land has you frustrated, what options are left? You can go with an outfitter, but there could be a hefty price tag. Plus in my opinion hunting with an outfitter also caps your growth potential as a whitetail hunter. You could purchase property, but that comes with a heftier price tag. What about knocking on doors? You never know what someone is going to say until you ask them. One knock could change your hunting prospects.

Knock and Talk

You need to have a polished strategy if you plan to knock on a strangers door asking for access to their hard earn land. The reality of the situation is this: You're going to be uncomfortable and nervous at first, you're also going to get way more NO's than you are YES's. That's the wrong way to think about knocking on doors. Getting your mind right is the first step to gaining more permission hunting parcels. Go into each approach thinking this knock is the one that will lead to a filled tag come fall, this knock is the one that will lead to a new friendship, this knock is the one YES that I need, this knock is the one that will get me comfortable knocking on more doors.

You need to do your homework before you're approach. Make a short list of property owners who have pieces that you're interested in. Next, leverage social media to get some background on the owners....Do they hunt? Do they have kids? Are they anti-hunting? What interests do they have where you can draw something in common to carry the conversation. 5-10 minutes spent doing some homework for each landowner will drastically increase the odds of getting a YES!

You and your pitch need to be polished. Remember you're selling yourself. There's no need to show up in a suit and tie but you don't want to dress like a bum. Normal blue collar street clothes are likely your best bet unless your due diligence says otherwise. Your vehicle doesn't need to be car show ready but make sure it's presentable. Once you get the opportunity, you need to be concise with your introduction and the reason you're taking up the landowners time. Use common sense to gauge their pulse and control the conversation accordingly. Offer up something of value if there's a chance to obtain permission...this might come by the way of mowing grass, cutting trees, helping put up hay, trading a service, maybe it's giving up a trail camera to monitor a driveway, etc. Offering money is usually a turn off landowners, so stay clear unless they bring up financial compensation. It's also not a bad idea to have some references just in case the landowner asks.

If you get any friction about liability or legal concerns, make sure you offer to have some insurance. Hunting lease insurance is cheap and it makes the landowner feel at ease knowing you understand their liability concerns and are well verse in available products to ensure everyone has their butts covered. 

Have permission slipped with you. If you get a YES, make it legal and execute a permission slip. Make a copy for the landowner to have as well. 


If you are lucky enough to hunt property by handshake, you understand how difficult it is to achieve – especially in certain parts of our country. You also recognize how special the bond is between the landowner and hunter. One that should never be taken for granted and enjoyed as long as it lasts.

The knock that changed my hunting prospects happened almost 20 years ago. It is impossible to consider how different my life would be had I never knocked. It can have that great of an impact.

Once a handshake relationship evolves, ask permission to begin habitat improvements. The landowner might not recognize this, but a trail system, food plots, and native grass seedlings add value to their property. Their cost is only the labor you put in. The woodsmanship you gain through trial and error can never be replaced.

What Would You Do If You Did Not Hunt?

Hunt long enough and the question inevitably gets asked “what would you do if you did not hunt?” My answer is simple. Waterfowl and fishing are not my thing. Maybe I would have done more projects around the house or wound up in a corner office.

Under those scenarios, I would have never met Edith. Hunting her property allowed me to become someone who made hunting into a lifestyle and help those interested in beginning journeys of their own.

Past, Present, and Future

Many hunters have or had a handshake landowner in their life - they used to be in abundance. Each year, there are fewer of them. Whether you hunt public, with an outfitter, lease, own, or handshake, never forget hunting is a privilege and can unknowingly shape your future.

As you begin to plan the upcoming season, take some time to reflect on how you started off, where you are now, and where you ultimately want to be. Respect the land you hunt, offer a helping hand whenever you can, and never forget to say thank you as often as possible.

Especially if her name is Edith.


Author: Geoff Guzinski, Exodus Black Hat Team Member

geoff guzinksi