Josh Boyd, column and photos:
Deer hunting is full of challenges in many varying forms and fashions. How best to get to and from a stand covertly, avoiding detection by the ever-keen nose of the whitetail deer, and making the most out of a shot opportunity when it is presented are just a few challenges that a deer hunter must overcome. However, in many cases the biggest challenge a deer hunter faces is confronted before their hunt ever begins.
Land access or the lack thereof is an issue that ever increasingly affects countless deer hunters every year. In a time where once-sprawling farms are being sold off and subdivided at an alarming rate, many hunters have been displaced from woodlots that they once called their hunting home. As the number of deer hunters without land access rises exponentially, and the total acreage of available land for hunting plummets, the competition for access to any remaining tracts of land is often times substantial. This leaves a hunter to weigh their options, or else risk sitting idly by as others head to the woods this fall. However, with some forethought, research, and determination well in advance of season, access to some of our region's finest deer hunting can still be had.
The month of June is a perfect time to seek out permission for new properties to deer hunt in the coming fall. By beginning to pursue access at this point in the year, a hunter is getting a leg up on many individuals who will put off until tomorrow what they could have done today. This allows you to potentially make contact with a landowner before he or she has already been contacted by four or five other hunters with the same request, as would probably be the case had a person waited until the few weeks preceding season. This can be of an advantage because many landowners grant permission to their yet unspoken for properties on a first come first serve basis.
An alternative means of gaining access to hunting property is through a land lease agreement. One steadfast advantage of acquiring a lease is the piece of mind that through a contractual leasing agreement, only the parties that the lease pertains to will be allowed onto the property. This prevents the repeated disruption of your hunting that is always a possibility when multiple groups of hunters have been granted permission to the same property.
One disadvantage of leasing hunting property is the cost associated with the yearly terms for acquisition of the lease. These fees are commonly set at a per acre price and in many areas can be rather steep. The sticker shock of signing in to a lease can often times be at least partially mitigated by splitting the lease amongst a group of like minded hunters.
In many cases, large tracts of property lease at a slightly lesser cost per acre than smaller properties. Once this price is divided amongst a handful of individuals the per hunter total can at times be less than one might think, all the while allowing each lease member ample room to hunt. By assessing any leasing opportunities at the earliest possible date, a hunter, or group of hunters, are allowed a larger pool of prospective leases to choose from than had they waited until few options remained by the time season was on the verge of opening.
As we prepare to usher in the month of June, Kentucky's archery season and it's early September opening date grows ever closer. As season approaches, the thought of where to hunt and how to gain access to property for that purpose will begin to weigh heavily on the minds of many bluegrass bow hunters. Procrastination, on the part of hunters who seek to secure land to hunt, will do them no favors. Instead, getting a jump start on the task ahead and working diligently to see it through will likely yield a hunter a slice of hunting heaven from where they can see yet another deer season through. In this case, the early bird really does get the worm, and maybe the deer.