Accessing land is one of the greatest challenges we face as trappers, whether competing with others to trap on public land, or trying to gain access to private farm, ranch or wooded land. Many landowners will not allow trapping on their lands, but some do, and the way we approach the topic can mean the difference between a yes and a no. Here are some tips on getting permission.
Cold Call Landowners
One approach to getting permission to trap land is to find out who owns land in the area you want to trap, and contact a whole bunch of these landowners. When I first started trapping this is what I did. Most of the landowners in the area were absentee – they lived out of state and only visited once or twice a year, if at all. I went to the local town office and found out who owned which parcels, got their names and addresses, and sent letters to each of them asking for permission. The letter was kindly worded and explained that I was asking permission to trap on their land, and would leave the place as I left it. This method would also work with phone calls, email, Facebook messages, etc, as long as you have the landowner contact information.
The cold call method can work, but it isn’t very effective. I sent letters to more than a dozen landowners, and only got two responses – one yes and one no. So I did get permission to trap a piece of land, but it took a lot of time an effort, and the success rate was low.
Here’s why it didn’t work great:
- Landowners didn’t know me or what kind of person/trapper I was, so they were taking a chance giving me permission
- I didn’t provide a perceived benefit to them as a landowner
- It took work for them to respond, and they put themselves at some level of unknown risk by allowing access to their land
I was much more successful getting permission to trap from landowners who lived on or near the properties I wanted to trap. They knew me and my family, had a connection to the land, and could see the potential benefits of furbearer harvest on their land. These are key points that will help you access more land.
Here’s a short plan to maximize your chances for success in gaining permission to trap.
Learn about the landowner
Finding out more about the landowner of the ground you’d like to trap will help you put together an approach for getting permission. You can start by asking questions of people around you. Friends, family and others you know who have been around in the community for a long time usually know the ownership and history of most of the land parcels in the area.
Is the landowner absentee? Absentee landowners often take a hands-off approach to their land, and aren’t very interested in day-to-day management of it. That means they’ll be less likely to give you permission unless you offer some benefit to them by trapping the land. You’ll have to find out their specific motivations and explain how trapping might help. More on that later.
If the land is owned by someone from away, they may have a land manager or caretaker who looks after the property. If so, this person may make all of the decisions related to land access and may be your key to gaining access. Is that person amenable to trapping? If you can befriend the land manager and explain how trapping can help his management, you may be granted access.
If the landowner lives on the property or in the area, what do they use the land for? Is it a farm where crops are grown or livestock are raised? What are the landowner’s motivations? If they have problems with animal damage, they will be much more likely to support having a trapper on their land.
This initial work will help narrow things down to landowners who you will want to approach to gain permission to trap.
Play the long game
The most successful method for getting access to trapping ground is to build relationships with landowners. This takes time and effort, and may not be for you, but it certainly pays off in the long term. Reach out to friends, family or acquaintances who know the landowner and ask lots of questions. Get an idea of what they do, what motivates them and how you can develop a positive relationship with them.
Most importantly, make a visit to the landowner. Nothing is as important as a face to face conversation, and the most valuable thing you can offer to someone is your time. Listen to what they have to say, learn about their interests, concerns and motivations, and when appropriate, offer to help. Maybe they have a cattle farm and need help rounding up cows or sorting calves. Perhaps they have problems with trash dumping on their land any you can help clean things up. Get creative.
Finally, it’s time to sell yourself as a trapper and let the landowner know your motivations. Be honest and forthcoming, telling them why you are interested in trapping their land. Maybe it’s convenient because it’s close to home, or you have seen lots of furbearer sign in the area. If you’re trapping to make money, be honest about it. If you’re a new trapper just learning the ropes, or an experienced hand trapping for recreation, you can mention that too. One thing that doesn’t resonate well is dishonesty, and being dishonest is a surefire way to ruin a good relationship and lose potential access.
This is also the time to sell your services as a trapper. Though we often overlook it, trappers provide a valuable service to many landowners. In many parts of the country, landowners have problems with beavers flooding roads, cutting trees and damaging agricultural land. Muskrats dig holes in pond banks and destroy levees. Coyotes and foxes kill chickens, turkeys, sheep and goats. Coyotes are also known deer killers in many areas. Otters and mink remove valuable fish from farm ponds. Fishers are known to take cats right off the front porch.
There are lots of problems caused by furbearing animals, but I don’t think we should turn these critters into outright villains. When in proper balance with man and nature, furbearers perform valuable ecosystem functions. We need to share the fact that keeping these populations in check through regulated trapping reduces animal damage problems and promotes greater health in furbearer populations and other species they interact with. This means that you as a trapper can help the landowner who has animal damage concerns, while also promoting overall ecosystem health. How cool is that? Selling this idea properly to each unique landowner can be a challenge, but if you do it right it can open up plenty of doors to new trapping grounds, and build long lasting relationships with landowners. When you develop a good relationship with a landowner, you’d be surprised by the many other options that might materialize.
Gaining access to land is critical to the future of trapping, and we as trappers can always do a better job with landowner relations. I hope these tips help you blaze new trails in your trapping pursuits. Do you have questions or advice to help trappers get permission? Feel free to share in the comments below.