Private landowners—especially farmers—have quickly realized that leasing their land can net additional income, which is certainly a boost for farmers, but not so great for the hunter. One glance at land prices and you can see it has become a land-grabbing nightmare as the price tag for hunting leases and land purchases continue to climb to record prices around the country. Adding to the sting, professionally guided hunts are quickly being priced out of reach of the average hunter.
State parks, Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), National Wildlife Refuges (NWR), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, controlled urban hunting opportunities and state organized landowner hunts are a viable option for budget-conscience hunters.
There are lots of NWR’s and WMA’s scattered countrywide. For example:
- The combined land mass of the country’s NWR’s is over 96 million acres.
- Of those 96 million acres, 317 of the 550 NWR’s offer some form of public hunting.
- 184 NWR’s are located east of the Mississippi.
- Add to the list the number of state and federal WMA’s across the nation and the tally for total acres of public hunting lands equals penny saving possibilities.
In addition to WMAs, NWRs and public parks, another alternative is joining controlled state-owned land hunts. Many of these hunts take place on military bases. These areas can produce some great results as there is little pressure because many of these areas are closed during the regular season.
Planning ahead to hunt is required, plus you have to successfully enter and be drawn, which restricts most of the land to the general public. An added bonus is these types of hunts are not heavily advertised.
States such as North Dakota offer special herd-reduction hunts on private land where landowners enroll in the programs to control the wildlife populations on their property. It’s a great program for the landowner and a splendid way for hunters looking for economical hunting on less pressured lands. These hunts are for often restricted to residents only.
Spend some time reviewing the DNR websites to uncover these generally “unadvertised” hunting opportunities.
If you think large, public-land hunting is the only option, or the only productive option, think again. More and more, cities and communities are hosting special controlled hunts. These hunts often provide a low-cost, close-to-home alternative to fill the freezer and have been known to produce some better-than-expected results. Contact your city animal control officers, local DNR offices or metro bowhunting organizations to discover opportunities available in your area.
Bagging a trophy whitetail or mature gobbler on your own piece of land is a dream for many of us, although finding an affordable place to hunt is getting harder and harder. So, now is the time to scope out some of these penny pinching public places to pursue your passion.
How about you? Found any unusual places to hunt? Share your experiences or tips in the comment section.
Lisa Metheny is a published award-winning outdoor writer, photographer, speaker and outdoor skills instructor. Lisa holds several instructor certifications and conducts a number of women-focused outdoor seminars on topics such as archery and hunting throughout the year. She regularly teaches hunters education and archery classes and has become an advocate for promoting traditional outdoor recreation to families across the United States. Lisa is also an avid and accomplished hunter with many big game species to her credit. She is a member of POMA and former Board of Directors member as well as a member of the NRA, RMEF, MDF and DU.
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