How to Handle Landowner Expectations

Recently my wife was walking past her boss’ office and overheard him speaking on the phone about a problem he was experiencing on his farm. Apparently he had an overabundance of deer on his 160 acres and was trying to hire someone to come out and eliminate them. She mentioned to him, later that day, that I would be perfectly willing to come out there and help him resolve his ‘problem’ and explained that I was an avid hunter. Little did I know I was about to receive a lesson in how to handle landowner expectations.

Eventually a date and time was arranged for me to meet with him at his farm. I had recruited two friends and fellow hunters to accompany me so that we could see the problem for ourselves. This was to be, at least in our minds, a simple formality before the season opened and we would begin eliminating as many deer for him as we could.

It’s worth mentioning that this would be an out of state hunt for us and would require us to purchase a rather ‘salty’ out-of-state license. The bright side of this investment was that this state has no tag limit on does and still allows for one buck during archery season on a base license. Also her boss had taken my suggestion, made through my wife before our meeting, and had called the state’s DNR to inquire about obtaining some crop damage stamps. The fact was that everything was coming together so smoothly that we had already begun to make arrangements with some local churches for dropping off as much meat as we could in order that they could serve it in their soup kitchens and community dinners.

posted sign

Do you know how to handle landowner expectations?

The three of us arrived at the appointed time and I must admit I was a little nervous because this was not just some landowner whom we had gone cold-calling on. This was first and foremost my wife’s boss and she not only worked with him every day but also worked with his wife. He graciously met us in his driveway and introductions were made. Within 3 or 4 minutes of our arrival he asked us to follow him into the house where he proceeded to hand us the directions for a shed that was partially erected in his yard. He then led us over to the location and pointed out where we would find all of the remaining parts that were needed to finish the construction.

We were all fairly surprised and at first thought that he must have confused us with another group of people that he had hired for this purpose. As he continued talking to us, in a manner that suggested we had been present for some conversation that we all recalled, we simply looked at each other and shrugged. “Okay”, we thought. “This is a strange way to ask us for help but if he needs help putting up his shed we can do that”.

Once he had finished talking about what needed to be done there was an uncomfortable silence as he stood staring at us. It became clear that he fully expected us to get busy immediately on this project. I was somewhat embarrassed and really didn’t know what to say since my two friends had been invited to what they thought was going to be a discussion about hunting. Finally one of my friends, who has his own farm with no shortage of work to be done on it, said “It doesn’t have to be done today does it?” “No”, my wife’s boss agreed, “It can be done later”. Still, he made it clear that it must be done before he would give us permission to hunt on his property and he would also require the DNR numbers from our hunting licenses. This, of course, eliminated the possibility that he had us confused with someone else.

He then put the three of us in his vehicle and began driving us around his property. As we were driving around in the middle of the afternoon it quickly became apparent that he did have a lot of deer on his property. There were a few standing along the road in the afternoon heat and watching us as we passed them. In the course of our journey he spotted a man that he identified as his farm manager and stopped to introduce us.

This man turned out to be very polite and the farm owner introduced us to him as the ones who were going to help him eliminate some of the deer. In the course of their conversation, the manager happened to mentioned that another person who hunts the property might be a little upset with our encroachment. After all he now had three more people present to compete with. Without looking at us, or even acknowledging that we were standing next to him, my wife’s boss told the manager “No it won’t be a problem, they’re only shooting breeders”.

We fully understood that the largest portion of our harvests would be (by practicality) does and we had no intention of trophy shopping while we were trying to help him out. Having said that I could not very well ask my friends to purchase an out of state license, drive an hour out of their way to the property, put a shed together at the expense of their own responsibilities at home, and then pass on a large buck that might walk past them. It also begged the question that if there was already another hunter on the property what in the world did he need us for? Was this current hunter only interested in shooting trophies and not assisting the landowner in defending his soybeans? As stated, even without crop damage stamps, this state allows the harvest of unlimited does in that sector of the state.

Nothing was said at the time as all of us were acutely aware of the fact that he was still my wife’s boss and nothing good could come from making this situation worse. We were also in a somewhat state of disbelief that we were being treated as if we had come to him desperately seeking a piece of hunting ground as opposed to helping him out and saving the money it may have cost him to hire someone else to cull his herd.

