Hunting Rights for Private Landowners

Many ranches throughout the West hold wide stretches of wilderness that serve as grazing, breeding, and migratory habitats for a variety of animals. These unspoiled lands are vital in providing a natural, low-stress environment for game —whether buck, bull, or fowl. Hunting on your own ranch provides rare opportunities for private and unforgettable encounters with these animals. However, it’s important to know your hunting rights before readying your gear or allowing others to hunt on your ranch. Different states have different laws, but there are a few key considerations to make.

Acquisition of Landowner Tags

Beyond basic state hunting licenses, hunting tags allow for the pursuit of animals that are specifically regulated by state agencies. These are often larger animals such as deer or elk. Other permits such as stamps or validations typically pertain to smaller animals that each have their own bag limit. Every hunting season, tags and permits must be applied for or renewed. However, this is not automatic, as states release a limited number of tags for each species, largely dependent upon the condition of the species’ population. The result is an annual lottery, with the chances of acquiring a tag varying by animal and demand.

In many states, being a deeded landowner gives you the right to participate in a Landowner Preference Program, which typically allows you to circumvent the lottery and purchase tags for your land outright. Eligibility for these programs varies by state, but availability of tags is generally based around the acreage of habitable land on your property. In essence, if your land sustains healthy populations of a given animal across a large enough distance, you’re more likely to get tags. All other regulations and laws apply, including seasonal, gender, and age related distinctions.

Private or Public Use

Once landowner tags are acquired, you are (of course) able to use them as the landowner. Oftentimes, these tags can be given to family members.

In certain states like Colorado and New Mexico, landowner tags are transferable to outside parties. This allows you to sell tags you’ve acquired to hunters at a market price. During the sale, it’s important to designate specifics like access points, areas of the property that cannot be used in the hunt, and dates intended to fill the tag. Eligibility and ease of transfer varies by State, but transferable tags may afford extra income if you choose not to hunt in a given season.

Whether or not you choose to sell tags to an outside party, there is a chance that other hunters may occasionally seek out brief access to part of your ranch. In certain cases, a hunting dog or an animal wounded by a hunter on a nearby property may pass into your land. Whether the hunter has a right to pursue or collect their dog or the wounded animal on your property without your permission varies. Therefore, it’s important to know your state’s laws on trespassing as it relates to huntingAs a general rule, ensure that your property lines have adequate signage as dictated by state law to deter individuals from unknowingly trespassing.

As a private landowner, you typically have benefits and rights to govern how animals are hunted on your property. Be aware, however, that regulations can have complex requirements, and can vary quite distinctly by state, so be sure that you know the laws before taking action. This knowledge will also be of aid if you’re buying or selling a ranch property, as hunting accessibility and exclusivity are substantial factors in price. At Ranch Marketing Associates, we have decades of experience with hunting laws in the West. Whether you’re buying, selling, or looking for the best management for your ranch, contact us to learn about the premium expertise we offer.

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