How to Find Unique Hunting Opportunities
- 11 Nov, 2022
When talking about hunting, the places we hunt are usually categorized into one of two things: public or private land. Private land hunters typically own, have landowner permission on, or lease private land, while hunting public land brings its own unique set of benefits and challenges. Sometimes it seems like demand for quality hunting land far outweighs the supply, and it is only worse in states with very little public acreage.
One solution to this that some states have developed is alternative programs to provide hunting access on private land, or allowing hunting on previously closed public land. Sometimes, these hunter access programs can be overlooked by hunters or under-advertised by the state. For the resourceful hunter looking to find some new properties to hunt, these programs can be an excellent option to research and check out.
A few examples include:
- Kansas’s Walk In Hunt Areas. WIHA are private lands open to the public during a specified time frame, usually either deer or turkey season. Most WIHA properties do not require the hunter to contact the landowner ahead of time. WIHA properties are visible on an OnX layer, so they are easy to find on your phone for the most part.
Kansas Walk In Hunt Area
- Illinois Recreational Access Program (IRAP). Illinois is notable for having big bucks but a very small percentage of public land, especially in the northern part of the state. The IRAP program enrolls private acreage to provide hunters with land to hunt in areas where access might otherwise be difficult. In exchange for the state’s leasing of property for hunters, landowners receive written habitat management plans to help improve the quality of their property for wildlife.
- Nationwide: military property. Military-owned lands might not always be the first hunting spot that comes to mind, but many properties are vast and have somewhat restricted uses, making them excellent havens for wildlife. Each property has different rules and often involves obtaining a permit or access during a certain time frame, so definitely check into the unique rules before you go.
- Agricultural damage properties. In Wisconsin, farmers receiving large amounts of crop damage from game species can allow public hunting on their property during the regular hunting seasons. These properties can be found on the DNR website and are occupied on a first come, first serve basis by hunters.
- Pennsylvania’s Hunter Access Program. Pennsylvania has over 13,000 private parcels enrolled in a hunter access program to provide public hunting and trapping opportunities. In exchange for enrolling their property in the program, landowners receive benefits such as habitat improvement resources, signage and reduced license costs.
- Michigan’s Hunting Access Program is similar to Pennsylvania’s; a list of participating landowners by county can be found on the Michigan DNR’s website.
- Nature Conservancy properties. Check the TNC website for maps and lists of properties open to hunting. TNC helps protect many unique habitats, so you’re often in for a treat exploring these places.
- Timber company lands in many states are open to public hunting. Timber companies own vast tracts of land for forestry uses; check state regulations if you plan to hunt in areas with large amounts of timber company-owned land because you just may have access to those properties!
Of course, when hunting on private lands open to public access it is extremely important to respect the landowner’s rules and treat their property respectfully. These are great programs that open previously closed off acreage to hunting and it’s important to keep good rapport with landowners! Checking in with your state wildlife agency about these unique hunting opportunities could help you find some gems that might not be as overrun with hunters as the big piece of state land everyone knows about.
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