Over 93 percent of land in Missouri is privately owned, so the bulk of deer hunting opportunity is on private land. Before you start, you must identify the landowner and get permission to hunt or enter their land.
Information on land ownership can be found at the county court house from the assessor’s office or a plat book. Plat books can provide the name of the landowner, and a phone book or the assessor’s office can provide the landowner’s address.
Don’t just make a phone call, take the time to visit the landowner. Face-to-face contact is important for landowners to learn more about you and to put a face and vehicle with the person that will be on their property. Arrange to visit at a time when the landowner may be outdoors or easily accessible. Avoid meal times, when other guests are present, and any time after sunset.
Be friendly and allow enough time to chat. A conversation can help you learn a lot about the surrounding area, deer movements, and the quality of the deer herd.
In that first face-to-face meeting, the landowner has to determine if you will respect his or her property and assets such as livestock. This judgment is based in part on how you look, act, drive, and present yourself. You should portray professionalism and trust. Make a good first impression and always be courteous, even if you are told “no.”
Most importantly, ask about any rules and the landowner’s property goals. Try to help him or her meet those goals. If the landowner wants a lower deer population to reduce crop damage, be sure to harvest does. If the landowner wants bucks to reach an older age class, pass up younger bucks.
A landowner who has allowed you to hunt on his or her property has given you something. It is a good idea to offer something in return. Depending on the situation, stopping by for an occasional chat, providing a portion of your harvest, or pitching in to help around the property often will be appreciated. You also may ask if you can post the landowner’s boundaries as a gesture of good faith. All of these activities help you develop a good, long-standing, hunter-landowner relationship.
If you can’t secure permission to hunt on private land for free, consider leasing land or working with an outfitter. As a lessee, you may be able to secure a property for multiple years and have control over how many people are able to hunt. Outfitters usually provide a location to hunt as well as hunting stands, lodging, other amenities such as skinning sheds. Find outfitters and land to lease on the Internet, in newspaper classifieds, through word of mouth, or from realtors.
Remember — purchasing a hunting permit does not give you the right to trespass. The best rule of thumb is this: if you don’t own it or do not have permission from the person who does own it, you shouldn’t be there. This includes retrieving your deer if it crosses property lines. If you shoot a deer and it enters someone else’s property, ask the owner for permission to search their property for your deer.
Permission to hunt on land one year does not automatically allow you to hunt there the next year. Always contact the landowner each year to ensure you are still allowed to hunt.