How do we fix the access problem of eastern hunters?

Rich M

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Jun 14, 2017
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Folks travel to hunt out west cause it is fun. They could just hunt near home but choose to do both instead.

The concept of knocking on doors is out dated. Some folks are good at it but most are just bugging the land owner. Do You get the phone calls about your extended waranty? Same thing.

Face it, there are too many hunters for what land is left. You see it back east and out west.

What folks need to lose is the entitlement attitude. We don’t deserve anything and should be happy w what we can eek out. We get public land, quota hunt areas, etc. they are all crowded.

WY 90/10 That fun antelope hunt is gonna become a once or twice in a lifetime kind of thing due to too many NRs and Rs who want the same tags.

It is just growing pains. Lotsa people and no new real estate to play on.
 

wapitibob

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Access doesn’t ask for your zip code, it’s a problem if you live 100 miles away or 1500.
I drive 7 hours in my state to hunt elk, 14 to Wyoming so the driving portion isn’t just an east thing.
 

manitou1

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Like most here I love to hunt the west, it offers a freedom like no other, roaming millions of acres of public land. I especially appreciate it having grown up in Ohio, where hunting either meant knowing the right person, having family land, or slumming it out on extremely crowded public land.

I was an unlikely hunter, I didn’t grow up in a hunting family, I was raised in the suburbs, and didn’t have any close relatives who hunted either. That said I had a natural love of the outdoors and firearms almost from birth. I quickly made friends with the few kids at school who did hunt, and thanks to their Dad’s at least had some opportunities in my teenage years.

Throughout my 20s I was busy starting a career and serving in the military. I had one or two spots in Ohio I had permission to hunt, but I mostly slummed it out on public land. I had some success, and learned quickly that “going deep” was the key to success on public ground. I hunted some “urban” deer management programs in small towns with deer problems. I now finally have my own 20 acres I can fill the freezer if need be.

It wasn’t until last year I finally made the leap to applying and hunting out west. With an antelope hunt under my belt I am 100% addicted to the western game.

That said for a lot of us it isn’t realistic to go out west every year. There is some awesome hunting out east, but it’s just as hard if not harder to reach than going out west in my opinion. I’d much rather spend $100s on tags, drive two days, and chase elk/Antelope/deer on public land out west than knock on a bunch of strangers doors to hunt a few hundred acres 30 min away. That’s super intimidating, especially for a new hunter. I could also see where crowded public land would be a huge turnoff to new hunters as well.

To me, access for hunters in the east is the elephant in the room folks like Rinella, the BHA, Newberg etc don’t want to address. I see a lot of western guys bitching about increased pressure out west, but the root cause of much of it in my mind is lack of access in the east.

We won’t likely make an appreciable amount of property out east back into national Forrest, but I think more states should look at a block management program like Montana. Offer tax incentives for land owners to participate rather than lease their property. As more and more “corporate” farms pop up and less family ownership, I think block management is a reasonable solution to the eastern access problem.
I moved to Wyoming from Missouri. The "crowds" on public lands in Missouri pales in comparison. It was EASY to find unadulterated public lands where I was not competing with 20 other hunters for a chance at an animal. Not so much in Wyoming. My buddy and I plan on going to Missouri this fall to experience less crowded public hunting.
Just sayin'.
 

displacedtexan

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I still don't understand how so many people from the eastern half of the country (I'm from IN) will drive a day plus to go hunt elk/deer out west but won't drive half a day or less to hunt whitetails... Turn on google maps and go to the closest patch of green. There is a ton of public land in the east just have to find it. In my experience if you get 1/2 a mile from a parking lot you are probably one of the few.
There's spots an hour from my house that I run dogs.

But I don't deer hunt around here. Whitetails in the woods don't do anything for me.
 

Yoder

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I grew up hunting in NE PA. I moved around a lot and ended up back here. I can tell you that there are LESS hunters now than when I was a kid. Hunting license sales are down. Since 2010 total license sales have dropped by around 50k. There has always been hunting pressure here. During rifle season you are almost guaranteed to see at least one other hunter if not five. We still have one of the largest hunting populations in the country and have a pretty limited amount of public land compared to the west. When I hear you guys out west talking about all the pressure I think you have no idea what real pressure is. Having said all that I don't see that much of a problem here in PA and we have license sales of over 850k/year. There are plenty of places to hunt. Especially if you are willing to walk a mile, cover terrain that sucks or cross some water. Archery season during the week there's almost nobody hunting. This generation is soft. Most don't want to leave the house. Once the boomers are too old to hunt, numbers will drop dramatically. I think most younger people like the idea of hunting and getting their own food. It's a little different when you are getting up in the dark, sitting in the freezing cold or hiking in the hot sun, then dealing with the blood and guts.
 

