In a month, the Kansas fields, hills and woods will awaken to the sound of booming shotguns and barking dogs. Nov. 11 is the official opening day of upland game hunting. Hunters and their canines once again will swarm the countryside searching for pheasants, quail and prairie chicken. Duck and turkey season already is in full swing.
Farms and ranches always have been a handy, ready-to-use outlet for many urban dwellers who travel outside their city homes in search of recreational hunting. On opening day of the upland game season, the interstate and U.S. highways will be a steady stream of pickups, SUVs and cars headed for central and western Kansas.
If you plan to hunt on private land, remember one key word as you embark on this season’s sojourn. That word is consideration. It means thoughtful and sympathetic regard.
In this country, wildlife belongs to the people, but landowners (farmers and ranchers) have the right to say who goes on their land. If you are interested in hunting, make arrangements before you hunt.
Don’t wait until the day you plan to hunt someone’s land and then knock on the door at 6 a.m. By now, you already should have asked to hunt.
After you’ve secured permission, here are some suggestions to follow that will ensure a lasting relationship between you and the landowner.
Agree on who, and how many, will hunt on the land. Specify number and furnish names. Talk about specific times and dates you plan to hunt.
Contact the landowner each time before you plan to hunt, and let the landowner know of your intentions. The landowner might have forgotten about your original conversation. It’s just common courtesy to say hello before hunting and ask again for the opportunity — or privilege, as I consider it — to hunt on someone’s property.
Determine the exact location on the land you have permission to hunt. Some areas might be off-limits because of livestock or crops.
Always, and I can’t stress this enough, leave gates the way you find them. If they are open, leave them that way. If they are closed, shut them after you pass through.
If you ever leave a gate open and a farmer’s cow herd gets out of the pasture, “Katy bar the door.” You’ll never be invited back to hunt. Don’t even ask.
Once you’ve enjoyed a successful hunt, stop by to thank the landowner for his generosity. Offer to share the game you bag.
After the season, write a note expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to hunt. Consider offering a gift as a token of your gratitude.
Leasing of land by the hunter from the landowner is becoming more popular in Kansas. Such agreements allow a hunter a guaranteed hunting site. It also provides the landowner income necessary to recoup some of the investment he needs to leave habitat suitable for wildlife to survive and prosper.
If you enter into such a lease, make sure it is written and includes all provisions both parties deem necessary. This should include a clause for the landowner and his or her family to hunt on the land.
Always remember the hunter and landowner should discuss the terms of the hunt before hunting begins. This is extremely important. Hunters never forget, you are a guest and it is a privilege to hunt on the owner’s land.
John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwest Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.