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 has 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.
A friend of mine has a deer lease in northern Kansas and asked me to go with him to drive the 6 hours to his hunting lease. I really think he asked me because he didn’t want to drive that far by himself. On the way to his lease, we spotted a herd of cattle out in the road. This area of Kansas where we go to hunt is fairly remote, with very few houses along the road. We had to stop the car because the cattle were blocking the road. When we got out of the car we noticed there was a hole in the fence, so we corralled the cattle and drove them back into the pasture. We were in my truck, and I’ve also raised cattle so I had all my fence maintenance tools in my truck. I started repairing the fence. While I was working on the fence, the farmer who owned the land came over the hill in a pickup, and said, “Hey, what are you doing?” I explained to him that the cattle were in the road blocking our way, that we had driven the cattle back into the pasture, and we were now fixing the fence. I told him I didn’t know whose property this was but I explained that I was just doing what I would want someone to do for me if my cattle got out of a fence. I explained, “I know the cattle market right now is pretty high, and these 20 or 30 cattle out here in the road could be a great loss to this farmer.”
When the man asked, “What are y’all doing up here?” I explained that my friend owned a lease up that way, and we were headed there to hunt. He asked what we were hunting for. I told him we mainly hunted deer, turkeys, and although we weren’t really into pheasants much, we hunted them when we could. Then the man explained that he owned the property, the cattle and the fence and told my buddy and myself, “You’re more than welcome to hunt my property.” I asked, “How much land do you have?” He began to tell me in square miles how much property he owned. I had to look up how much land was in a square mile, because I didn’t know. Once I finally figured it out, I understood that this man owned about 10,000 acres. He said, “You’ll be the only ones hunting this property, and by the way, on the backside of the property is my grandpa’s old house. I keep the house maintained, but no one lives there. Since you fellas are from Missouri and have a long drive, I’ll let you use that house as a camp house, if you’ll pay the utility bills, which is $50 a month for gas and lights. Y’all can stay there any time you want, year round.” He also had a pond on these 10,000 acres that he said our children and we were welcome to fish.
I just got this property last season, and in a couple of weeks my buddy and I will travel to the property to scout it. We’ll let our kids play in the water and fish while we scout the property. This landowner has a lot of fields planted. From the roads, you can’t see the woods, but there are a number of hills, hollows, fence rows and ditch lines, where I’m sure deer are living. He has a tremendous amount of crops on the land, primarily corn and milo, some of these fields extend as far as the eye can see. No one’s ever hunted this property but his family. He’s explained that no hunters ever had stopped and asked permission to hunt there. The closest town is 35 miles away. This land looks like it will be an outstanding place to hunt deer.