Treat your fellow deer hunters the right way, and hopefully they’ll return the favor
There was that neighbor who loosened the straps on my treestand just enough that it remained in position but would have fallen had I stepped into it. Then there’s the neighbor who regularly chats with me and shares trail camera photos and in-season updates. Those are obviously two ends of the spectrum, and I’ve shared boundaries with neighbors on either end and everywhere between.
Of course, few things foul a good hunting experience like a disheartening experience with a bad neighbor. Unfortunately, negative encounters with neighbors happen, especially when the parties don’t communicate or foster good relationships. The latter is necessary for everyone to avoid less-than-ideal situations. Here’s an outline with ways to be a great neighbor to the deer hunters around you — and vice versa.
For most landowners, deer live on both sides of the fence. Remember that. Image by Paul Winterman
1. Meet Your Neighbors
It’s surprising how many neighbors don’t know each other. They’ve never met or haven’t really talked when they did. That’s a recipe for problems. Try to have a meaningful meeting with each neighbor. If you’re having trouble making contact, hang out near the road when they pass through. Take a walk and see if they’re out. Invite them and other locals for a cookout. Participate in community events. Create opportunities to talk.
2. Have a Conversation About Fence-Sitting
Hunting along or close to property lines is commonly frowned upon. Still, many hunters do it. During the right circumstances, there isn’t anything wrong with it. Have a conversation with neighbors and bring it up. If several such spots offer good hunting, perhaps one of you can place a stand at one crossing and the other at another. Of course, only shoot deer on your side of the line.
3. Talk About Management Goals
Often, neighbors aren’t on the same page regarding management goals. They commonly have different standards and objectives for buck and doe harvests. Although it isn’t always necessary or possible for everyone to agree, it’s good to at least talk and understand each other. When hunters talk, they might not find consensus, but they’re always on common ground.
4. Maintain Property Boundaries
There’s no need to build the Great Wall or a military outpost around your land. But it’s necessary to maintain property boundaries. Even if it’s only a visible boundary, keep it marked. It’s possible for people to unintentionally step over the line, especially if it isn’t visible and obvious. Be a good neighbor by showing others where the line is.
5. Never Cross the Fence Without Permission
No matter the circumstances, never cross that fence onto the other side without permission. It doesn’t matter if it’s to retrieve a dead deer, take a stroll, or grab a water bottle that rolled down the hill. Don’t go without permission.
6. Minimize Temptations (For Both Parties)
Even good, honest people can be tempted to make poor decisions. Obviously, you aren’t responsible for your neighbor’s morality or anyone else’s. However, you can reduce the odds of someone making a bad decision by establishing permanent screening cover along property lines. It reduces the odds of issues from either side.
7. Keep the Cattle and Dogs at Home
No one likes to see dogs chasing deer, cattle slurping up brassica plots, or other domestic animals messing up hunts. Take all measures to keep your animals from crossing the line onto neighboring properties.
8. Gifts Sheds of Bucks They Harvest
Shed hunting is a fun activity, and hunters are proud of their finds. But if a neighbor kills a buck and you have its sheds from previous years, give those to them. They will mean more to the neighbor than you anyway, and your neighbor will appreciate it. Whether it’s your largest shed or your best matching set, gift those sheds to the hunter who tagged that buck.
9. Just Talk to Them
Ultimately, just keep talking. Folks who communicate almost always have better relationships than if they hadn’t. Communication is critical to being a good neighbor, even within the deer hunting community.
10. And Stay Positive
There’s no need to do your neighbors tons of favors, especially if they aren’t reciprocating. But stay positive. Be upbeat. Go out of your way to help them, if needed. No need to overdo it. But there’s no wrong reason to be a good person.
Bonus: Give Some Grace
To some, this is going above and beyond. To others, it’s going too far. Drop the legal hammer, they’d say. And they’d be justified.
But at some point, you might find the right circumstances and opportunity in your heart to give grace where it isn’t deserved. And if that day comes, I’m sorry, but good for you. There are few greater gifts a man can give someone than something they don’t deserve. Grace is one of those.
Don’t let someone take advantage of you, especially repeatedly. But sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to show mercy. Such gestures have led to the start of amazing relationships. I can think of one great example most people — hunters and non-hunters — already know about.
So even if you aren’t the type to give much of yourself, don’t let a relationship or situation go negative. Often, when relationships start to degrade, they spiral. It starts slowly but picks up speed as it continues. By the end, things are so erratic and volatile it can be difficult to save. So, always be a good person, and always be a good neighbor.
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