Tired of crowded public hunting lands with hard-to-track-down game? Have property and want to earn more from it? Then consider a hunting lease, mutually beneficial for both land-owner and hunters. Here’s exactly what you need to know.
Hunting leases are becoming more widespread every year with public land in short supply. A hunting lease is an agreement between a hunter and a private landowner which specifies the terms permitting the hunter to come onto the property and hunt.
Hunters: Why Lease Land?
Well, there are lots of reasons but here are some of the most common reasons why hunters, when asked, say they prefer to lease land because:
Same hunting spots year after year means you get to know the game and their habits, resulting in more successful hunts
Less hunting pressure and less competition for the best areas, as is often the case on public lands
Better ability to pre-scout game habits before the season, as game is less likely to move with less hunting pressure
Great to build a relationship with the landowner, contribute a portion of your game to them
Often more flexible camping and hunting rules than on public lands
Property Owners: Why Offer A Hunting Lease?
Increasingly many public lands have been closed to hunting, forcing the hunters to look for an alternative. And, due to the increasing popularity of hunting, those hunting areas open to the public face ever increasing pressure.
For landowners who want to capitalize on this shift towards leasing, having a hunting lease is increasingly attractive. Fortunately, there are many benefits of leasing your property for hunting:
Control. Hunting leases help eliminate poachers and trespassers. If a person gets caught trespassing, the leasing hunters have the right within the lease to press charges.
Crop Damage Reduction. Hunting leases are very helpful in reducing crop damage by managing wildlife populations. Having hunters on your property can help control wildlife levels and reduce the damage of livestock and crops. Additional Income. Hunting leases generate new income sources and increase return on investment. Even if you only earn enough money to pay the property taxes on the land each year, that’s still something to be excited about. You could also use the lease as a cushion during hard times, as a safety net, or a way to generate an emergency fun.
Having a hunting lease for your property is especially great if you’re a landowner who doesn’t use the land often. If you inherited or have is as a second property, it can be a challenge to maintain it and keep up with the maintenance if the land is just sitting there. This is where leasing the land can really shine – you can make residual income with very little disruption to your daily life.
What Types of Hunting Leases Are There?
There are many different types of hunting leases. They can range from giving hunters access to the land for just one day or for decades. There are benefits and drawbacks to each time frame. Short-term hunting leases give the landowner the option to have control over their land and maximize profits, but they also require a lot of administrative work. Long-term leases allow landowners to maintain profit while only working with a small pool of hunters. However, this also means that it can be more difficult to change contract terms.
Another distinction of leases is that they can be exclusive or shared rights to the property. When rights are shared the landowner increases the money, he makes from the land due to multiple people using it. However, releasing rights to too many hunters can result in the land becoming over-hunted. Depending on the ecosystem surrounding the land it can take years for the site to recover. Some landlords prefer to give exclusive rights to pieces of the land and restrict access to other areas so that there is no risk of over-hunting.
How Should You Determine Pricing?
When setting a price on a hunting lease, there are many factors to consider. While there may be a “going rate” in your area, leasing rates can vary considerably not only by geography but also by the specific characteristics of the land. Aspects that influence the price of hunting leases, and that are bhe basis for negotiations are the:
Location, acreage of the property and its accessibility
Maturity and the aesthetics of the lands
Services being offered and the amenities of the property
Number of hunters using the land
Amount of wildlife that the land can support
Diversity, size and quality of the wildlife
Activity on neighboring properties
Commonality of trespassers that roam the area
Amount of time the owner spends on land management
All of the factors mentioned contribute to the price tag of a hunting lease. This is even true for the factors that the landowner doesn’t control. Because of this it can be tricky for beginners to determine what’s a fair market price. Extension agents, real estate agents, and bankers and public listings can be of assistance when trying to determine what similar properties are charging.
Hunting leases are a great way to create additional income for landowners and a great opportunity for hunters. However, like most endeavors, there are pros and cons.
For the pros, hunting on private land can help keep wildlife populations within sustainable levels. It also can create opportunities for recreational activities life wildlife photography, fishing and camping.
For the cons, hunters can overhunt the game and damage the environment. Landowners may need to navigate complaints from neighbors and appear on the property at unwanted times. There can also be legal ramifications for landowners who fail to keep their end of the agreement, so careful consideration should be taken prior to opening up your hunting site. This is also why there is high value in having an attorney who can review your hunting lease before signing it.
