Ranching / Writing on the Range

Hunting Season … It’s Complicated

Hunters and ranchers coexist on the land

Ranchers benefit from allowing hunters on their land in many ways. Nevertheless, hunting season makes us cowboys and cattlemen a little edgy.

Trotting to the backside of a pasture, I hear a shot. Instinctively, I hunch down, hoping nobody’s throwing lead my way. I’m not an outlaw on the run. No, it’s hunting season, and as a rancher that means the town folk are out for blood.

There’s no question that ranching and hunting go hand-in-hand. Whether it’s on private or government lands, while the goals of these two groups might not always dovetail, ranchers and hunters have to find ways to coexist. 

For many ranchers, guiding and selling hunts is a steady stream of income that often offsets a bumpy cattle market. And some ranchers enjoy hunting as much or more than they do ranching. There’s also a very necessary element of herd management to the equation. Big game herd populations can get out of control and damage the natural resources. Simply put, hunting is a necessary part of ranching. 

It’s the hunters that present the challenge. 

Hunters and ranchers coexist on the land
The relationship between ranchers and hunters during hunting season can be complicated.
Photo by Ross Hecox

Now, if you’re a hunter, I’m sure what you’re about to read doesn’t apply to you. That said, here’s a few things from a land manager’s perspective to tell your buddies at the gun shop. 

Don’t trespass.

Nobody but you cares how big the bull was or how close to the fence he was. When I’m riding through looking for cattle with my teenage daughter, I don’t want to worry about a stray bullet coming her way. The other side of that coin is, if you do have permission to be on someone’s land, stay on that land. There’s nothing worse than apologizing to your neighbor for something a hunter did. Learn to read a map and stay where you’re supposed to.

Don’t make a mess.

I remember the hunters’ camp at my grandmother’s family’s place growing up. You could have been forgiven for mistaking it for a landfill. I know the whole idea of hunting is to get away from your honey-dos and your nagging wife, but there’s a reason she’s always telling you to clean up.

Watch your language.

Just because Yellowstone is salty doesn’t mean everybody wearing a cowboy hat likes the way that sort of speech sounds. 

Remember, ranching comes first. If the land manager you’re working with is shipping his yearlings or pregging his cow herd, he doesn’t have time to get your side-by-side unstuck because you weren’t watching where you were going. Finally, manage your buck fever. We all get excited when in pursuit of the wall hanger, but act like you’ve been there before. 

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