Hunters, remember common courtesies of your sport

This weekend the hills, fields and woods will once again awaken to the sound of booming shotguns as hunters and their dogs swarm the countryside searching for pheasants, quail, ducks and other wildlife.

It goes without saying that Kansas farms and ranches have always been a handy, ready-to-use outlet for many urban dwellers in search of recreational hunting.

On opening day of the upland game season the interstate and U.S. highways will be a steady stream of pickups, SUVs and cars headed for central and western Kansas.

If you?re one of these hunters who plan to hunt on private land, remember one key word when your thoughts turn toward hunting. This word is consideration. Translated, this word means thoughtful and sympathetic regard.

In this country, wildlife belongs to the people, but landowners have the right to say who goes on their land. If you are interested in hunting, make arrangements before you hunt.

Don?t wait until the day you plan to hunt someone?s land and then pound on their door at 6 a.m. Once you?ve secured permission, here are some suggestions to follow that will ensure a lasting relationship between you and the landowner.

Agree on who, and how many, will hunt on the land. Specify number and furnish names. Talk about specific times and dates you plan to hunt.

Phone each and every time before you plan to hunt, and let the landowner know your intentions. The landowner may have forgotten about your original conversation. It?s just common courtesy to say hello before hunting and ask again for the opportunity?or privilege, as I consider it?to hunt on someone?s property.

Determine exactly where on the land you have permission to hunt. Some areas may be off-limits because of livestock or crops.

Always, and I can?t stress this enough, leave gates the way you find them. If they are open, leave them that way. If they are closed, shut them after you pass through.

If you ever leave a gate open and a farmer?s cow herd gets out of the pasture, ?Katie bar the door.? You?ll never be invited back to hunt.

Once you?ve enjoyed a successful hunt, stop by to thank the landowner for his generosity. Offer to share the game you bag.

After the season ends, write a note expressing your appreciation for the opportunity to hunt. You may also find out what the landowner and his/her family enjoys eating or drinking and drop by later with a gift.

Leasing of land by the hunter from the landowner is becoming more popular in Kansas. Such agreements allow hunters a guaranteed hunting site. It also provides the landowner income to recoup some of the investment he needs to leave habitat suitable for wildlife to survive and prosper.

If you enter into such a lease, make sure it is written and includes all provisions both parties deem necessary. This should include a clause for the landowner and his or her family to hunt on the land.

Remember that the hunter and landowner should always discuss the terms of the hunt before hunting begins. This is extremely important. And hunters, never forget you are a guest and it is a privilege to hunt on the owner?s land.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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