Before leaving his property that afternoon he explained to us how he was hopeful that the DNR would grant his request for crop damage stamps. The way he understood the regulations was that we could then come in there with “silenced machine guns” and take them out in great numbers. He seemed confident that if we used silencers the other deer would simply stand there and wait patiently while we moved our point of aim from one deer to another. I was fortunately able to extricate us from the situation by sending him a message and explaining that it was not going to be feasible for us to help him after all and that we appreciated the time he spent showing us around his farm.

hunter walking

How far are you willing to go to gain access on prime deer hunting ground?

I have learned some valuable lessons from this delicate situation that might be beneficial to share with readers who may find themselves in a similar situation.

  • Just because someone owns a large swath of property and actively farms it does not necessarily mean that they understand deer management or deer hunting in general. Even a highly educated man, as this one is, had some pretty unrealistic views of what it would take to remedy his problem.
  • Sometimes two parties that have never met think that they are both assisting the other and have different ideas of what they are going to get in return.
  • Before including friends in such arrangements it is probably a good idea to meet with the landowner alone and make sure you are both on the same page so that your friends are not walking into a situation where they are blindsided by expectations and stipulations that they were not aware of.
  • Some non-hunters believe that the only thing hunters care about is killing large numbers of animals in any way that they can. Many would be surprised to learn that we possess our own set of ethics and morals which we will not violate under any situation.
  • Perhaps most important of all is to be very careful making arrangements with people closely connected to you as this gentleman was to me. One small error in our judgement or behavior could have been a very difficult situation for my wife when she returned to work on the following Monday.

In full disclosure I will add that my two friends are crossbow hunters and this was one of the reasons that I invited them to assist me. While I have no intentions of ever shooting deer with a silenced rifle (and seldom use a gun to hunt with at any time) I knew that I could probably not get the numbers of deer on the ground that he would be expecting with my stickbow. So I calculated that my friends could ‘pick up the slack’ with their crossbows and in the process perhaps we could feed some very deserving people with the by-product.

I think I can make a fairly safe generalization here and say that most non-hunters and even many property owners do not understand the sanctity of deer hunting. I am proud to say that this sanctity is particularly acute for most bow hunters. This man could not possibly have known how appalling the prospect of massacring deer with silenced assault weapons was to me when he said it even if he was correct and it turned out to be legal. Nor could he imagine how his imposed limitations of “no bucks” frustrated my friends.

Hunters know that what you shoot, where you shoot, and under what circumstances you shoot at an animal is a very personal and private decision. It is between you, your God and the living being at the end of the arrow. In truth, there is nobody else present when the string snaps forward. You must first be able to go home after a hunt and live with the decisions you made in the field before any other consideration. The animal deserves nothing less. Though they can become a nuisance they are still animals that were given to us for food and not something to be slaughtered in an open field without meaning in order to save a few beans.

I will certainly be more cautious in the future about offering my assistance to another land owner who reports to have a deer problem and will steer clear of landowners who have outside influences on my family. I might even go one step further and shy away from any properties where landowners think they have a deer problem. I will also try to be more considerate of committing my friends to something I think is a “done deal.” Hunter and non-hunters can often struggle to understand each other’s perspective. That’s why expectations must be clear. Because after all, expectations can be vague and sometimes as elusive as the animals we hunt.


  1. Wow, that guy seemed completely clueless. Too bad it was your wife’s boss. He is in dire need of some education.

  2. Roger Ruchti says:

    One thing you touched on. The first impression is a lasting impression. Don’t drive up in your lifted truck with oversized mudders and loud or no mufflers. That may be “cool” down town but has no place when looking for hunting ground. Don’t dress in your camo, etc. either. If that land owner has a bad taste in his mouth towards hunters, don’t give him the upper hand right out of the gate. Timing is everything. If your in Ag country, get your foot work done in late winter. The last thing a busy farmer wants to do is talk to some guy about hunting when he is working on his equipment. When you do get permission, find out if the property owner wants to be notified each time you go in. Some do some don’t. Don’t think because he gives you permission once that is a lifetime permission slip.


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