- BY PGS
- Aug 06, 2021
This is a really common question for new shooters (actually all shooters) living in urban areas. Access to land and the privilege of being able to shoot a firearm on it, whether for hunting or ‘field’ shooting, is a common issue.
I do like to attend shooting ranges and they’re places where shooters can see a variety of firearms and techniques and be exposed to processes and advice that can be very useful, but whether hunting or not, I prefer to shoot on open land, generally away from other than a select group of people. Not being a landowner of any note myself, that means relying on being allowed to access to properties or public land. The opportunity to shoot on private property have grown over the many years I’ve been a shooter and I never take for granted the privilege that I have.
Certain public lands can be used for shooting and hunting. That being said, public land is divided into a broad range of categories and different activities (such as hunting) may or may not be allowed, during different seasons or other periods. It’s essential to check what activities are allowed (and when) on the land you wish to access. You need to refer to the government generated information, depending on your jurisdiction.
Once you’ve ascertained that you are allowed to shoot on the public land, there are still other considerations. I always tell people to try to gauge how many other hunters may be in the area or other users, may be present. Hikers and people doing all manner of activities in our beautiful wilderness areas have the same right to enjoy these areas as you. You can try to get a read on how many people are close by, from driving past car parks or observing access roads.
Once you decide you can shoot on public land I want you decide whether you should. Is everything ‘right’? Are people (any people) far enough away from you? Will your presence be a major inconvenience to others? Will you damage the area with your movement over sensitive areas. What about your trace? (Trace describes the theoretical practical range to the front, left and right of your shooting area, where your bullet may land and is therefore a ‘danger’ area.) Always remember that as a responsible shooter, we need to be reasonable and courteous while engaging in our sport. Remember to wear clothing that allows you to be clearly differentiated from both the background environment and possible game in the area.
In many ways shooting on private property gives us great flexibility. We can control the number of people and activities that are undertaken on the property and this allows everyone to engage in shooting in a safer manner. While we must always take note of what is behind a target before we release a shot, controlling access to the entire area lessens the potential for other people to be in the background.
Whenever I’m allowed onto private property I make sure I’m the best ‘citizen’ possible. I tread lightly, clean up after myself, make sure I don’t introduce ‘foreign flora or fauna’ by actively cleaning my vehicle (and possibly boots) prior to entry, take great care not to annoy stock or damage crops. I look for troubles the landholders may not have seen and rectify any issue I find, without being asked. I’m very careful of fences and gates. I drive very carefully on tracks and go off-road in a vehicle only if I won’t damage the ground. Farm lands can actually be highly sensitive and you must understand that it’s also a business and probably a home for the owners, so great respect must be given for the privilege you enjoy. You still need to concern yourself with trace and background, but that ability to control who else is on the land is a great advantage.
The properties I’ve accessed have been through friends or family but I’m always alert to conversations with other landowners. Your reputation as a responsible ‘visitor’ is like your CV and you need to lead with your best foot. Ask landowners if you could shoot on their property. If you’ve shot on land nearby tell them the landowner’s name. Many of the places I shoot the landowners have a real problem with feral or other species and things like wild dogs, foxes, rabbits, goats, pigs and deer can be a considerable problem for farmers. One of their weekly chores may be keeping down the foxes. If you can do that for them, I’ve found farmers to be particularly grateful. That means you might have to bend a little to hunt the species they need targeted, but this is all building that CV of being a good person to access their land.
Commercial lands and guided shooting and hunting
We have a burgeoning industry in Australia, hosting hunters on different properties and either having self-guided or fully guided trips. While this is a greater expense, these can be amazing opportunities. Sometimes the ‘specialty’ of doing one of these trips becomes a great focus for training and the anticipation and buildup itself makes you a better hunter and shooter. We have many excellent opportunities and terrific guides available in Australia so look out for advertisements and personal recommendations for going on these trips.