Small Tracts Can Yield Big Benefits
By John Martino
I have always loved the month of August. I consider it the gateway to the upcoming hunting seasons. Unfortunately, every year about this time I hear the same sad stories. Already I have learned of several friends who have, for one reason or another, lost their places to hunt. In most cases it’s because properties have been sold or leased to others.
Small tracts of land are becoming more and more a fact of life. Now a day it seems there are either huge parcels owned by the same person or corporation or many segmented smaller tracts. Most suburban hunters are limited to these smaller lots, what I call “hobby or recreational farms.”
It seems here in Indiana and the entire Midwest for that matter, some large wooded areas are becoming fragmented as large landowners sell off parcels. People are gobbling them up to in any increment they can afford, sometimes as small as five or 10 acres.
Is it possible to have decent hunting on a small tract of ground? Sure it is. Each season many quality deer are harvested in areas not much larger than a couple city lots. But, to do this you need a dedicated plan and approach.
One friend lost his longtime hunting ground then purchased an eight-acre parcel in western Howard County. “I know it’s not much but at least I have a place of my own,” he said. “I doubt if I’ll ever take a trophy buck on it but at least with luck I can get a doe or two,” he added. Chances are there’s probably more deer using his property than he realizes.
The first step is to spend some time and figure how the deer use the area and when to hunt it and when to stay out. Google Earth is a great tool and so is OnX hunting app. They are invaluable for learning the surrounding area. Trail cameras can also tell a lot about deer movement.
When we viewed his property on satellite imagery it became quickly evident the woodlot on my friend’s new place should be a perfect staging area for bucks waiting for the cover of darkness before coming out to feed on the corn and beans.
In smaller tracts it’s hard to hang a tree stand without letting all the deer know someone is in there turf. If possible set a stand as early as possible, even if that means putting up with mosquitoes and gnarly brush. If you don’t have the time, then set it when you can but definitely wait a couple weeks before going back. In smaller places it may be best to simply hunt from the ground, which eliminates all the clammering of hanging a metal stand.
If you show up to hunt your spot and the wind is wrong, turn around. In smaller tracts you only get one chance at a wall hanger and it’s not worth blowing it. Go hunt somewhere else, go fishing or help your wife with some chores.
So what do you do if you don’t have your own land and rely on the generosity of others? There are options. So how do you ask a complete stranger for permission to access their land with a firearm or bow?
A friend of mine, Mark Barnett, has a great approach in seeking out tracts of land available for hunting. He treats it like an important job interview and has put together a professional looking resume he passes out to prospective landowners. “Each year while scouting new places to hunt I have given out dozens of them,” he added. “They have without a doubt resulted in new places for me.”
It contains a short biography about himself, including his current job, family, community affiliations and a short cover letter explaining the reason why he is passionate about hunting. Also listed is his contact information, safety certifications and a few character references. He also explains his sincere appreciation if allowed on the property and how the land will be treated with the utmost respect.
Barnett also dresses appropriately. “Think about it,” he explained. “You are trying to convey competence and responsibility and your appearance speaks volumes before you even open your mouth.” I could not agree with him more.
The avid hunter always exhibits friendliness and respect even if denied permission. Remember the resume? Several years had gone by when a landowner in Miami County called Barnett asking if he was still interested in hunting on his property. “That ended up becoming one of my favorite places,” he added, “and that was several years back when I first met him.”
The good thing with people buying up many small parcels, there are many more landowners, some of who might even let you hunt. If you don’t gain any access to private property, don’t get discouraged. Persistence pays off. If not, you will at least meet some very interesting people along the way!
Kokomo Reservoir bass tourney
Ethan Miller and Adam Blankenberger won last Monday’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction and Roby’s Bullseye Outdoors. They won the event with five largemouth bass totaling 8.78 pounds. Chance Taskey and Eric Kinney snagged second with five fish dropping the scales at 8.25 pounds. Shawn Burton reeled in third and “big bass” honors with four fish weighing 8.06 pounds with his largest tipping the scales at 2.88 pounds.
Wayne Eads and Paul Crow won last Tuesday’s Delphi-Delco team bass tourney, held on Mississinewa Reservoir, with two fish weighing three pounds, two ounces. A one pound, 13 ounce bass also gave them the tourney’s “big fish” award. Second went to Mike Harrison and Bill Luster with two fish totaling three pounds. Larry Richards and Jim Helvig snagged third place with two fish tipping the scales at two pounds, 12 ounces