Cedarsavage

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Upper Michigan
I grew up hunting in NE PA. I moved around a lot and ended up back here. I can tell you that there are LESS hunters now than when I was a kid. Hunting license sales are down. Since 2010 total license sales have dropped by around 50k. There has always been hunting pressure here. During rifle season you are almost guaranteed to see at least one other hunter if not five. We still have one of the largest hunting populations in the country and have a pretty limited amount of public land compared to the west. When I hear you guys out west talking about all the pressure I think you have no idea what real pressure is. Having said all that I don't see that much of a problem here in PA and we have license sales of over 850k/year. There are plenty of places to hunt. Especially if you are willing to walk a mile, cover terrain that sucks or cross some water. Archery season during the week there's almost nobody hunting. This generation is soft. Most don't want to leave the house. Once the boomers are too old to hunt, numbers will drop dramatically. I think most younger people like the idea of hunting and getting their own food. It's a little different when you are getting up in the dark, sitting in the freezing cold or hiking in the hot sun, then dealing with the blood and guts.
I agree. I think it's distorted because they can see 5 miles and see all the hunters. I see more hunters out west, but I can tell you I've seen 20 cars parked on a state section in SE Michigan on a weekday archery opener. I will say the open country of the west tolerates less hunters per square mile than the heavily timbered stuff in the east.
 

Yoder

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241
I agree. I think it's distorted because they can see 5 miles and see all the hunters. I see more hunters out west, but I can tell you I've seen 20 cars parked on a state section in SE Michigan on a weekday archery opener. I will say the open country of the west tolerates less hunters per square mile than the heavily timbered stuff in the east.
That's a good point. I've never hunted out west. You can't see more than a few hundred yards where I hunt. The western states will just have to regulate non resident tags better. I still think it all boils down to whoever works hard kills. I know guys who have "hunted" for 15 yrs and only killed one buck. We pass on deer every season.
 

texans42

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Apr 1, 2013
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Like most here I love to hunt the west, it offers a freedom like no other, roaming millions of acres of public land. I especially appreciate it having grown up in Ohio, where hunting either meant knowing the right person, having family land, or slumming it out on extremely crowded public land.

I was an unlikely hunter, I didn’t grow up in a hunting family, I was raised in the suburbs, and didn’t have any close relatives who hunted either. That said I had a natural love of the outdoors and firearms almost from birth. I quickly made friends with the few kids at school who did hunt, and thanks to their Dad’s at least had some opportunities in my teenage years.

Throughout my 20s I was busy starting a career and serving in the military. I had one or two spots in Ohio I had permission to hunt, but I mostly slummed it out on public land. I had some success, and learned quickly that “going deep” was the key to success on public ground. I hunted some “urban” deer management programs in small towns with deer problems. I now finally have my own 20 acres I can fill the freezer if need be.

It wasn’t until last year I finally made the leap to applying and hunting out west. With an antelope hunt under my belt I am 100% addicted to the western game.

That said for a lot of us it isn’t realistic to go out west every year. There is some awesome hunting out east, but it’s just as hard if not harder to reach than going out west in my opinion. I’d much rather spend $100s on tags, drive two days, and chase elk/Antelope/deer on public land out west than knock on a bunch of strangers doors to hunt a few hundred acres 30 min away. That’s super intimidating, especially for a new hunter. I could also see where crowded public land would be a huge turnoff to new hunters as well.

To me, access for hunters in the east is the elephant in the room folks like Rinella, the BHA, Newberg etc don’t want to address. I see a lot of western guys bitching about increased pressure out west, but the root cause of much of it in my mind is lack of access in the east.

We won’t likely make an appreciable amount of property out east back into national Forrest, but I think more states should look at a block management program like Montana. Offer tax incentives for land owners to participate rather than lease their property. As more and more “corporate” farms pop up and less family ownership, I think block management is a reasonable solution to the eastern access problem.
It’s hard to address public land in states that where literally deeded out before most western statehoods

Public land has become uniquely American but long before public land was our very unique Private Property ownership and rights.

