One particular landowner who allowed me to trap for several years always asked me where on his land I would be trapping, and my answer was always “Wherever your crops and cattle will allow it; I will always work around you.” A couple years ago, however, he asked his son that was taking over the farming, who told me he wanted no traps on the place, period. I was a bit stunned as he had never faltered in giving me permission before, and I would probably have been justified in trying to pin him down about his decision. But I chatted with the father awhile, thanked him and drove away.
Very few farmers deny trapping on their land unless they do hunt or trap themselves, or unless they’ve had a bad experience with another trapper, but it is their land and they do have the right to control access to it. The point I want this column to drive home is how important it is to us hunters and trappers and to the future of our sports to create and to maintain a good relationship with the farmers and ranchers on whose land we hunt and trap. Hunting and trapping should be seen by us as a privilege, and with privileges come certain responsibilities. Here are a few suggestions that will help create and maintain good relationships with the farmers and ranchers who own the land where you hunt and trap.
Landowners should be contacted each year no matter how long you have been granted access to their land. Stop and see them in person when possible. There are landowners that are just fine with a phone call and you will learn who they are with time, but if in doubt, see them in person. I traded pickups a couple years ago, so I have tried to stop and see all landowners just to show them what truck I would now be driving.
Pay special attention to any specific requests by the landowner. I accidentally left an electric fence hotwire unhooked one time and a few of the owners cows got out. He was none-too-happy, but we are friends and I apologized profusely and all was well. Make certain to close all gates, stay off the property if it’s wet enough to make ruts where you drive, and always leave the property as you found it.
Offering to help a landowner with a project like building fence or clearing trees goes a long way toward assuring permission to hunt or trap his land. You can also give them a pheasant or some fresh venison now and then. Some hunters even send thank you cards to landowners each year. I recently read how one professional trapper out west once stopped to help a farmer get freshly baled hay into the barn just before a rain and because of his kindness was eventually granted sole permission to trap on over 15,000 acres of New Mexico land owned by the farmer’s cousin.
God is not making any more land these days, and good recreational land is often leased or purchased by wealthy groups or individuals for their own use. That leaves most of us outdoorsmen dependant on gaining permission to hunt and trap on privately owned land. So, obey the game laws, obey the landowner’s rules and by-all-means close the gates unless you’d rather chase cattle than hunt. Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!
Steve Gilliland, Inman, can be contacted by email at [email protected]