Doug Leier: "No Hunting" Signs Don't Always Mean No Hunting


The popularity of North Dakota’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen program has created somewhat of an expectation for hunters.

This year, the state has roughly 735,000 acres in the program and many hunters use these areas for at least some of their hunting experiences.

And that’s basically the primary intention of PLOTS – sort of a supplemental option in addition to other types of public land and private land as well. The program was never intended to meet all the expectations of a hundred thousand hunters in North Dakota each fall.

Hunters who really want to improve their opportunities still need to work private land into the mix.

It’s safe to say that a good majority of the private land in North Dakota gets hunted every year. And it’s also safe to say that a good majority of private land in the state is “posted,” with signs indicating no hunting or no trespassing.

But those “No Hunting” signs don’t necessarily mean the landowner doesn’t allow hunting.

Landowners have any number of good reasons why a particular piece of land is not available. Perhaps friends or relatives are coming. Maybe the rancher is moving cattle in the area, or still harvesting. Maybe the landowner wants to hunt that day or the next. And maybe the land is available on a different day.

Those are the kinds of things hunters find out if they take the time and the effort to ask courteously.

Access to land, whether it’s public or private, has received considerable attention in recent years, but it’s not a new issue. Consider this from the November 1931 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS, the first year that the State Game and Fish Department’s magazine was published. “Hunters should be courteous in their contacts with the owners of land in areas where hunting will be permitted. One heedless and uncivil act on the part of a hunter may prejudice a farmer land-owner against all sportsmen as a class. The posting of property against hunting has been largely brought about by thoughtless and selfish hunters who have violated every moral right while hunting on farmers’ property.”

The underlying theme back then, and that is still the case 83 years later, is that many landowners who post their land still allow hunting, they just want to determine the terms of access, as is the right of every property owner, rural or urban.

Hunters, even those who are known by landowners, should always make a contact ahead of time to make sure the land is available the day they want to hunt.

Hunters should also be able to accept “no” for an answer without resentment. Hunters who think that farmers and ranchers owe them an opportunity to hunt will be less successful in finding places to go.

While Game and Fish has developed PLOTS into a significant program that has greatly increased public access to private land, hunters must continue to try to establish their own contacts.

Here are five rules or suggestions that might for improving access opportunities this fall:

  1. Plan ahead and set reasonable expectations.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask. Driving up to a farm “cold” is not always an easy thing to do. However, it is necessary if hunters want to expand opportunities beyond public land.
  3. Accept “No” graciously; find out if another day might be better.
  4. Strive to meet landowners even if the land you want to hunt isn’t posted; arrange an in-person meeting rather than relying on a phone call
  5. Honesty and courtesy are vital.