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'Twas the Night Before Hunting Season

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2007

Last revision: Dec. 1, 2010

Growing up on a small farm in southwest Missouri and coming from a family whose roots are deeply embedded in the tradition of hunting, I was more excited the night before hunting season began than I was on Christmas eve. I would toss and turn amid visions of big bucks or strutting turkeys for what seemed like hours. Just about the time I would fall into a deep sleep, Dad would wake me up saying, “Come on, son, it’s time to go.”

The fire that kept me awake as a 9-year-old still burns just as bright today, 30 years later. What has changed, however, is that I’ve come to appreciate how hunting gives me the opportunity to share outdoor adventures with the people who mean the most to me.

Because I value hunting so much, I take precautions to protect it, and I hope other hunters will, too. All of us who take part in this time-honored practice can help ensure that the tradition of hunting will be passed on to future generations by being responsible hunters and following a certain code of ethics.

Respecting Landowners

Trespassing is landowners’ biggest complaint when it comes to hunting. All it takes is one bad experience for landowners to take their property off the list of possible places to go hunting, ruining it for everyone.

Always seek permission before hunting another person’s property, and don’t wait until the last minute. A county plat map, available at most county courthouses, can help you determine who owns property in the area you’d like to hunt.

Showing up at a landowner’s front door on opening day wearing your camouflage and carrying your rifle or bow to ask a landowner if you can hunt his or her property is like showing up in a tux on prom night to ask a gal for a date.

Make your visit months before the season begins and do it during a time of day when you won’t be interrupting dinner or getting someone out of bed. You may strike out more times than not, but sooner or later you’re going to hit pay dirt in the form of a honey of a hunting spot.

A good way to get access to private property is to ask about furbearer hunting or trapping. Few farmers wish they had more coyotes on their place. While a landowner may be hesitant to let a stranger hunt deer or turkey, a good way for a property owner to get to know you better is to offer to help thin out the predator population. It just might lead to some other opportunities.

Getting permission from the landowner doesn’t mean you have free reign of the place. It’s your responsibility to find out from the owner exactly where on the property you can hunt and where you can’t.

Farmers usually ask me to leave my truck parked near a gate and walk in to keep me from making ruts across muddy fields. I’ve found this practice helps me, too, because I don’t scare game while driving in.

Also, make a point of learning the location of the property’s boundaries. The last thing a landowner wants is a neighbor who is upset because a hunter who had permission to hunt one property trespassed on another.

Generally, if you take the time to understand things from the landowner’s point of view, and in your manner and behavior show your appreciation for being able to hunt private property, you have a good chance at having a hunting spot for many years to come.

Doing Your Homework

Once you have a place to hunt—public or private—it’s time to do that all-important preseason scouting. One of the best ways to learn the lay of the land is to strap on your boots for a firsthand look.

Today’s technology can also help you gain a better picture of the property. If you’re hunting conservation areas, vist us online or stop by your local Conservation Department office to pick up free maps.

For public or private land, detailed topographical maps (available for a nominal fee from the U.S. Geological Service) can show landforms and vegetation that tend to funnel moving deer or rivers and streams that attract roosting turkeys. Aerial photos like the ones provided online are another valuable tool hunters can use to scout an area without leaving home.

Staying on Target

Hunters have a responsibility to the sport and to the game they’re after to hone their shooting skills. Grabbing your rifle or bow and shooting a few times the week or so before the season starts is probably not enough to stay sharp. By spending time at the shooting range throughout the year, your marksmanship will improve, and you’ll increase your chances of filling your permit during the hunting season.

One tip that’s always helped me harvest game quickly and cleanly is to always try to stop my quarry before taking a shot. It’s easier to hit a standing target than a moving one. Grunt to stop a deer for a broadside shot or emit a soft cluck on a mouth call to get a turkey to come out of strut. Make sure you’re ready to take the shot, however, because these wild critters aren’t going to stand there and offer a good shot for long.

Be Safe

Each year, falling from tree stands is the largest cause of hunter injuries. Double-check to make sure your stand is secure and always wear a safety harness when you’re in a tree.

When temperatures are 100 degrees in August or near zero in January, most people aren’t thinking about taking a hunter education class, but they should. Summer and winter months are great times to enroll because there are usually plenty of openings. Taking classes in the off-season also frees you up for scouting during the prime months of fall and spring.

Hunter safety isn’t something that ends once you receive your certificate and head to the field. It should become a way of life through your words as well as your actions.

This year the Missouri Department of Conservation is celebrating 50 years of Hunter Education. Since 1957 the number of hunters has increased while the number of accidents has decreased. For this improved safety record, we can thank the thousands of volunteer instructors who have donated millions of hours over the last half-century to the sport they care so deeply about. They’ve made hunting safer for all of us.

If we treat hunting as a year-round privilege and responsibility rather than just a fun way to fill up a couple of weekends, we will help to ensure that future generations of hunters will have the chance to experience pre-opening daydreams that include big bucks and strutting toms.

Purple Paint Law

The purple paint law allows landowners to mark their property against trespass by placing readily visible purple paint marks on trees or posts around their property boundaries.

Vertical marks are to be placed no more than 100 feet apart, and each mark must be at least 8 inches long. The bottom of the mark should be no less than 3 feet, but not more than 5 feet above the ground.

“Property so posted,” the law reads, “is to be considered posted for all purposes, and any unauthorized entry upon the property is trespass in the first degree, and a class B misdemeanor.”

Trespassing on any private property, whether posted or not, is illegal, but trespassing on posted property is a more serious offense.

Hunters, anglers and hikers should be on the alert for purple paint markings and should always ask permission of landowners before venturing onto private property.

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