A recent HunterSurvey.com poll finds that out of those sportsmen surveyed, in the past 12 months, 38 percent of the respondents said they most often hunted on a friends or family member’s property for free. The next largest group, public land hunters, made up 28 percent of the surveyed sportsmen, and said that state and federal lands are where they most often hunted in the past 12 months. Eighteen percent hunt land they own, while only 11 percent belong to a hunt club or hunt land that they lease. Many hunters use multiple types of land.
“This survey shows the importance of private land that can be affordably hunted,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, whose company designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “However, many hunters do not have a family member or friend who owns land they can hunt. Combined with ongoing land development, the future of hunting is dependent on efforts to maintain hunting access on public lands.”
In addition, this same survey examined the size of properties these hunters utilize and found that small tracts of land remain extremely important to providing opportunity for hunting. Of those surveyed, 38 percent of the sportsmen hunt lands 200 acres or larger, but 24 percent hunt properties of 50 acres or less. The next largest segment of sportsmen, 21 percent, hunt lands of 50 to 100 acres. Nearly 17 percent hunt lands between 100 and 200 acres in size.
In our region it is getting more and more difficult to find private property to hunt. There are two reasons for this. Part of it is change of ownership of property and the new owner doesn’t want anyone hunting. The other is fragmentation of land as families make the difficult decision to sell property to developers who turn it into housing developments. I suspect there are a few, but I don’t know of many hunting leases here in the mountains. That is why it is so important for our public lands to be better managed for wildlife. With over 1 million acres of state Game Lands including two National Forests in the mountains we should never lack a place to hunt. The problem right now is an abundance of wildlife to hunt on that land.
It’s hard to believe but hunting season is just around the corner, with the season starting around September 1. We are waiting on the early migratory bird season dates and the regulation digest won’t be out until August 1. But it’s not too late to start thinking about getting that mandatory Hunter Safety training done. The dates should be on the WRC website soon but here are tentative dates for surrounding counties. In Buncombe classes are scheduled for August 19-20, September 2-3, October 7-8, and November 4-5. All classes are scheduled for Skyland Fire Department from 6-9 p.m. For Madison County classes are on August 3-4, September 9-10, and October 28-29. The first of these is at Trust General Store and the other two are at the Agriculture Extension Office. Haywood County has four classes scheduled at Haywood Community College on the following dates: August 3-4, September 14-15, October 5-6 and November10-11. All classes are six hours.
As we have mentioned before, even if you are grandfathered in North Carolina for Hunter Safety, other states do require it for all non-resident hunters. We had another hunter come in this past week planning an elk hunt out west looking for a class to meet this requirement. You can sign up online at the Commission’s website, www.ncwildlife.org. Sign up early because these pre-season classes, particularly in Buncombe County, tend to fill up fairly quickly.