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When hunting on a farmer’s land, observe basic courtesy
Hunting season is open in most areas of North America for deer, waterfowl, pheasants and various other game birds and animals. Like many people, I enjoy hunting.

Marilyn and I enjoy eating wild game, especially pheasants, ducks, geese and venison. Once or twice per week we also eat fish that I catch. We maintain filter strips on the waterways and creeks of our farm to protect downstream water from pollution runoff and to furnish habitat for wildlife. We also have some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land where I like to hike and hunt.
Several neighboring farmers who don’t hunt game have planted filter strips or enrolled portions of their land in the CRP and allow me to hunt there. During pheasant hunting season many hunters from other localities roam our country roads.

What is proper decorum for hunters and fishers? As a landowner and sportsman, I experience both sides of hunter decorum issues.
Most hunter safety courses offer guidelines for proper behavior by hunters on other people’s property. There are helpful websites online, such as www.mid permission or conduct an online search that contains the words “permission to hunt” with the name of your state or province.
Here are a few basic tips regarding permission to hunt or fish on someone else’s property. I thank several fellow hunters and my local Department of Natural Resources officer for reviewing these tips.

•It is best to obtain permission in writing, preferably annually. Obtain the signature of the landowner or caretaker and the date, or an email which shows this information. Giving a description of your vehicle and its license plate number to the landowner helps them feel assured who is hunting or fishing. Clarify if you are allowed to set up a tree stand or blind.

•Make sure you clarify if permission allows you to bring anyone else with you to hunt or fish. I became ticked off a few years ago after I gave permission to someone to hunt our land, when he had five buddies with him the next weekend as I checked to see who was hunting our land.

•Know the boundaries of the land you have permission to access. Carry a plat book with you to clarify boundaries when you ask permission. Respect state laws regarding how close to buildings and livestock (usually 200 yards) you are allowed to discharge a gun and to retrieve game you shot. Be sure to ask if you may keep fish or game you harvest.

•Thank the landowner or caretaker with a note or gift at the end of the season. I like to return the favor of fishing and hunting on their property with a gift of ready-to-cook fish or meat that is vacuum-sealed in clear bags, or a cash gift. Sometimes those who let me hunt and fish on their property don’t want anything in return, but they always appreciate that I ask permission and usually tell me I have access to their property anytime.

•Shut all gates you opened to enter a field and when you leave. Pick up your trash, including shell casings and your buddies’ trash, before you leave the property.

•Tell the owner of any mishaps. A few years ago a coyote hunter accidentally knocked down a gatepost as he raced into our field with his truck – without permission, I might add. 

He didn’t stop to apologize or pay for damages. I noticed his truck parked in town the next week, with a big dent in the front fender.

•I like to park my vehicle where the ground cover is short, so a fire doesn’t start from dry vegetation touching a hot muffler.

•Be sure to adhere to state laws regarding shooting hours, number of fish or game you are allowed to harvest, and wear proper attire such as blaze-orange caps, vests and coats.

•Be willing to share the pond or hunting terrain with others who have permission to fish or hunt there. Recently, another pheasant hunter and I got into a disagreement when we arrived almost simultaneously at a stretch of prairie grass on a neighbor’s land. I offered to share the stretch, but he insisted he had permission first and wanted this land all to himself. He had already walked a ways on adjoining land that belonged to a different owner. It was clear he started hunting before the opening hour of 8 a.m.

During previous years I gave permission to this person to hunt on our land because he was respectful when he asked, but he never offered thanks or a token of appreciation for the upkeep of our land. I explained this to him.

Eventually, we agreed I could walk this stretch that day and he would hunt on other land the same neighbor owned; the next weekend he could hunt on this stretch, but I asked him to not hunt on our land anymore.

Michael R. Rosmann, Ph.D. serves on the adjunct faculty of the University of Iowa, lectures across the United States and abroad and owns a row crop farm in Harlan, Iowa. He is also a founding partner of the nonprofit network AgriWellness, Inc.
Send your thoughts and questions to him by email at – previously published columns are available for a small fee 30 days after they were originally printed, at