The Ins-N-Outs – Main Factors
For a hunting lease to be effective for all parties, and if necessary enforceable it needs to address the following:
A description of the land. Clarity is the most important part here; the land should be described in such a way that would allow a person who is unfamiliar with the contract and the parties to identify the location of the property and interpret the meaning. This is done through the use of addresses, road names, or similar characteristics. It can be useful to add a map of the leased hunting land so that the boundaries are clearly marked.
Identification of the parties. Both parties should sign the contract and their identity must be presented. Along with names, the contract should contain the contact information for both parties. This is important so that communication is easy. For times when a corporation or hunting club is part of the contract, the legal name for the entire entity will be used, not the names on individual members.
The hunting lease duration. The term of the lease is determined by setting a definitive date that reflects the time period in which the lease is effective. In states like Missouri or Iowa, hunting leases for more than one year must be in writing.
The amount of rent. The rent amount agreed upon should also be included in the contract. This is important so that the landowner can get paid and the person leasing the land is comfortable with the cost.
Restrictions. The contract can be limited to a very specific purpose and the landlord can retain the right to continue to use the land even while hunters are on it. This is relevant in cases where the land is used for pastures, farming, or similar reasons. Other examples of restrictions could be for hunting specific species, such as turkey. It can also address harvest restrictions, tree stands, blinds, hunting methods, and shed hunting.
Liability. All 50 states in the United States have enacted some type of “Recreational Use Statute” which limits the liability of the landowners that allow people to use their property for recreation goals. It is up to the landowner to fully protect themself against liability for injuries or hunting accidents on the land. There are several ways to limit exposure to liability in a hunting lease. Some of them are indemnification for lawsuits that are brought by third parties, a waiver for acceptance of risk, and posting signs or other types of warning. It is also important for the landowner to inspect the land and repair any hazardous areas.
Additional Factors To Incorporate
Other elements to consider including in the least, as appropriate are:
Restrictions to the hunter’s right to sublet the property to other parties
Documenting the amount of game taken
Regulating intellectual property for photos of hunters and wildlife
Reparation for damaged property like trees, farm ground, or fences
The right to fish in ponds or other water bodies
The Ins-N-Outs – Main Factors
When leasing hunting property, one of the most important decisions is choosing the if you will hunt have the lease on your own or have partners who you share the cost of the lease with. If you choose to have partners, are they willing to put in the preseason preparation? Are they willing to split the costs beyond the lease for things like travel, food plots, or tree stands? Do they share the same hunting ethics? Are they going to treat the land with respect like it’s their own? Do they understand the do’s and don’ts of the property? Do they have the same opinions on game management practices? All of these questions are incredibly important to ask. You want to make sure you understand the values and expectations of the people you are bringing with you.
Once you have decided on your partners, it’s time to pick a location. You should decide on a certain mile radius you are willing to travel or pick a few specific areas. You should consider whether hunting in a specific area is important to you or someone in your group. You should also think about the properties that are surrounding the land. Keep in mind that areas that don’t receive as much press are usually cheaper to lease than other areas that do. You’ll pay less per acre if you focus on states and regions that don’t get so much attention. However, the trophy game might not be as impressive.
It is important to have good communication between you, your partners, and the landowner. Determine your expectations of the property and the landowner and make them clear. Ask about specific details, like where the owner you to cross their fences or how to approach livestock. Let the landowner know what types of vehicles will be on the property. If you own a UTV or an ATV make sure you tell the landowner how and when you plan on using them. Along with letting them know your intentions, it also prevents you from breaking any rules about off-road vehicles that the owner might have.
Some leases can be very pricey so you should set a range that you and your partners are willing to spend. It can be a difficult conversation to have, since some people don’t like to discuss finances. However, it will be important that everyone involved is aware of what they are paying and what comes with that payment. This will help keep expectations in line with costs.
Build a Relationship with The Landowner
Building a relationship between you and the landowner should be high on your priority list. Ideally you would want the landowner to lease to you year after year so being on good terms with them is crucial. This can be maintained through continuous communication between both parties. Asking if there is anything that the landowner would like to be done in a different way, letting him know what time you intend to go hunting, and how long you intend to hunt each day are simple examples of keeping a good communication.
Clearly hunting leases can be a great option for both the landowner and the hunting. Like any partnership, it relies on both parties to be invested in the success of the contract. However, for those who are able to make it work, the benefits can be endless.