As far as public block management/leases, we are our own worst enemies A) we either out bid or B) our own idiocies ruin it for everyone else.

Trump upped the walk-in program funding in the Last Ag bill but it takes responsibility from hunters to show the value in those funds to land owners.

I’ve put some of my own land in to state walk in programs, I’ve even donated alot of the money back to different conservation programs, with that said I’ve had to pick up trash and fix issues I shouldn’t had to fix, like bullet hole in a water trough.
 

wind gypsy

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Dec 30, 2014
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I haven't done much big game hunting in the east outside of MN and ND but if someone here says they aren't hunting because of access, there's significantly more to it than "not having access".

What the access barrier is can vary widely. A lot of people likely just got used to something being easy/convenient and aren't willing to do much of anything if that easy/convenient access setup is gone. Maybe the idea they cant leave a stand up legally for years on end is too much. Maybe it's the chance or likelihood of seeing a stranger hunting the same spot..

I've heard my dad tell people that "I don't have anywhere good to hunt" when asked why he stopped hunting. Fact is he still has open invites to hunt multiple places that we shot bucks frequently when I was a kid and he was more motivated to go. Even if he didn't have those invites, there are endless opportunities still out there.
 

Macintosh

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A lot of generalizations here. I live in the east, I hunt literally out my door on public land--as in, if I wanted to I could arrow a deer FROM my back deck. I hunt public land on no less than 5 or 6 separate parcels of public land, including municipal land, 3 large state parks, 2 WMA's, some random uncategorized fish and wildlife dept land, and some private timber land with deeded public access, totaling north of 50,000 acres, all within 30 minutes of my house. Extend the drive to 1.5 hours, and I have national forest, a pile more state land, and a ton of deeded public access land of various flavors, enough that I could never hope to hunt it all in a lifetime. I generally have a pretty good response to asking for permission, and have a handful of properties where i have permission, but honestly I havent needed to ask that much. I grew up in the Adirondacks, which is a 6,000,000 acre state park, most of which is huntable public land--I can be at my folks place if I wanted to use that as a home base, in 2 hours. I can also put my boat in the water on a 100+mile long lake with one of the best bass fisheries in the country, and fish for trout in a several nearby rivers, all within 30 minutes as well. I am very fortunate to live in a state with crappy hunting so it's not on anyone's radar, and I also have made conscious decisions and sacrifices to live where I do, for better and for worse.

That said, if you look at where MOST people live--i.e. big cities, the coasts--and you look at where the public land is located near where those people are, you will see that it doesn't line up in most cases, especially on the east coast. I completely understand that work, family, etc are important priorities that affect most people's ability to hunt. I also see that if it takes you an hour just to get outside the city, a piece of crowded public land that's 15 miles away might still be a before-dawn-to-dark-thirty outing just to get in a 1/2-day hunt, and that can be hard for people to do on a regular basis. Frankly, if that were my reality I wouldn't hunt, I'd either move or find something else to do that I found rewarding.

There is pretty good survey data on hunting participation out there, I don't have a link handy but last I read through it most of the top reasons people cited for stopping hunting, I interpreted as all being some flavor of "I can't/won't manage what it takes for me to get in good hunting locally". This was anything from "the hunting near me isnt very good", to "there isnt enough near me" to "I dont have time" (which I see as the combination of several factors, i.e. if the hunting was better or closer, or both, people might shift priorities differently), etc. All relevant, because overall, hunter numbers are declining and will continue to do so as the baby-boom generation ages out, because in the big picture those numbers aren't driven by "hunting in the Rockies and West", they are driven by "hunting as done by most people" . Yet numbers of people applying for tags in "the west" is increasing significantly--it's crystal clear this is not becasue hunter numbers are increasing, its because the number of people who want to hunt IN THOSE SPECIFIC PLACES is increasing.

All that said, if you 1) live in the east and can't/wont move, and 2) choose not to hunt in the east for any reason, and 3) find that not being able to hunt out of state every year due to tag allocation is a problem, then you probably need to either learn to like hunting somewhere in the east, or give it up. I'm honestly not sure what other options there are, they aren't exactly growing more land and critters on trees, anywhere.
 
