iowa hein 2011 recently asked people what type land they hunt on the most: 38 percent said a friend’s or family member’s property for free…28 percent said public land…18 percent hunt on land they own…11 percent lease or belong to a hunt club.

The survey also asked what size land: 38 percent said they hunted 200 acres or larger, but 24 percent hunt properties of 50 acres or less.

The takeaway: Small to mid-size private lands that people can hunt for free continue to be the foundation of whitetail hunting across America. Over time, this is where the majority of us grew up hunting, learning the woods, coming to enjoy and respect nature, learning how to do it. It’s where we took our kids to get them into hunting, and where they will take their kids to hunt…

For the last 30 years people have preached gloom and doom for the future of free deer hunting on small private lands (I have blogged it a few times too). So I was heartened to see that 38 percent of people in this survey still have that wonderful opportunity.

I was even more inspired by a trip I took to Iowa a few weeks ago. We went out to film and profile 3 hunters who had shot 220-inch-plus bucks. As they told their stories, I learned that 2 of the 3 had killed their giants with bows on the type of private lands described above; and they had been hunting those lands for many years for free.

One of those hunters, Paul Hein photo above, has been a high-school welding instructor for 34 years. Paul had driven by a small farm every day and always thought it looked like a good hunting spot. Finally he called the farmer and asked if he could hunt. He offered to do some welding for the farmer in return. Long story short, Paul has bowhunted that farm for years now, and he has welded a lot of gates and machine parts for the farmer in return. He has shot a lot of deer, including his dream buck.

This is how deer hunting used to be all over the country, and it’s good to know it can still work that way today.

What type land do you hunt? Are you one of the lucky 4 in 10 that hunts private land for free…or public, or some other?