In Mississippi, it's easier to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than to locate a decent deer and turkey hunting lease. The second toughest thing is to keep one if you ever do find it. I know this from personal experience. Having talked to countless other hunters in this same search mode along the way, I know I am hardly in this predicament alone.

Plight of the search

"I moved back from Missouri just a short few years ago to take over the family business, and immediately began the search for my own place to hunt," said Kerry French of Brandon. "I can afford to buy, but have so far concentrated on securing a decent place to lease for the time being. So far, my gun barrels are cold, both my deer rifle and my turkey shotgun.

"I have tried all the conventional ways to put my hands on a small piece of private land to hunt within a reasonable distance from my house, but so far have come up with one big fat zero. I have called upon my own network of family, friends and business associates, but nada.

"I have found several hunting clubs to join, but I have been that route a couple of times and never will do that again."

"I came close on two occasions in my search. However, by the time I got the information and made the calls, I had just missed both of them. They were leased sight unseen over the phone. What does that tell you? So, I will continue to look, because I want a place to hunt - a place of my own I can develop into something special without a gang of other hunters telling me what to do or when to do it."

Strategies for a reasonable search

Finding a place of your own is not an easy prospect these days in a state that is crazy when it comes to the game of hunting, especially whitetails and turkey.

French hit upon a good strategy to tap into right away and keep grinding at it. Sit down with a blank note pad and start as lengthy a list of networking contacts as you can come up with. Go through your stack of business cards, church directory, civic club memberships, professional trade organizations, bankers, accountants, customers and vendors you buy from. What about high school or college buddies still in the area? Call all of them. Email all of them. Tell them your story and profile what you are looking for.

Tap into social networking sites on the net. Start with Facebook and Twitter. Create your own site and initiate commentary about your desire to find a good place to hunt where you could sign an exclusive lease or join with another close friend if that is an option. Friend every reasonable contact you know. Word of your search should spread quickly.

Another great option is to check the reports page of MS-Sportsman.com. Many hunters across the state frequent the site, and if you post what you're looking for, you might find an email in your inbox announcing the availability of your little slice of hunting heaven.

Also continue to search traditional sources for hunting lease information including newspapers, local journals, farm bulletins, co-op bulletin boards and such outlets. One never knows when something might turn up. If it does, you have to be prepared to act fast.

Up the ante

The next step to consider could basically be called "putting your money where your mouth is" more or less. That is to say, why not try sending out or posting a finder's fee for locating hunting lease that you ultimately accept? The real estate markets are deflated and a lot of agents are getting hungry. A little extra cash in the hand might attract information on an available lease or even a nice piece of property to consider buying at a good price.

Consensus among hunters looking for a place to hunt is pretty consistent. The search can be long and frustrating. Mississippians are outdoors people. We love our hunting, fishing, camping, ATV riding and just the idea of having a place of our own, even if the only option in the short term is an annual lease. To be successful, you have to start the search now, and be willing to keep looking regardless of how long it takes.