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Yoder

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By the way, PA is a terrible place to hunt. There is no land and no deer and certainly no big bucks. Pretty much ever other state has better deer hunting than PA. Nothing to see here.
 

tt_johnsclist

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May 25, 2018
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Hunting access cost is supply and demand, and we've managed to FUBAR the situation by creating demand out of this bizarre culture we have that values trophy hunting so much. Everyone and their brother thinks they are Lee and Tiff now with 80 acres and some food plot equipment.

So we obviously can't change the supply but if there is less demand because of changes in cultural values, we have a situation more like "back in the day" where you know your neighbors, handshakes, trust, yada yada.

You could write a whole book on why our hunting culture is equally broken today as it was 100 years ago. I assert we are again market hunting, just a different kind of market in modernity that places value of the head and not the meat. I guess it's easier to point to the problem than come up with a solution. To think its ever going to change would require placing far more faith in humanity than I can summon.
Worth repeating, thanks elkyinizer.
 

FLS

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Most folks I’ve met that bitch about not having a place to hunt had rather bitch than hunt. I you really want to, you will find a way.
 

texans42

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I think the OP is casting a pretty wide net here. Is there a problem with eastern hunting access? Or is it just the same crap as it is out west with people not bothering to see what’s available?

Ohio has a quarter million acre national forest. And here’s a list 7 pages long if public hunting opportunities provided by the state of Ohio. List Provided by the Ohio dnr website.

That’s valid for a lot of places, and Texas included. A lot of times it’s just laziness.
 

FLATHEAD

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Access varies from state to state and within each state. I live near a couple WMA's but dont bother
hunting them for deer, only predators. If I deer hunt this year i will travel 4.5 hrs
north to hunt a NF I grew up hunting, which is much better IMO. Same state, just a completely
different situation. The WMA is about an hour away and I have yet to see a buck during a hunt.
Here around the house I see them all the time crossing roads, in the neighborhood, in town and agricultural fields.
The WMA simply has poor habitat (pine plantations), poorly managed and at the same time is grossly over hunted. I honestly dont ever remember even seeing a squirrel on the place in the past 3 years.
If there are no game animals on the land, then is it really an opportunity?
It's not just about access but quality opportunities.
 

Bighorner

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Nov 15, 2017
Messages
538
It’s hard to address public land in states that where literally deeded out before most western statehoods

Public land has become uniquely American but long before public land was our very unique Private Property ownership and rights.

As far as public block management/leases, we are our own worst enemies A) we either out bid or B) our own idiocies ruin it for everyone else.

Trump upped the walk-in program funding in the Last Ag bill but it takes responsibility from hunters to show the value in those funds to land owners.

I’ve put some of my own land in to state walk in programs, I’ve even donated alot of the money back to different conservation programs, with that said I’ve had to pick up trash and fix issues I shouldn’t had to fix, like bullet hole in a water trough.
Well said
 

timekiller13

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Dec 28, 2015
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678
There is no access problem in the majority of the Eastern states. I don’t know about the public land situation in New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Delaware, but the rest of the eastern states have PLENTY.

I live in NC and within 2 hours of my house there are 14 different pieces of state or federal land totaling more than 500k acres.
 
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Anglo-American

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Fellas, what are some of the ways to find out what is public land in the States?
State?
Federal ?
Forestry?
And otherwise?

Asking at state fish and game?
USGS maps?

One of the best ways in the UK is our version of USGS maps which is an OS Map, specifically an, OS Explorer map.
 

Yoder

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Jan 12, 2021
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241
Fellas, what are some of the ways to find out what is public land in the States?
State?
Federal ?
Forestry?
And otherwise?

Asking at state fish and game?
USGS maps?

One of the best ways in the UK is our version of USGS maps which is an OS Map, specifically an, OS Explorer map.
I use the ONX hunt app. It's helped me find a bunch of new places to hunt over the years. There are other ways that are free but It's just really convenient.
 

98XJRC

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Mar 30, 2022
Messages
54
The opportunities are there, however it seems as though many are more inclined to make a trip out west then drive the few hours to hit bigger public areas around east. My brother in law and I just had this conversation on the 4th. Here in PA most guys aren't willing to walk more then a couple hundred yards from their truck or ATV if they can use it. This places a large chunk of PA game, State Forrest, and National Forrest out of their comfort zone for most PA/Eastern big game hunters. PA in particular also makes it difficult to travel in deep on most public land due to no camping. There are some exceptions, however at least the state game land is a no go.
 
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