Big Horn SheepThe above was the title of an article I found today at the Daily News, which I guess I can conclude that it comes out of North Dakota. The article goes quite nicely when the author lists 10 ways in which a hunter can anger a landowner with whom he might be seeking permission to hunt or already have permission to hunt on his land. Click this link and you can read his/her list of things we shouldn’t do as hunters.

It’s a bit of a mystery as to who wrote the article as I can find no one seeking to sign their name to it, so your guess is as good as mine. The problem with the article begins immediately after the list of 10 things that will tick off a landowner. The article should have been titled, “11 Ways to Alienate…….”, not 10.

After spending so much time sharing with readers about all the things we need to be careful of in dealing with landowners, he/she didn’t include crucifying them in the press. I’m not sure if this was his intention or not but this is the result.

His/her anger becomes directed at one particular landowner who, it seems, may be taking capitalism to extremes. If what this writer says is true, a particular herd of big horn sheep reside on this one rancher’s land and he’s decided to cash in by charging anyone who draws a tag to hunt a sheep from this herd $1,500 to access his land. The writer runs completely contradictory to the 10 items he/she lists.

These are once-in-a-lifetime licenses of which only three are issued per year (four if you count the auction tag). Those who draw a tag are not your typical wealthy sheep hunter. They’re hard-working North Dakotans who cannot afford to pay that kind of access fee. This rancher should be ashamed of himself and I don’t want to hear any baloney about it being his land. In this case, I don’t buy it.

Does the guy own the land or not? It may anger all of us that a landowner would do such a thing but whether the writer of this article likes it or not, this is his choice and right to do. This is not the approach anyone should be taking, especially one who just wrote an article in an attempt to educate hunters on good landowner/hunter relationships.

He further makes a statement I can’t believe is true.

The sheep and other wildlife were there before the rancher, and they’ll be there when he’s gone. I understand private property rights and any landowner’s desire to keep the crowds out during a general hunting season.

If I am to understand the reasoning here, the writer is saying that because the sheep where there first, he doesn’t have all of his rights as a landowner? Or is this just a case of him/her being mad because they can’t get what they want? I don’t think this writer does understand property rights. If he/she did, they wouldn’t be wanting to tar and feather this guy and talk so disrespectfully in the local press.

I’m not sure what it is the article writer is suggesting or implying that be done about the landowner.

Charging sheep hunters exorbitant access fees was happening in the Yellowstone River basin in Montana so the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department simply closed all hunting of bighorn sheep in that area. Everyone lost in that case, but particularly the hunters.

This kind of thing disgusts me and it will be the end of hunting as we know it.

I don’t think the writer is alone with feelings of disgust but this kind of approach in dealing with a problem like this is equally disgusting. The landowner obviously sees that these desired sheep are on his land. Precedence has been set all across America for landowners to cash in on hunting access. It is and has become big business. Is it right or wrong? Does it matter? A landowner has every right, at least so far, to grant access to his/her land as they see fit. Is this writer suggesting we should further strip a landowner of rights? Getting a landowner to change his mind by dissing him in a public forum is about as effective as a hunter muddying up a landowner’s road, shooting his livestock or any of the other 10 things the writer listed.

I guess this landowner is different because the prize on the land is bigger than a few pheasants or whatever?

I would certainly hope that rational thinking people have made every effort to work with this landowner and all other landowners across North Dakota. Hunters are at the mercy of the landowner. State fish and wildlife agencies hopefully understand that their jobs become exponentially more difficult when landowners shut their land down. Landowner relationship programs should be discussed to find ways to make everyone as happy as is feasibly possible. North Dakota doesn’t need to rewrite the book on this. Other states have implemented landowner relations and incentive programs.

What this writer might not realize is that all too often hunters exclaim, “We must all stick together. We must protect our hunting heritage, etc.” Landowners are also a group that sticks together. And when you start angering one or two, the bad feelings begin to spread. Is that the objective of the hunters?

The Landowners Association of North Dakota puts this statement of concern right in the middle of their home page.

ND has more than twice as many acres in wildlife refuges than any other state in the central flyway. There’s over 60 wildlife refuges in our state. How much more do we need??
Many of the “conservation” programs have more to do with raising wildlife than conserving soil and water resources.

And a bit further into their website, you can find this statement.

Government now owns more than 1/3 of the land in the U.S. and continues to acquire land at an astounding rate. How much land should government control? The US Fish & Wildlife Service has expanded its land holdings more than 30 times in the last 35 years, from 2.7 million acres in 1956 to 91.3 million acres in 1989. This is twice the size of the state of North Dakota. The Nature Conservancy organization buys land at the rate of more than 1,000 acres a day, which it then sells to the government for a profit. These organizations have been considered non-profit and tax-exempt. LAND believes that society is best served when property remains primarily in private hands. We believe that individual land ownership carries with it a devotion and appreciation that can never be matched by government.

This is an organization that appears to have some very deep feelings about property rights. They should be respected and worked with, not against.

This is a complex issue when land gets shut down by the landowner and the wildlife on that land belongs to all the people. Generally speaking for centuries the landowner has understood hunting and have welcomed hunters onto their land to help manage the wildlife. That landscape is changing and presents a problem into the future that we have to find out how to deal with now. Offering up 10 suggestions to keep landowners happy is a step in the right direction. Cursing them in the same breath, makes no sense to me no matter how much we think it is disgusting.

Tom Remington