Hunting Access, Ask And Hope

Finding a place to hunt deer or doves is a difficult task in this area.

Chris Maroldy

Well, hunting season isn’t far away, and as always for some of us, it seems like it snuck up quietly in plush bunny slippers.

The most frequent question I get asked this time of year is one of these two: Where can I hunt doves on opening day, and do you know anybody who’ll let me hunt on their land?

After a lot of years, I’ve kinda decided I’m the wrong guy to ask, especially this late in the year. Or at least I’m the wrong guy to ask if you want an answer that feels good and that will be useful this season, if you are asking just now.

I’ve found the hunt for hunting access to be one of the most difficult and aggravating challenges of the pastime, and that’s one reason I’m not your guy if what you’re interested in is sunshine and light. Hunting access in the Triangle area or anywhere in the immediate vicinity is tough and has been for a long time. Obviously it’s easier if you know a lot of the right people, but even then it’s no cinch. It can take a long time to develop even the first lead.

My best advice? Ask the right people, ask a lot of them, and ask all the time.

Here’s where dove access and deer access are different. Dove hunting is a social affair, whereas around here most deer hunting is not. If you want to join a deer dogging club that’s a different story and you may have some luck if you know a member even casually, but if you’re a solo gun hunter or it’s you and a buddy—or even if you’re a solo bowhunter—-you face fierce competition, limited options and landowner resistance.

A dove hunter can get invited to a traditional Southern dove opener if he puts it out there that he’s interested in such a thing. You used to be able to find announcements of opening day gatherings here and there (country stores, community newspapers, church bulletins) but it doesn’t seem as common these days. Regardless, remember that the dove opener is a big deal for a lot of gregarious people, and don’t just stand there with your toe in the dirt doing the bashful bumpkin routine. Ask around!

If you’re one of that somewhat rare breed of dove hunter who actually does much with the little buggers after the opener, some of these gatherings can open some land to you to shoot again after the crowds disperse, and you might meet some people who can give you some leads. It’s worth a shot.

I’ve only once gotten a lead for deer hunting by dove hunting, but that shows that it can happen. The thing to do is to get acquainted with the landowner, the older guys and the guys who don’t deer hunt. You’re never going to find good deer hunting land that you don’t have to worry about competition on if you hang out with deer hunters. You need to find the guys who don’t deer hunt, who don’t have kids or brothers or in-laws who deer hunt, and who have land or know people who have land.

It also helps if you’ll start looking outside the immediate area and don’t waste a lot of time looking for something within half an hour of home. Yes, there is still huntable land in the Triangle and even a few landowners who might give you permission, but access is much tougher than it used to be even ten years ago. And it wasn’t ever easy to begin with. We are no longer a semi-rural area, for one thing. We’ve gone full….Well, you know.

Even if the area hadn’t changed over the last 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, the landowners have. The old school has died off or is about to, and the new school isn’t as stranger-friendly. Plus, even if not all the new school are anti-hunters or access-phobic, a lot of them hunt now themselves.

A lot of people forget or don’t realize that the popularity of, say, deer and turkey hunting is off the charts these days compared to even 20 years ago. Put more hunters in a shrinking space and yeah, that’s fun. There’s a downside to “growing the sport.”

So I hate to be a wet blanket about questions of hunter access, but it is one of the big challenges of our time, and it’s particularly formidable in this area. The best I can say is get out front, put your best foot forward, and keep at it. Sometimes things fall into your lap.

I have a couple of friends who love to tell anyone who will listen that they don’t believe in luck, but I say a little luck is always something to look forward to.