Even though Missouri has some great public hunting areas, a large portion of the state’s spring turkey hunting activity takes place on private land. That should come as no surprise since more than 90 percent of land in the state is privately owned.
If you’re a spring turkey hunter who’s hunting on someone else’s property, remember that courtesy is just as much a part of a successful hunt as a good call or a quality shotgun.
Missouri’s 2018 spring turkey season is entering its final portion (the season ends at 1 p.m. on May 6) and some hunters are searching for new hunting areas. Maybe it’s because trips to sites that had yielded gobblers in previous years have been fruitless this year and the search is on for more productive hunting spots. Or maybe hunters haven’t had a chance to get out in the woods yet so they’re on a quest for an off-the-beaten-path location that hasn’t been heavily hunted.
These are examples of situations that sends spring turkey hunters in search of hunting spots on private land. When a spot is found, one obvious objective is to leave the site with a turkey. However, it should be remembered that an equally important goal is to leave a good impression.
Few outdoors events that occur at this time of year put a greater number of people on someone else’s property than spring turkey season. Even though Missouri has some great public hunting areas, a large portion of the state’s spring turkey hunting activity takes place on private land. That should come as no surprise since more than 90 percent of land in the state is privately owned. That means many people who want to hunt will be looking for opportunities on land owned by someone else. If you’re someone looking to hunt on someone else’s property, here are some guidelines:
Don’t assume past hunting trips on someone’s property means you have permission to be there this year. Always ask first. If you’ve established good relations with the landowner, this will be a mere formality. The landowner might even chuckle that you’re still treating your hunts on his or her property like a first-time event. Inside, however, the landowner is very likely admiring your courtesy and you’re accumulating solid “preference points” for future hunts.
If you have been granted hunting privileges on someone else’s property for the first time, congratulations – you’ve attained an opportunity that’s not always easy to get. So, don’t blow it by being irresponsible. Sometimes hunters make mistakes that, though they may be honest errors, are nevertheless very irritating to landowners.
For instance, make sure you know where the landowner’s property lines are. This sounds obvious, but sometimes, hunters can easily stray onto someone else’s property. Unless you know where boundaries are, the seemingly harmless crossing of a run-down fence or an old road may unknowingly transform you from a hunter into a trespasser because you may be entering onto someone else’s property.
Ask if you can drive your vehicle onto the property. Unless the landowner tells you otherwise, assume all gates on the property that you pass through need to be shut behind you. Ask if there are any fields, pastures or other areas that should be skirted or totally avoided. Tell the landowner what days you’ll be hunting and what kind of vehicle you’ll be driving. Ask about the location of livestock; not only the landowner’s, but the neighbors’ animals, too.
If you’re planning on doing any afternoon scouting prior to your hunt (which you probably will), make sure the landowner knows about these trips, too. If you discharge your gun during your hunt, pick up spent shotgun shells. It’s little steps like these that can make a huge difference in whether or not you’ll be able to hunt this same spot next year.
Finally, as soon as possible after your hunt, be sure to thank the landowner for letting you hunt on his or her land. Providing some token of appreciation – even if it’s just a simple rap on the door and a smiling “thank you very much” – can help pave the way for future hunts at that site.
More information about Missouri spring turkey season can be found at your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or at www.missouriconservation.org
Francis Skalicky is the media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region. For information about conservation issues, call 417-895-6880.