First, do your research at your state agency’s website, looking for public lands, also known as Wildlife Management Areas. Federal lands are also available, if you buy the appropriate permit.
If you are new to hunting or the area, you can try hunting with a guide. Use sites like www.outfittersrating.com, www.wheretohunt.org, and www.hunter-ed.com/places-to-hunt to find trustworthy and reliable guides who can, well, guide your hunt.
Another increasingly common option is to purchase a hunting lease. A hunting lease is an agreement between a private landowner and a hunter (or group of hunters) that lays down the rules and times for hunting on that land. A lease has some advantages, in that it can limit the number of hunters on one piece of land, may result in bigger game, and may offer other perks, like semi-permanent campsites and facilities. However, leases can get expensive and hard to find, and these areas are not always well-managed.
Arguably the best-case scenario for any hunter is private property. The good old days of hunting on a handshake are gone in many states, but there’s still no replacement for purchasing your own property or knowing someone who will allow you access to their land. If you take this approach, please know that “free access” is anything but free. Be ready to offer to help with managing the property, with fencing, maintenance, anything you can do to pitch in to the overall quality of the property. The property owner will appreciate the gesture.
Remember, be a respectful hunter, no matter where you hunt. If using private property, let the owner know when and where you will be hunting. When on public land, keep a watchful eye out for other hunters, don’t intrude upon another’s hunting spot, and leave the public property as you found it (don’t litter!).
There is private land next to my house. Can I hunt there if I contact the owner?
Maybe. You will have to ask permission from the landowner. When contacting a landowner, wear street clothes (not hunting gear), don’t bring a crowd, and make contact well before hunting season. Be polite, even if permission is denied: Your courtesy may affect the outcome of future requests.
In some states, written permission may be required. Be sure to check the regulations before you talk to a landowner.