I have had a lot of success getting permission to hunt waterfowl on private land in my home province of Alberta, Canada. In my experience, getting permission to hunt waterfowl on private land is a lot easier than getting permission to hunt big game. This is the basic script I have memorized and use whenever I am speaking to a landowner.
Before I begin, it is important to mention that in some States and Provinces landowners are allowed to ask for monetary compensation for hunting on their land. This script works best in places where it is illegal for landowners to ask for monetary compensation. However, this script will still help you in Provinces and States where landowners can request compensation for hunting. Using this script might help you either not have to pay anything at all or only pay a fraction of what other hunters might pay. If you are unsure if landowners can request monetary compensation from you, consult the hunting regulations for the State or Province in which you wish to hunt or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help you find your local regulations.
I will give you two scripts. One is for if you are calling them over the phone and the other is for speaking in person with the landowner. I recommend speaking to them in person whenever possible as you are much more likely to get permission.
Let’s first talk about how you should ask for permission over the phone. It might sound weird but it is important to smile when you are phoning them. Of course, they cannot see your face but the tone of your words will sound more friendly if you are smiling. Trust me it works and successful sales reps use this trick all the time. It is also important to use their name. If you are not sure of their name, use Ihunter or OnX to determine their first and last name. Let’s say that I see a farmer’s pond that is loaded with lots of ducks. I figure out who owns the land using Ihunter or OnX. His name is Jack Davidson and I managed to get his phone number. So I dial his number during a time of day that is acceptable – not late at night or too early in the morning. This is what I say while smiling:
Hey Jack (or Mr. Davidson),
Sorry to bother you. My name is ___ and I just drove past your pond along (mention the range road, highway or township) and noticed there were hundreds of migrating ducks in it. Would it be alright if I were to hunt the ducks in that pond tomorrow? If you like duck meat, I would be happy to share some of it with you. (I then pause and don’t say anything until he replies. At this point he might say that he has already given permission to other hunters or that a family member of his usually hunts it. However, he might say that he has “no problem with it” and to “go ahead”. Another possibility is he shows hesitation in giving permission. If he says “I don’t know”. It is important to quickly reassure him that you are a safe and respectful hunter who will not abuse or trash his land. I recommend saying something like this if he seems hesitant.) I promise that I will not be any trouble at all. I will be incredibly safe and pick up all of my shotgun shells and leave gates as I find them. Often at this point landowners will give me permission and might ask a few questions like “Where are you from?” and so on, but usually this narrative works. I seldom get someone saying “No”. However, it is important to not be discouraged if someone denies you permission. Usually they will tell you why they are not going to let you hunt.
I want you to notice that the words I used were carefully chosen. I started by showing that I am a respectful person, by apologizing for the inconvenience of having to talk to me. It is then important to be specific about where the birds are on his property and to convey a sense of urgency. I also highlighted the fact that there is an abundance (hundreds or thousands) of the migrating waterfowl. This way, I politely insinuated that if he doesn’t give me permission right away all these birds will soon be gone, and that since there are so many what difference would it make if I harvest a few. However, I am not aggressive in any way and smile and make my message exciting as opposed to aggressive or awkward. I let him hear how excited I am about something that is happening on his property. Nobody likes to be a party pooper. We all love excitement, especially if we live quite a mundane lifestyle.
If he doesn’t answer the phone, I would leave a message basically saying the same thing. If I leave a message, I will also send him a text message saying the same thing in case he doesn’t check his voicemail frequently.
Now let’s talk about how I recommend speaking to a landowner in person, as it is slightly different than over the phone. When you are speaking over the phone, the landowner cannot see you so your chances of getting permission go down sometimes. It’s harder to say no to someone’s face and it is easier to reassure someone if they can look at you and determine through your appearance that you seem like a respectful person. When I approach the landowner’s household, I drive slowly up their driveway and watch out for children and pets. I then get out of the car and walk towards the door. If you see someone looking at you through the window, give them a smile and a friendly wave. Often they will open a window or door and speak to you. However, sometimes people are hesitant to open the door to strangers, so after you knock on the door, step back and keep a respectful distance from the door. If they open the door and it looks like you are speaking to the land owner directly, address them by name. If it is someone else, say “Sorry to bother you, but is Jack around?” If Jack isn’t home, you can ask for his number or when you can expect him to return. But let’s assume Jack opens the door. This is what you should say:
Sorry to bother you. I drove past your pond over there (point in the direction of the pond) and noticed there were hundreds of migrating ducks in it (Say this with excitement). Would it be alright if I were to hunt the ducks in that pond tomorrow? If you like duck meat, I would be happy to share some of it with you.
Then don’t say anything until they respond, just like with the phone conversation. He will likely give you permission after asking a few questions like “Who are you?” “Where are you from?” “How often do you hunt?” and so on. I also want to note that you are not asking for permission to hunt on his land indefinitely, but only for tomorrow. It is a lot easier for him to commit to letting you hunt once, as opposed to forever. If you got permission to hunt from him once and you were respectful the first time, you are more likely to get permission again in the future.
If they are not home when you go to their household and you don’t have their phone number, you can always leave a handwritten note and leave your phone number.
Remember that you have nothing to lose when you ask permission. If the landowner says no, your situation does not change at all, because you were not allowed to hunt there in the first place. Take a deep breath, smile and be 100% respectful at all times. Best of Luck!
-Written by Benoit Boudreau.