How To Get Hunting Permission

huntin-permissionKnowing the secrets to hunting permission.

It was a series of lovesick cow calls that had brought in the biggest bull moose I’ve ever seen while I had a moose tag in my pocket to a mere 200 metres away. If I could get him another 20 metres closer and across the fence, it would be a 180-metre shot and the big bull would come home with me for the winter. After 15 minutes of calling, I knew the bull was losing interest. I did my best to sound like the sexiest and loneliest cow moose in the woods, but it wouldn’t commit. It was with a heavy heart that I watched the big bull calmly walk away and disappear into the trees. I saw the bull two more times that season, but never on my side of the fence. I spoke with the landowner on several occasions almost begging him to grant me permission to hunt on his land. However, it wasn’t meant to be. I had the good fortune of filling my moose tag later in the season, but the bull my tag hung from was nothing like the big bruiser that answered my calls from the wrong side of the fence.

I’ve been asking landowners for permission to hunt on their land for 25 years and have rarely been denied. However, there are occasions when permission is needed in the heat of the moment, such as the case with the big bull moose. But it seems more and more these days we are seeing “No Hunting” signs on property fence lines.

Why Do Landowners Deny?

I took the time to visit with many landowners over the last few seasons. Some of the landowners I visited with gave hunters permission while others didn’t. I wanted to find out why on both accounts. In most cases, landowners have had positive experiences with hunters and anglers. However, some landowners have had bad experience not only with hunters, but with people using their land for ATV riding, target shooting and even people having bush parties on their land.

Whatever the case may be, in the landowner’s eyes, we are all painted with the same brush and because of it, we are denied hunting permission. Although, it doesn`t seem as common these days, landowners are still having trouble with people leaving gates open. When gates get left open, the results are obvious. The freed livestock may have access to roads and run the risk of being hit by passing vehicles. That’s not only deadly for the livestock, but also for the individuals in the vehicle. It can also work the other way. One landowner told me of a hunter he gave permission to who closed a gate. The landowner said the hunter was respectful in every way and even left his name and number at the house. Early in the morning the hunter passed through one of many open gates on the way to his chosen hunting area. After hunting for the day, the hunter returned through the same gates and closed them. It was two days before the rancher realized that 200 head of cattle were cut off from their only water source. “Leave all gates as you found them.” Some landowners have even been talked to disrespectfully, even to the point of an argument.

Word travels fast, and arguing with landowners will only make things worse for other hunters. Some landowners denied permission simply because (and I quote): “They drove into my yard like idiots. If people can’t be respectful in my yard, what are they like when I can’t see them?” When entering landowners’ yards, be sure your guns are put away and enter the yard slow. Remember it’s a driveway not a gravel road. There may be pets, livestock or even kids playing in the yard or near the driveway.

Many of the landowners that did give permission denied access on certain areas of their land only because they had livestock on the fields. All the landowners I spoke with denied hunting near buildings and the farmyard. It’s not hard to understand why.

Landowners are also starting to keep track of the amount of hunters on their land. Many landowners are only allowing hunters access with written permission. By doing this, landowners feel more comfortable knowing exactly who, when and how many hunters are on their land. In many cases, this can also benefit the hunter. Some landowners feel more comfortable with only a small number of hunters on their land at one time. Therefore, hunting pressure on the land may be at a minimum. A new tool that has been gaining popularity in the Western Provinces is the Sportsman Permission Booklet put out by a company called Two Guys Hunting ( The simple-to-use booklet is a one page legal document that protects the landowner and the hunter. Both the hunter and the landowner fill out the document, which gives the hunter a description of the land he/she will be hunting and any extra information or conditions that may be needed. It also provides the landowner information about the hunter, the vehicle being used, and what game is being hunted.

There are many landowners that may not allow access for one season or species, but allow access for another. For example, some landowners will allow waterfowl, archery and predator hunters, but deny big game hunters. Other landowners will allow big game hunters and will open the gates for predator hunters, but want the waterfowl left alone. It’s the hunter’s responsibility to be truthful about the game they are hunting when asking permission to hunt on private land. A misconception about coyote hunting on private land is that landowners want them removed and there’s no need to waste time getting permission. Not true. With the explosion of the coyote population in the Western Provinces, coyote hunting has grown in popularity. Coyotes cause landowners a lot of grief, especially during the calving season and are viewed as pests and predators. However, as much of a nuisance coyotes may be to landowners, hunters still need permission to hunt these pesky canines.

Crown & Lease Land

The Western Provinces have thousands and thousands of hectares of crown and lease land. Each province has their own rules and regulations and terminology for these areas so read your province’s hunting regulations closely before you plan to hunt on them. The majority of agriculture lease lands are in the southern and central portion of the western provinces. In my home province of Alberta, there’s an estimated two million hectares (five million acres) of public land under agricultural lease. In Alberta, leaseholders must allow reasonable access to the land. However, there may be some circumstances where permission may be denied or conditions applied. A phone call to the leaseholder before your hunt, gathering and giving some basic information is all that’s needed. However, some individuals don’t take the time to make the calls. These southern treasures hold an abundance of hunting opportunities for upland game bird, waterfowl, and big game. It would be a shame if it was taken away.

Crown land is most dominant in the northern portion of the Western Provinces. Crown land is mostly boreal forest and holds an abundance of game and if planned properly, Canadian hunters and anglers can have an incredible remote and rewarding spike camp hunting or fishing trip surrounded by some breathtaking scenery. The majority of spring black bear hunting is done in the north on crown land, and there is no shortage of lakes and rivers to fish.

Trial & Errors

Each of the Western Provinces does their best to come up with ways to gain hunting access for hunters. In 2009, Alberta introduced the Recreational Accesses Management Program (RAMP). The program was a pilot project to gain more land access for hunters in the 300, 108, Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) of southern Alberta. Each landowner participating in the program would be paid $10 for each hunter they allowed access too. Hunters would sign in at a designated sign-in box that was located on the property. At the in-box, the hunter would fill out an information card and pick up a map of the property. The amount of cards sent in over the course of the hunting season would determine how much the landowner was paid. The problem was, 90 per cent of the landowners that signed up for the program had allowed hunting on their land before the program started. Landowners that used to allow only a certain number of hunters each day now had no control of the amount of hunters on their land. There were stories of small platoons of hunters going after one small herd of elk. It turned into a situation many hunters didn’t want to be in. The RAMP pilot study ended on March 31, 2011.

However, some positives did come out of the program. This past season I purchased an undersubscribed cow elk tag that was good until December 24 in the WMU 300. I called one of the landowner that was part of the controversial RAMP program. The landowner did still allow hunting on his land and he followed the same sign in procedure as the program. Although the RAMP sign inbox had been removed, the landowner put up his own sign-in box and was comfortable keeping track of the hunters on his land in the same fashion as the RAMP program.

Take Good Care

After the hunting season has ended, I visit all the landowners that granted me permission that year. I call ahead and plan a date when we can meet for a few minutes. Once the date is set, I show up with a thank you card and a couple bags of jerky or pepperoni in appreciation for allowing me to hunt on their land. It’s rare that I’m not invited in for a coffee and to tell the tale of my hunt. The landowners with whom I have permission to hunt, but didn’t hunt their land that year; get a Christmas card in the mail. These simple gestures and offerings show the landowner you appreciate the use of their land and will help secure permission in the future. And again — word travels fast.

For More Information

To find out more about hunting on private, crown or lease land in your province go on line and check out:

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