Land Lore - Gaining Access
Gaining access to quality hunting properties is becoming harder by the day. Learn here what you need to gain and keep valuable access. By Peter.
Unfortunately a lot of land owners have had bad experiences with hunters, and are reluctant to allow strangers access to rural property. It is an unfortunate reality that a few bad eggs have cost honest and lawful shooters access to vast swathes of prime hunting land. In all likelihood these properties will never be accessed by hunters again.
As a land owner, I am often approached by hunters wishing to target feral game. While I appreciate the sentiment, very few get access to my family property. Unfortunately past experience has cost us the loss of water tanks and livestock due to inexperienced or over- zealous hunters combined with the odd cowboy. Like most property owners, I appreciate a hand in thinning out the vermin. What I don’t appreciate is people turning up on my doorstep at midnight asking for access to find lost dogs or to shoot pigs seen from the road. My personal pet hate is blokes turning up when I am at work, putting pressure on my wife to gain access to our block. If you knew my wife, you wouldn’t want to cross her!
This column is written from my own personal experience as a land owner. I want to make it clear that I certainly don’t speak for all land holders, however, here are a few attributes and credentials that I and other land owners may look for when meeting a shooter for the first time. If you follow a few simple guidelines, you may find yourself having access to properties where others have failed.
Presentation and first impressions are of utmost importance. Thanks to my fulltime job I am a pretty good judge of character and find it easy to see right through the bullshit artists of the world. I am far more likely to allow someone access who arrives at our property well-dressed and portrays an image of professionalism. I am not saying to turn up in a suit, just neat and tidy attire free of blood and beer stains. I also take particular interest in a hunter’s motor vehicle. If a shooter looks after his truck then he/she is more likely to look after farm equipment and infrastructure. I have turned away countless wannabe’s who have arrived with blood dripping from the ute’s tray, roo legs thrown on the back and half a dozen mutt’s wanting to tear me from limb to limb. Remember first impressions count, so make it a good one. Furthermore, country people appreciate fair-dinkum honesty. A lot can be gleaned from a handshake. Therefore, upon meeting a farmer for the first time, shake hands as though you mean it. The old “wet fish” handshake doesn’t quite cut it in the bush. To me, this is the first indication of a slippery character.
As a firearms enthusiast, I am always interested in what firearms a potential hunter possesses. For me this is not only a matter of interest, but is also a way in which to observe the hunter’s safe handling abilities and firearm familiarisation. I like to know that I can trust a hunter and that he/she is likely to be safe while on my property. It is wise to arrive at a potential hunting property with your firearm and ammunition stored correctly. Most cockies are shooters by default and may be interested in your firearm/calibre choice for the intended game. Again professionalism is the key. The shooter who arrives with the bolt removed from his/her firearm and ammunition locked separately indicates a trustworthy reliable person. The one who arrives with a rifle shoved behind the seat and bullets falling out the driver’s door when open will be shown the gate post haste. If you are meeting a farmer for the first time, prove that you are reliable by doing the right thing in the first instance. Remember, first impressions last.
Over the years, several of my farming mates have met some seriously good hunters by the time tested letter drop method. These hunters took the time to gather references from local property owners and conducted letter drops in our area. To me a good reference speaks volumes and if my neighbour’s trust you, then that is a good start. The bush telegraph is alive and well so you can almost guarantee a farmer will know all about you, prior to any contact. Obtaining references from landholders where you already have permission is a great way of proving your reliability. Most farmers appreciate assistance with vermin control and proving your reliability with references is a great ice breaker when seeking new areas to hunt. A wise old bloke once said to me, “Your reputation will precede you wherever you go”. Keep this in mind and you may find that many doors will open.
Prior to owning my own property, I too struggled with finding new areas to hunt. The best ice breaker for me to meet land holders, was joining the local shotgun club. A lot of farmers in my area shoot clay targets and it has been a fantastic social way in which to make friends on a level competitive playing field. Over the years I have got to know everyone and have been invited to shoot on more places than I care to count. I have been careful never to barge my way in and ask for permission. The best policy is to wait for an invitation to hunt after getting to know people on a friendly basis.
There are many ways to find yourself some new ground to hunt, but space does not permit. These simple hints may assist you however it is important to respect the farmer and the ground rules set should you happen to gain access. Without land holders and their rural holdings, we as shooters would find it very difficult indeed to pursue and enjoy our sport.