Editor’s Note: Forty seven year old James Nickols from Sparta, Missouri, a PSE Field Team member, has been shooting PSE for 5 years. Up until 2 years ago, although he had had a hunting lease in the past, he mainly hunted public lands. He’d found a little piece of land owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that was close to a river and loaded with does. Little did he know how his luck would change when he arrowed a doe during gun/deer season, and the doe jumped a fence and ran onto private property. Nickols demonstrated the kind of character that would pay big dividends in finding excellent land to hunt. He learned that if you did the right thing, good things would happen for you. But Nickols didn’t do the right thing in hopes of any type of reward. That is just was who he was. The old saying, “Right follows right,” certainly defined what happened to Nickols. If you’ll solve a landowner’s problems, he may solve your problem of locating a place to hunt.
I went to the farmer’s house and asked if I could have permission to go and recover my doe that had jumped over the fence. When he asked “Why did you shoot a doe?” I explained “I enjoy eating deer meat, my family and I try to get 10 to 15 deer a year, because we love to eat venison that much. I had found this little piece of Corps land that was loaded with does, so I decided to come here and take some.” The farmer asked “How many does do you try to take a season?” and I explained that we liked to take as many does as the law allowed. The farmer then asked, “Are you interested in taking does off my property?”
I didn’t realize it at the time, but his property had a $10,000 lease on it that had been leased out to eight hunters who paid more than $1,000 each for the opportunity to hunt there. The property was only 500 acres. I told the farmer, “Yeah, I’d love to hunt your land, but $10,000 for a lease is way more than I could even think about paying. I don’t make that kind of money.” The farmer said “I didn’t ask you for money. If you’ll do what I want done, you’re more than welcome to hunt here.” I asked him what he wanted done, and he said “I want 20 does a year taken off the property. I have a crop depredation permit, and these deer are eating my soybeans and corn that I raise to feed my cattle.” I told the farmer that I was a trophy hunter, and if I had a chance to take a nice buck I wanted to be able to do that. But that I definitely would help him thin his herd.
The first year, with the season almost over, a friend and I took 13 does. This year we’ll try to take 20 does, and we’ve contacted a deer processing plant that has agreed to process the does we bring in and give the meat to the needy. The farmer revoked the lease from the hunters who had been leasing the property. I’ve had the property now for 2 years, and I pay nothing to hunt it. I go to the property twice a year and walk the land to make sure the fences are all kept up and repaired, because he’s raising cattle. We maintain the property like it’s our own. If a tree falls across the road, we’ll go in, cut the tree up and give the wood to the landowner, because he burns wood for heat in the wintertime. We make sure the property is clean and well maintained, and even though we’ve offered to pay, he’s never allowed us to pay him any money for the lease. The farmer has said, “No, as long as you harvest the does that I have crop depredation permits for, and possibly more, you’re welcome to hunt this land for free.”
The last year the property was leased, the hunters on that land had taken eight bucks that scored 140 points or better, but they only took one doe. They had the property for 5 years and only killed 9 does. The farmer said “That’s not the way I want my property managed for deer.” This landowner is very smart and understands deer management. He’s realized that the deer herd on this land is extremely overpopulated, especially with does. He had talked to a biologist from Missouri and some Mossy Oak real estate people, and understood that the value of his land would increase if the deer herd was in balance. This past spring, he bought some Mossy Oak BioLogic and planted it for us to hunt over in the late season.
Four of us hunt this property now. Last year, my friend shot a 12 pointer that scored 182 Boone & Crockett points there, and that was the only buck we took. All the men who hunt this property are bowhunters. We allow our children to gun hunt the land, and during this past spring we took some handicapped children to the property and let them hunt turkeys.
Tomorrow: Rounding Up Cattle and Fixing Fences Equals More Land to Hunt for James Nickols