Karl Puckett, Great Falls Tribune
Oct 16, 2018
Robert Studebaker and David Keil went to a public wildlife management area in Idaho to hunt pheasants in the fall of 2017.
There were a lot of hunters. Too many for their liking.
They commiserated about public land pressure, and private land becoming difficult to access unlike the old days when it seemed easier to knock on the door and ask for permission to hunt.
"We said, "Why is that?'" Keil said.
They concluded landowners were shutting gates because of a few disrespectful hunters ruining access for other hunters.
Studebaker, Keil and Jeff Dancer launched EntryG8.com, an online marketplace for landowners, outfitters, hunters, anglers, and campers, a month ago to address the access problem, an idea that turned on like a light bulb after the Idaho hunting trip.
The web application works like this: Hosts, or landowners, list properties that guests can access for hunting, fishing or camping and other outdoor recreation by paying a "trespass fee."
The online business is analogous to Airbnb, the lodging marketplace where members can use the service to arrange or offer lodging with Airbnb serving as a broker, Keil said.
David Keil and Rob Studebaker, two of the owners of EntryG8.com: Land Access for Responsible Sport, visited Montana earlier this month. They've created a service where landowners can advertise access to private land online. Hunters or other outdoor enthusiasts can browse properties. It's like an Airbnb for land access, they say. (Photo: David Keil)
Except in this case, property owners are advertising land, and customers are looking for access.
EntryG8.com is the broker.
"This applies a 21st Century tool to public access issues," said Keil, who grew up in northcentral Montana. "It's just using the free market economy to solve an access problem."
It's billed as "Land access for responsible sport."
The avid hunters, all 43, live in the Boise area, but they plan to list properties available for outdoor recreation all across the country on EntryG8.com.
Through EntryG8.com, its founders say, landowners can earn more revenue from their ground, while outdoor enthusiasts can get access to prime private land for recreation.
"It surprises a lot of landowners what people are willing to pay for that," Studebaker said.
A snow goose hunting property in southwestern Idaho is advertised for $400 per day.
Click on the link for that property and photos of the land and birds are supplied along with maps and details on the required party size, acreage and access and accommodation details.
"Whistle pigs! Fun," is the headline for another property, advertised for $20 a day, where visitors can shoot ground squirrels, also known as whistle pigs.
Jeff Dancer is one of the founders of EntryG8.com. (Photo: David Keil)
Studebaker says landowners may have five-star habitat worthy of a premium charge for access or marginal habitat in which the fee won't be as high. Some landowners may just want hunters to come in to shoot pests, like ground squirrels, he said.
"Bring your .22 cal and practice your sharpshooting," the Whistle Pigs property advertisement says. "They love our land, but we don't love them."
Five properties are listed so far.
"We'd like to see it grow and be the go-to web application when somebody goes outdoors," Keil said.
They expect the concept to do better initially in states where there is more private land compared with states such as Montana with vast expanses of public land.
To get the word out, they are talking to landowners, hunters and farm implement dealerships. They were in Great Falls last week.
"It's kind of a new approach to facilitate that interaction between landowner and outdoor recreationists," Keil said.
"It's[sic] surprises a lot[sic] of landowners what people are willing to pay for that," Rob Studebaker says of access to private land for hunting or other activities. EntryG8.com, which Studebaker and two other Idaho men launched, is a web application that connects landowners and sportsman and women. (Photo: David Keil)
They say they have interest from multiple landowners and "tons of interest from sportsmen."
Just like Airbnb, EntryG8.com members, both the landowners and those who purchase access, can rate each other.
Studebaker calls the rating system "the magic of this whole concept."
"That forces some amount of accountability that otherwise is not there," Keil added.
Guests can read the host's reviews and ratings prior to booking.
Hosts can read a guest's reviews and ratings prior to accepting a booking.
The goal through time is to develop a star system.
"The hope is, if this idea grows, people will want to be a good sportsman so they can get good access to good lands," Studebaker said.
Studebaker is a dentist who grew up in Idaho. His father, who bred sporting dogs taught him to be a respectful sportsman, he said.
With hunting such a cultural cornerstone of the western lifestyle, Studebaker said, one of his biggest disappointment[s] has been dwindling access to land.
These days, land may no longer be owned by a person who lives in the house on the property, making it difficult for hunters to even have a conversation with the landowner, he said.
And every farmer and rancher has had the experience of seeing the pickup truck driving up the lane and wondering, 'Who's this guy, what's he want,'" Studebaker said.
"It's something we put together as a way to connect landowners and sportsmen," Studebaker said of EntryG8com.
Daivd[sic] Keil and Rob Studebaker bird hunt during a trip to Montana earlier this month. "It's something we put together as a way to connect landowners and sportsmen," Keil said of EntryG8.com. (Photo: David Keil)
EntryG8.com gives landowners control over the number of days hunters are allowed access to land, as opposed to government-run hunting access programs on private lands that are season-long, Studebaker said.
"As hard as they are trying to help provide public access, they are not recognizing the fair market value of that access to the landowner," Studebaker said.
Entry G8.com is not competing with those public programs that encourage private landowners to enroll land allowing hunting access but working with them to open more private land, Studebaker said.
Some people will criticize the business model saying it amounts to privatizing access to hunting, Studebaker says. He understands that point of view. But he says it's missing the point because hunters can't access a lot of private land now.
"We're very much in support for public lands and accessible public lands for sure," Studebaker said. "We also recognize there's pressure on public lands."
EntryG8.com, Studebaker says, is just another tool to access lands for outdoor recreation.
And he says it's a way to continue the legacy of landowner-hunter interaction but in a different way with the access marketplace eliminating the need to drive onto private property and knock on the door.
EntryG8com will handle the booking, scheduling and financial transaction.
The conventional way of a hunting trip involves driving around or calling landowners or knocking on doors, Keil said.
"By contrast, with our solution with EntryG8.com, someone could line up the trip ahead of time," Keil said. "It's assured access before leaving your house."
"We'd like to see it grow and be the go-to web application when somebody goes outdoors," says David Keil of EntryG8.com
"We'd like to see it grow and be the go-to web application when somebody goes outdoors," says David Keil of EntryG8.com (Photo: David Keil)
Imagine a hunter from California he says, who wants to visit northcentral Montana to go hunting. That hunter doesn't want make that trip without having access prearranged, he said.
Keil is a civil engineer who grew up on a wheat and barley farm in northcentral Montana's Conrad, where he spent a lot of time hunting pheasants, before moving to northern Montana's Havre and graduating in 1993.
It's become easier for landowners to shut the gates than deal with hunters who leave gates open or commit other acts of disrespect, he says. The EntryG8 concept extends beyond hunting, he says. Guests can also pay the trespass fee to visit lands to fish or ride horseback, he said.
"It's just another revenue source for farmers and ranchers in hard economic times to make money from an asset they already have," Studebaker said.