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Gain Hunting Access To Private Land

Charles Evans | June 4, 2018

I like to bounce around the state when it comes to hunting. Thankfully, Georgia offers public-land hunting opportunities on nearly 1 million acres, allowing me to hunt in the southern swamps one weekend and enjoy a higher-elevation experience in the mountains the next. I have shared some excellent experiences on public land over the years, but the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of Georgia is privately owned, and it so happens that my favorite honey holes reside on private property. I receive quite a few questions about private land hunting from both hunters who are seeking opportunity and landowners who are considering allowing access.

Landowner concerns always revolve around safety and liability. Did you know that a person is 29 times more likely to be injured cheerleading than hunting? How about 135 times more likely to be injured playing football? I could go on, but you understand where I am headed. Hunting is hands down one of the safest activities in America. We are also lucky to live in Georgia where we have laws in place that explicitly shield landowners from civil liability for injuries of people who use their land for recreational purposes. If you are a landowner, you should feel relatively at ease allowing hunters on your property, and it will likely come with some inherent benefits like a reduction in trespassing, restoration of the ecological integrity of your property, and it might even take some stress off of your garden.

Now, if you are a hunter seeking opportunity, we have quite a bit more to discuss. There are three basic ways you can gain access to private land in Georgia without purchasing property; join a pre-existing hunt club, lease land or just ask for permission.

One of the most commonly taken routes is joining a well-established hunting club. Many long-standing clubs have secured substantial lease lands over time or own property outright that is available exclusively to their membership. When members turn over, spots are often available in these clubs. Benefits of this option include the ability to network with other hunters, food plots already in place, shared costs and possibly even camper hook-ups or a cabin to stay in.

Hunting club openings can be found in newspaper classified ads, via word of mouth and through online resources. The GON Forum (forum.gon.com) and the free GON Classifieds at gon.com provide a place for clubs to advertise their openings.

Always make sure to ask a landowner before installing any sort of permanent sets on their property. In this case, the landowner specifically requested that nothing be screwed into the trees, so Aaron Whiting made sure to hang a ladder stand that only required straps to install.

I will give the disclaimer that not all clubs were created equally. It is important to do your research, visit the club to meet the members and evaluate whether the cost and club environment would be a good fit for you.

Another great option is to go straight to the source. Forest corporations own about 2.5 million acres of Georgia forestland. Most operate hunting lease programs as a formal part of their business model. These programs started four or five decades ago and have now evolved into web-based solutions that are easily accessible and simple to operate. Large timber companies specific to Georgia include Weyerhaeuser, Westervelt, CatchMark and Rayonier. Their websites provide information on lands available for lease and hunting clubs seeking members. Going this route is perfect if you just want to lease a small tract for you and your family or if you want to lease a larger tract and start a club of your own.

The last option we are going to discuss is certainly the trickiest and most time intensive, which is just asking for hunting permission. There’s always that one field you see deer in on the way home from work or maybe a small woodlot next to your neighborhood that looks like cattle have been through it. Have you ever thought about asking for permission to hunt those properties? Private individuals and families own about 13.6 million acres of Georgia forestland. Tract sizes range from very large to smaller woodlots and are well dispersed throughout the state.

Asking permission to access these properties for hunting is almost a lost art, compared to a few decades ago. However, with some preparation, practice and determination, you might open some new doors to excellent hunting sites.

Tax maps are a great way to track down landowner data for parcels. Pictured here, Hank Forester uses www.gaassessors.com to identify several properties in his county that he plans to ask permission to hunt.

The first step is obviously tracking down who the owner is. Luckily, we live in the age of technology, and there are a number of apps that will provide you with that information. One of the easiest ways to do this from your desktop is through www.gaassessors.com. This site will provide access to all of the parcel data in your county, and there is a search by map option.

The hard part is next, making the ask. Keep in mind persistence is key. You might have to ask 30 landowners before you get permission for one property. Below are the five general rules I like to follow:

1. Do your homework. Make sure you know exactly who the owners are and the details about the property you are inquiring about. Try to find out if you have any common connections prior to approaching them. This often enables conversation and puts people at ease. Find out if anyone already hunts their property. If so, maybe you can gain access for another species (small game is an excellent starter).

If you plan to ask permission in person, remember to dress nicely and consider taking the Hunting Safety & Liability Fact Sheet with you.

2. Be clean and courteous. Sometimes phone numbers can be hard to track down, and it may be more effective to knock on the door of their residence. Show up in clean clothes at a reasonable time in the evening. Remember the manners your mother taught you, and thank the landowner for their time, even if they decline to grant you access.

3. Know the facts about hunting. When making the ask, be sure that you have studied up on the benefits of hunting to conservation and the landscape. Consider taking the Hunting Safety & Liability Fact Sheet mentioned at the end of this article with you. Additionally, if you have a business card, take it with you so you can provide them with your contact information easily and show that you are a respectable member of society.

4. Be flexible. Understand that this is their property, and their concerns are your topmost priority. Propose solutions, and be willing to work with them. If perception of safety and noise are concerns to them, offer to archery hunt instead, even if firearms are legal in that area. If they grant access, ensure that you have clear instructions on what days/times you can hunt and where to park.

5. Give back. If you harvest game on their property, offer to share meat with them. Do they have a tree down? Offer to help them clean it up. They are being very generous to you, and you should do the same for them.

Alright, I think the above has provided a decent overview of private land hunting access in Georgia. For more information and to download the previously mentioned Hunting Safety & Liability Fact Sheet visit www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting-permissions.

Editor’s Note: Charles S. Evans is the Georgia R3 Coordinator and working to increase hunting participation and societal acceptance of hunting in Georgia. The information presented in this article and provided in the referenced fact sheet are a product of a partnership between Georgia Wildlife Federation, Georgia DNR and Weyerhaeuser.

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1 Comment

  1. Vance Jarrell on November 8, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Look for land to lease to hunt deer around Coweta county.

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