Land access was always my top problem.
It took me 20 years of trying, and I'd almost given up the sport entirely, but I finally was able to arrange purchase of 200 acres of my own. I guard it as my dearest posession.
I hear a lot of resentment when I get on forums with other Kentucky hunters. They are honked off at Buckeyes (Out-of-Staters) coming across the river and tying up their ancestral hunting grounds. I'm sorry, I'm not all that sorry, but I am sorry. This is one Buckeye that is very glad and very thankful he has a plot to hunt in Kentucky. I hear ideas floated that non-residents be barred from rifle season, harvesting bucks, owning hunting land . . . please!
There are all kinds of problems hunting public land. There is all sorts of problems hunting private land. It is becoming a crowded world out there.
I was just about to chuck it all in. I'd had "exclusive" access to my last remaining Ohio hunting plot. Then the owner gave out permission to at least two other hunters, forgetting his promise to me. Now I was competing with at least 2 other hunting parties on 40 acres. I'd also been shot at by the neighbors during shotgun season-- they were camped out on the property line and their stray shots came over.
I'd tried public hunting for a few years. I'd have a nice spots staked out only to find wall to wall trucks in the aprons on Opening Day. For a guy who worked a hard 40+hours a week and had a family, all the advice of a midweek bonanza were pretty well useless. After a time, driving 5 hours, sleeping in the truck and being frustrated were wearing thin.
I differ with those who say it is easy to find a farmer willing to give permission to hunt. Maybe I looked really shady, but it was always a problem to find good hunting land, and once I had it there was always some reason why the deal fell through within a few seasons. Most of the reasons related to the land being sold for development. A good deal of my off-season weekends were spent cruising for new land to hunt.
For a dashing suburbanite such as myself, I could see the world closing in on me. When I got the chance to get 200 acres of my own, I went for it!
Times are changing. Land is getting scarce. If you can, buy a piece of it before it's too late. It took me 20 years to get there, but it was worth it. The change in my own life has been tremendous. The change in my son's lives have been tremendous. All of it has been for the good.
If you can't buy, think seriously about joining with like-minded folks, forming an association and buying property together. All you need is a lawyer in the bunch to handle the intricacies. For what some of y'all pay for a lease, you could be buying with just a few other guys.
If you have property, think seriously of forming an association so that your children will be able to keep it. I've watched deer camps get destroyed, because one guy's wife forced the sale in a divorce. Most recently, I saw a 4 generation camp on an island in Canada go that way. If the kids lose interest and decide to sell, it will have to be a unanimous decision. Death, taxes, divorce and apathy do not have to close deer camps forever. Planning ahead can save them.
The future of hunting is probably more this way than other. One way or the other you are going to have to pay to hunt. I do not see the state and federal governments buying the kind of land necessary to continue the health of the sport on a free basis. I also do not see anti-hunting sentiment turning around. All the while we're whining about it, tree huggers and PETA members are getting the same idea and doing their best to keep hunters off what remains of available land. I was on a farm this summer that had been bought by the state as and turned into a state sactuary-- crawling with deer and turkey. Absolutely no hunting-- probably forever.