For most of us who live in Lycoming County or the surrounding counties, we are fortunate to have acquired multiple places to hunt, fish, and spend quality time outdoors. Whether we pursue small game or big game and whether we prefer to fish for trout or bass, the majority of outdoorsmen who have resided in our area for many years have long since lined up places to enjoy our sports.
On occasion, however, commercial, residential, or infrastructure development can cause us to lose our “happy hunting grounds” or our favorite fishing hole. It happens all too often as more and more residential developments target our rural hillsides and wooded areas. As farmland is being sold off to new owners or landowners on whose land you have permission to hunt, trap or fish are passing on, our options are sometimes dwindling. Consider also a person who is new to the area and has no clue as to where to start looking for a place to go. How, then, do we gain access to new locations?
It is often said that “Timing is everything,” and with that in mind, the timing is right over the next few months to line up some new destinations where you can enjoy quality time outdoors.
We can all probably agree that one of the more disrespectful things we can do regarding a relationship with a landowner is to show up in our hunting outfit on the opening day of a hunting season and ask permission to hunt on his land. It isn’t much better if you show up just a few days before the season. Our spring gobbler season begins in just over three months, so now is the perfect time to meet landowners and seek permission to hunt. Better yet, knock on a few farmers’ doors this time of year and ask if you can help them out by reducing the number of coyotes that no doubt live on or travel through their property. Establishing a good relationship with a landowner during the predator hunting season is a great way to show them that you are a responsible hunter and can lead to an invitation to return to pursue spring gobblers or small and big game in the fall.
Who doesn’t like homemade apple pie? You may not think it would be appreciated. Still, I’ll bet that if you show up on a farmer’s porch with a freshly baked apple pie in appreciation for his letting you hunt on his ground, you will probably cement a long-term relationship. Yes, a gesture like this is a bit out of the ordinary, but it will be remembered for a long time by a landowner friend. You may even secure sole hunting rights by offering such a genuine gift. And while most farmers are justifiably proud of what they do for a living, there is also nothing wrong with asking if there are some chores you can help with or if there are any tasks that he could use a hand completing. Common courtesy and a few nice gestures will go a long way in developing a friendship and showing that you are a responsible outdoorsman.
Still not able to find a place to go? Check with the regional office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Ask the dispatcher or one of the WCOs if they know of any farmers or landowners who are troubled with coyotes or other predators. The PGC does get calls from time to time from individuals that complain of an overabundance of predators or too many black bears, or an excessive amount of crows. Again, any of these situations might allow you to get an invitation to hunt a new property, and if you conduct yourself in a respectful and responsible fashion, you might have lucked into a new hunting destination.
Who doesn’t like kids? If you are looking for a place to take a young hunter or someone to mentor, make sure that you have them accompany you when you are meeting up with a landowner for the first time. It is much harder for a landowner to say no to a well-behaved youth accompanied by his parent or grandparent. It also teaches the young person the value of courtesy and respect for the landowner.
Common sense and courtesy go a long way to opening doors to new opportunities; this is even more true when seeking permission to trespass on someone else’s land. As responsible hunters and outdoorsmen, we each have an obligation to present ourselves in the best manner possible to landowners — in doing so; we create the best chance of gaining access.