If you are not a landowner or have a close relative that is a landowner, you probably rely on other people’s ground or public ground to do your trapping. One of the hardest things for a lot of trappers is contacting a landowner and asking for permission to trap. This is especially hard if you are a younger person or have moved into a new area where you do not know many people. I would like to share some tips that I have found useful in getting permission throughout the years.
Before I go into the tips, I would like to explain a little bit about private property. This varies by state, but some people are under the impression that if a property is not “posted” then it is OK to be on it. In Nebraska, this could not be further from the truth. In Nebraska, being on private property without consent is trespassing. If the property is posted, then it moves from a first degree offense to a second degree offense. Make no mistake about it, when it comes to hunting/trapping/fishing ground in Nebraska, landowners are pretty serious about it!
What I really meant to convey in the previous paragraph is that we have an obligation as outdoorsmen and women to act responsibly and lead by example.
So you want to trap and you don’t have any place to do it? How do you start? The first thing to do is to mentally run through a list of all your relatives. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends, work acquaintances, family friends, anyone you know. Do they own land? Are they outdoorsmen? Where do they hunt? Who do they know that might let you on to some property? Those are all questions you need to ask.
If you are just starting with trapping, it helps to find a mentor. Find someone that is willing to show you the ropes. There was a time when the old trappers guarded their secrets tighter than the CIA and wouldn’t tell you anything; even worse, send you down the wrong path. There are still a few of those around but by and large they are being replaced by people who enjoy sharing their knowledge. If you find such person, see if you can ride around with them, learn from them and eventually make a few sets of your own on some land they trap. They also may know some landowners that you could contact.
Attend a Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited banquet in your area. There are usually lots of land owners at these events. Find some guys that “look like farmers”, introduce yourself and tell them you are interested in doing some trapping and if they have any land you could get on.
But what do you say when you ask? One thing that helps some people is to write out something like a script before making contact with someone. It does not need to be exact, but just some phrases to use and points to talk about before you actually talk to someone. This can help with those of us who are a little bit timid or lack conversational confidence.
Let them know exactly what it is you are after. From what I have seen in Nebraska, obtaining permission to trap is easier than obtaining permission to hunt deer. Let them know you are only looking for permission to trap.
Once I have gotten the OK for trapping I will always ask two additional questions. I will ask if it is acceptable to drive onto the property. Do not assume it is OK to drive on the property just because you have permission to trap on it. A lot of guys do not want tracks and ruts in their fields. Another reason is because once people see there are tracks driving into a field, they think that anyone can drive in there, and you have a brand new, well traveled road!
The second question I will ask is if anyone is hunting deer or anything else on the property. I do this for two reasons. For one, I do not want to get in someones way when they are hunting. Secondly, if there are upland bird hunters or waterfowl hunters I will not use conibears or certain kinds of snares because of the hunting dogs. If there are going to be deer hunters, tell the landowner you will wait until after rifle deer season to trap. Make sure to ask if the hunters are hunting other seasons as well (muzzle loader, late rifle or archery). The other reason I ask this question about hunters, is it may open up another property for you for hunting, if no one is currently on it!
I will point out a couple other things to be aware of when it comes to farmers and landowners. Always leave gates as you found them. If the gate was open, it may have been left open for a reason. Also, the guy who is farming it may not be the landowner. Typically, landowners and their tenants communicate about these things. But this can get complicated if the landowner has given permission to someone and and the tenant gives permission to you, unbeknownst of each other. Sorting this out beforehand can eliminate an uncomfortable situation later on.
Some other miscellaneous tips that may not seem like much but it all helps:
– Do not act like a know-it-all.
– Try to listen more than you talk.
– Smile and use a friendly voice and gestures.
– Be appreciative of their time.
– Make it known that you will respect their natural resources.
– If you are wearing sunglasses, take them off so you can make proper eye contact.
– Be prepared to accept rejection and handle it gracefully.
– Keep a notebook of when you contacted landowners, dates, times and notes from the conversations. This is a good tool to refer back to and to remember what you talked about.
Your first season on a new property is a critical one. Make sure you keep your promises you made, if any, about driving into the fields, etc. If someone has driven in there and made ruts in the field, you are the one that will get blamed, so make sure you notify the landowner that the damage caused was not from you.
A permission is a season to season thing. Do not assume that once you have been given permission you have it for the rest of your life. Things change that you are not aware of. Maybe the farmer has a new son-in-law who traps. Land gets bought and sold, tenants change, etc. Follow up every season with the landowner to make sure it is still OK to trap.
At the end of the season make sure the landowner knows you have appreciated using his land. You can do this through a phone call, Thank You card, or if you see them at the store. Some people go as far as to give out small gifts. Gift giving certainly isn’t necessary, but do as you feel appropriate.
In conclusion, the best way to obtain permission is with honesty and integrity. The best way to keep it successfully from year to year is respecting the landowners wishes and property.
Mark Hajny – Nebraska Fur Harvesters Association