Want to hunt on farmland? It just takes asking
"Landowners aren't trying to stop hunting. Most of us have a healthy appreciation for the population control hunters provide. We simply want to know who is on our land, just as anyone in town would want to know if someone was in their yard or garage and what they're doing there."
We live in a remote enough spot that my kids stop and stare at unknown vehicles passing by. I grew up in a busier place, so it makes me laugh.
But we're all less surprised by unknown vehicles, particularly ones with out-of-state license plates and camouflage paraphernalia, who drive by or pull into the driveway this time of year.
We farm in the Prairie Pothole region in what I've been told is a main path of migration for waterfowl. I have no idea. I'm neither a hunter nor a bird watcher. But it sure seems to be a popular place this time of year.
We have a group of regular hunters who have been coming from Minnesota for years. They check with my father-in-law before they come, and they stop and visit and drop off some goodies. In a bad harvest year, they checked to see if they could help with anything.
We didn't know these guys before they asked to hunt here. They used publicly available information to find out who owned the fields, they asked permission, and they got to know us. Now we look forward to seeing them and are happy to host them.
For whatever reason, more hunters than usual have sought to hunt on our land this year. They've come from a variety of places, but they've managed to find us and ask our permission, calling or stopping by and visiting with us. One field didn't even have a no-trespassing sign at the time people found us ; they still asked for permission rather than just going on our land.
North Dakota for a lot of years has been embroiled in debates pitting private property rights against hunting access . A lot of people have worried that if all land were to be considered closed without permission, as it is a lot of nearby states, it would put a damper on hunting access. If permission is required, the argument has gone, hunters won't be able to find the landowners.
The number of hunters who have found us and asked for permission to hunt on our land this year shows that it is not a valid argument.
Our reasons for wanting to know who is on our land are many. We don't let people hunt on land on which we're running cattle. We want to let people know about hazards. And we want to know who is out there amid a rash of vehicle part thefts and other nuisances.
A side note on this: The North Dakota Legislature did tighten up the access laws just a bit in this year's session. Hunters can't put game cameras or bait on someone's land without permission. Shortly after the laws took effect, my husband found an unauthorized camera and a pile of corn on our land. Rather than have the person prosecuted, we posted a note with citations to the new laws on the camera. I hope whoever put it there learned something and asks for permission next time.
Landowners aren't trying to stop hunting. Most of us have a healthy appreciation for the population control hunters provide. We simply want to know who is on our land, just as anyone in town would want to know if someone was in their yard or garage and what they're doing there.
The bottom line on this: If you want to hunt, get to know a landowner. Be respectful. Ask for permission. Many, if not most, will let you on. This doesn't have to be a battle, and the good folks who've stopped by our place this year showed us how it can be done.
Jenny Schlecht is Agweek's editor. She lives on a farm and ranch in Medina, N.D., with her husband and two daughters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 701-595-0425.