HAGEN: Appreciate landowners because you never know where that permission slip will lead

Getting landowner permission is earning a Willy Wonky golden ticket. Not necessarily because getting access is elusive or hard to find, but because you feel so great when you’ve got it.

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The author and his hunting crew set up in a cornfield. <br/>
Luke Hagen / Mitchell Republic
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All it took was one guy to say, “Sure, go ahead” to restore my hope in South Dakota hunting.

The first few weeks of my first fall here were tough sledding.

I ran into some head-shaking and sorrys when I knocked on doors to ask if I could access someone’s property and chase ducks and geese.

But a McCook County landowner changed the sour tune’s note to positive.

That’s been nearly 15 years ago, and boy, do I still appreciate that permission slip.


Getting landowner permission is earning a Willy Wonky golden ticket. Not necessarily because getting access is elusive or hard to find, but because you feel so great when you’ve got it. You leave the doorstep from the farmer’s house feeling the same way as those kids in the movie when they open the candy bar and see they’ve landed some luck.

Remember, the hunting community needs private landowners and we need to appreciate them when getting access onto property.

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Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen.

It is intimidating to ask someone you don’t know for something you want. But landowners are always happy when you ask. These people are typically strong conservation-minded folk who think about how the environment impacts their land — it’s why wildlife are using that property in the first place. Agriculture and nature go hand-in-hand, and we as outdoor enthusiasts need to do a better job recognizing that. It also never hurts to drop off a gift card, an Easter ham or send a Christmas card with pictures from the hunt. Leave a good impression for all hunters.

It’s unfortunate when calling or asking for permission to hunt and hearing disappointing stories of previous hunters who’ve left gates open to allow for cattle to roam free, or left a garbage pile (including spent shotgun shells — pick them up please). It is true that one bad experience can ruin access for people for years down the road.

And while every year I’ve gotten denied permission here and there, sometimes due to those rulebreakers that I had nothing to do with, the green lights make it all worthwhile. I’ve met some fantastic people knocking on doors seeking hunting access, people who I’ve shared some of my life’s most cherished moments with and with whom I’ve made lifelong friendships.

A couple years after gaining access to that first landowner’s private property, I rolled into a tilled cornfield one early morning and a set of headlights and a trailer was already parked where I wanted to set up. Someone had beaten me to the spot.

I approached and rolled down my window. The other vehicle did the same.

“Good morning,” he said.


“Morning,” I responded. “You must have permission, too?”

“Yeah. How many guys do you have hunting?” he asked.

“Three, including me.”

“Let’s set up together, all four of us can hunt together. I’m by myself.” he said.

Now, veteran hunters know that’s not always how those situations usually turn out. When a landowner gives access to more than one person and both want to hunt, most often a wrestling match ensues and an argument breaks out.

That morning, we were both just happy to be able to hunt where the birds wanted to be.

More than a decade later, he and I have spent hundreds of hours together hunting. We formed a bond and share a love of waterfowling and have enjoyed countless memories.

All because one landowner told a couple of guys they could hunt his field.


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Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at
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