Hunt By Reservation Program Continues to Grow in Oregon

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The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has taken a page out of Airbnb’s playbook to help hunters responsibly access private land.

The organization’s Hunt by Reservation Program connects hunters with private landowners through an online reservation platform. After making a reservation, hunters receive a permit to hunt participating private lands on dates that landowners select ahead of time. The program benefits hunters by providing quality hunting opportunities on private land, and it benefits landowners by helping them coordinate hunt logistics and manage healthy wildlife populations.

The access program started in 2019, but evolved into an automated online platform in spring 2020 to help streamline the reservation process.

We wanted to build a program that offered landowners increased flexibility while offering hunters an access style that was consistent with how they are buying and experiencing things today,” said Brandon Dyches, Pheasants Forever’s hunt program coordinator in Oregon. “And for better or worse, that’s often online.”

In addition to ODWF, Pheasants Forever, the National Wild Turkey Federation and other industry leaders are also supporting the program. Dyches said these partnerships have really helped Hunt by Reservation flourish.

“The real value here is in the agency trust that develops with support from organizations like that,” he said. “There’s real technical assistance which allows us to create this new access.”

There were some initial hurdles with web development, but since the program got off the ground it’s been growing steadily.

“The program works as a broker for landowner, and by doing that we reduce the amount of work and confusion on their part,” Dyches said. “They’re often glad to provide access, but don’t have the time to invest in organizing the management of that access — this removes that burden and eases their workload.”

There were around eight properties enrolled in the Hunt by Reservation this fall, offering a wide range of hunting opportunities from turkey to elk to upland birds. One of the most successful partnerships Dyches and ODFW were able to create was with Oregon State University’s Soap Creek Cattle Ranch, a 2500-acre site just north of Corvallis, Ore.

“Soap Creek is really the shining star of the program,” Dyches said. “And I hope it’s a model for what we can do with other large properties in the future.”

The property had an existing memorandum of understanding signed by OSU and ODWF to help the university manage the area’s turkey population, but no infrastructure was in place to execute that plan. Hunt by Reservation stepped in to fill the gap.

“We had the tools to make that process very easy for the land manager, it was a perfect fit for Hunt by Reservation,” Dyches said. “We opened it to hunting four days a week and ended up harvesting upwards of 30 birds that fall.”

Hunt by reservation relies heavily on hunter/landowner trust to succeed.

“If a landowner reports any hunter misbehavior — disrespect, unsafe shots, property damage, breaking program rules, violating wildlife laws, we will exclude that hunter and the rest of their party from the program,” Dyches said. “One strike and you’re out. Hunters have to keep each other accountable and remember that your behavior shapes the reputation of all hunters and the future of the program.”

So far Dyches said the reviews from both landowners and hunters has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’ve heard a lot of “thank yous” from people who would not have had a place to hunt without the program,” he said. “We’re excited to keep expanding Hunt By Reservation in the future to provide an easy way for landowners to grant access — and more Oregon hunters to take advantage of new opportunities.”