Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hunting Access & Hunter Behavior

A recent study done by Responsive Management titled, Issues Related to Hunting Access in the United States, indicated that difficulty gaining access to lands for hunting has become a constraint to recruiting and retaining sportsmen. Adequate access to land is one of the fundamental issues that affect the future of hunting.
The survey asked hunters about possible reasons that landowners may close their land to public hunting. The top three related to the misuse of the land: irresponsible shooting, alcohol use, or other bad behavior by hunters. Other top reasons cited were property damage caused by hunters; litter;landowner wanting to allow only personal/family use of the land; and liability concerns.
Unfortunately asking landowners that have closed their land was not within the scope of this study. My reading over the years points to landowners wanting to be in control of what goes on on their land and the only way currently open to them is posting.

9 comments:

  1. Down here it's part of the commercialization of hunting. A landowner can rent out the land to outfitters for a late season hunt with clients when game is down on it's winter range and make few thousand dollars.

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    1. It is hard to blame landowners for doing this, but it hurts democratic hunting. Programs like Montana's block management and walk in hunting can help offset this by providing landowners with broader based public money in exchange for them keeping their land open. In New Hampshire the state gives landowners a larger tax break if they keep their land undeveloped and allow public access for things like hunting. On the disincentive side many states do not extend liability protection to land owners if they charge for access.
      I suspect a mix of incentives (tax breaks/public funds/help controlling or limiting numbers, donated sweat equity for habitat work) with some leasing may lead to reversing the closing of land to all hunting access. The folks with lots of money will always have access, I worry about the rest of us and especially new folks that are not sure if they want to give hunting a try.

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  2. I'm not sure what holds people back when it comes to knocking on a door and asking for permission to hunt. We find many landowners that are still receptive to our requests- they appreciate us for asking. We still get turned down, but more often than not we are granted permission.

    The access programs throughout the west are great, but many units still require you to contact the landowner. I think it's critical for us as hunters to really be ambassadors for our sport and get to know landowners and show them we respect their property and the resource.

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    1. I fully agree. One of the criticisms of the Walk in programs is the lack of face to face contact with the landowner and the follow up thank you.
      Here in Northern Vermont keeping land open is considered being a good neighbor and is a strong cultural practice. In hunter ed we preach that you should ask first and many hunters do. But even here we see more posters going up, some from folks new to the area, but others because of over use and abuse by a few bad apples.
      Leading by example, peer pressure and turning in the violators is an ongoing need. The question is - is it enough?

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  3. The competitive feelings hunter's have about their hunting brothers, seems to be a major reason here in VT. to nail the written plastic human fence on the boarders and road frontage. "It's my only chance, against all those guys." Or the colabrative, "lets make our own rules" mentality, "F&W doesn't know what they are doing", conspiracy thoughts. "We can manage our own lands better then they can." "I'm old and don't want those young guy's chasing MY deer off." "I don't want people shooting does on my land." "I'll have no legal recourse for people I've told to stay out!" WE here these all to often.

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    1. Balancing access to a public resource that lives on private land has always been a challenge. I suspect that very little posted land is not hunted to some extent. As in other aspects of life, some folks share, some horde, some trade and some sell. I worry about the Northeast going the Texas route where nearly the only place you can hunt is on land you lease and the average cost of that is over $1000/year.

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    2. I do know a group who posted some land strictly for the reason to have first dibs on hunting. I don't blame them at all. They spend weeks during the year pruning trees and managing plots. There is some of that going on, however the vast majority of posted signs are hung because of poor hunter behavior. The notion that it's just a few bad apples is false. There are a few bad apples who regularly commit crimes, but those aren't the bad apples that cause the signs to go up. The signs go up for a number of reasons some of which aren't illegal but simply a matter of being neighborly. For instance, getting too close to somebody's house. That is just a matter of common courtesy, but some hunters think their rights exempt them from having manners. And even more bizarre is some of these hunters gripe about what goes on in their own backyards, but act poorly in other people's backyards.

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    3. You hit right on why my organization was formed in 1993, to improve hunter behavior thru education and outreach. Jim Posewitz's little book, "Beyond Fair Chase", and hopefully the work I am doing is helping with this problem. Hunter behavior needs everyone doing their best and speaking out when they see or hear of poor behavior. Silence is translated as we agree, we can't afford that...

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