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Opening the Gate

By Gary Reed

Gary ReedMost bowhunters know, or should know, that communicating with landowners is the key to gaining access to hunting property.

I’ve heard hunters complain about landowners refusing access, but as their story continued, I recognized the name of the farmer as someone who allowed me or another hunter to hunt the land.

Gaining access is more than asking if you can hunt a property. It’s how you come across to the farmer or rancher. When you pull up to them in the yard or field, they already know what you’re going to ask. The decision is not based on the hunting aspect alone. They are sizing you up to see what kind of person you are and if you will respect the property.

I’ve had several owners tell me that they would have said no, but changed their mind when I talked with them not just about hunting, but also about things related to their lives as farmers or ranchers. If landowners feel you are sincere and will respect them and their property, the gates can suddenly open to new areas.

This brings me to the perfect example of how well this type of relationship can work. For four years I’ve hunted a property in southern Nebraska, about 45 minutes from my home. I make a point of stopping by the owner’s property every time I’m in the area just to talk with him about how things are going. I have taken my sons to his home to help with chores or mending fences. The boys always complain because we end up standing around talking for at least 45 minutes after the work is done, but I always tell them that we owe this man for trusting us with his land.

In late October several years back, a farmer called my home to share some information. He was checking some cattle near a creek bottom and saw a very large and tall-racked buck making a scrape. He went on to tell me the direction the buck was headed and which trees would be best to set up a stand.

Because of work obligations, I was unable to hunt in the area right away, but on Nov. 5, I called the farmer and asked if I could come down and place a stand in the creek area. I was given permission along with a status report — the time of day the buck moved and where he was going.

I got off work early in the morning of Nov. 9 and headed south to what I hoped would be a eventful afternoon of hunting. I was able to put a stand up quickly and quietly in a narrow area of the creek bottom not far from a large scrape the farmer had mentioned.

I’d been settled in for about 45 minutes when two small bucks came by and headed for a winter wheat field to the south. About 30 minutes later, I saw four does running along the creek to the north. By the way they were running, it appeared they were being chased.

I glassed behind them and saw the very large and tall-racked buck I had been told about.

I used a combination of a grunt tube and “The Can” to get the buck’s attention, and he started my way, but he really didn’t want to leave the does. He stopped at about 75 yards, so I gave a quick rattle sequence when he was looking the other way. When he heard the rattling, he came right to my stand.

I was able to make a good broadside shot at 30 yards. The buck simply jumped, walked a few steps and looked around. Within 15 seconds, it was over, and I had the largest buck I had ever harvested 21 yards from the base of my tree.

This would not have been possible without good communication. Simply spending some time with landowners and letting them know you will respect their land and them can lead to a wonderful day in the woods.

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