Considering a Hunting Lease? Here is What You Need to Know
The end of every deer season promises the same thing for thousands of hunters. Frustration with their current hunting ground, disappointment with their season and ultimately the promise to themselves that next year will be different.
As winter turns to spring and the heat of summer bares down on all of us, the unkept promises re-surface and can quickly turn into total desperation. The thought of sharing your hunting ground with too many hunters or hunting an area with low deer traffic quickly begins to look like a real possibility. . . again.
This exact scenario plays out every year. It is precisely why the hunting lease arrangement has grown to such popular levels across the country. We see it in the increased phone calls to our office, website traffic and requests for information from hunters and landowners. Leasing hunting access might not be for everyone, but for those hunters that want some level of control over their hunting, there is no better choice short of buying your own land.
Let’s go over some hunting lease basics for those that either are leasing now or are considering leasing ground this year.
How Does a Hunting Lease Work?
A hunting lease is a simple agreement between a landowner and a hunter or hunt club that provides hunting access/rights to the hunters for some form of compensation. The amount paid and other landowner requirements are all agreed upon in advance and documented in the lease agreement.
The lease agreement itself is a very important part of the process. As with any relationship, communication between the landowner and the hunters is key. The lease agreement clearly lays out the responsibilities of each party in addition to the legal description of the property, terms of the lease, the amount paid to the landowner, the game to be hunted and the number of hunters allowed. A professional, attorney approved lease agreement is crucial to the success of your hunting lease. A fully customizable hunting lease agreement can be created and downloaded for free here.
Once the lease agreement is signed, the hunt club can begin scouting, hanging stands and cameras and planning their attack for the fall. Most traditional leases are for a full year and provide exclusive access to the hunters. The exclusivity of a hunting lease is the feature that most hunters covet. The ability and control to hunt when, where and how you like with the confidence that no one outside your group is hunting when you aren’t there.
How Much Should I Pay for a Lease?
Like any other recreational experience, the better experience you want the higher the cost is likely to be. However, a hunting lease is far more affordable than some would think and with a little planning you can lease access to ground that will provide a very enjoyable experience anywhere in the country.
Obviously, geography is going to play a large role in the price of a hunting lease. The Midwest offers perfect whitetail habitat and the potential to kill big bucks. Prices in the Midwest range from $15 to $30 per acre, and in select areas can go even higher. However, in the South and Southeast large swaths of timber offer more supply than in the Midwest so hunting lease prices are typically between $10 and $20 per acre.
It is important to know what makes a hunting lease valuable and what features are worth paying for. Here are three features that you should look for on any potential lease.
Access: The best ground in the best county in the best state isn’t worth much if you can’t get to it. Are their multiple ways to get in and out of the timber? If there is a standing crop, can you get to your stand? Is the property landlocked and only accessible when conditions are ideal?
Huntable acres: Your lease price is typically based on the total number of acres on the property. However, if you decide to lease access to a 150-acre farm in Ohio with only 20 acres of timber, you shouldn’t be expected to pay $25 an acre for the 100 or so acres you can’t hunt. As a rule, determine how many acres on the farm you can realistically expect to harvest deer. That is a good place to start and begin working with your landowner on a price you both believe is fair.
Deer population: I would like to say this is obvious, but truth be told my friends and I leased rights to a farm just two years ago that was perfect in every way, it just didn’t have any deer. Always walk the ground you are considering and check for yourself that a health population of deer are using the area or calling the property home. Also, every state provides harvest data by county from previous years. Check with your state’s DNR to get the number of deer killed in your area over the last few years.
How Can I Find a Quality Hunting Lease?
Search options can be a little limited. There is tremendous interest and demand for quality habitat to hunt. The internet is always a good place to start and with a little cyber savvy, you can quickly dial in to the right area. Hint: this is where having a young hunter in your club/group might help! If you know what area you would like to hunt, you can use the GIS, or mapping services of nearly every county in the country. By browsing through your counties mapping system website, you can typically find the names and addresses of every landowner and maps of the tax assessed parcels. Once you have the address, a letter, card or preferably a visit can be just the ticket.
Be warned though. You will not be the first person to knock on a landowner’s door to ask permission to hunt. Stand out. Make a first impression that tells them you are different, and that you are willing to address their concerns up front. Hunters willing to provide a lease agreement and a hunting lease insurance policy will certainly gain a landowner’s trust. A great resource is this free e-book, The Secret to Hunting Private Land.
A hunting lease broker is another good option for finding a quality hunting lease. Brokers, like Base Camp Leasing make it easy for landowners to offer their land for lease. The broker completes the paperwork and provides both parties with a hunting liability insurance policy that protects everyone involved. Their websites list all the available leases in a given area and can save you hours of searching.
There is a good chance you already know the ground you want to hunt. The landowner may even be open to leasing access to your group, but they are beat up from hunters and strangers knocking on their doors. Remember, landowners have expenses directly associated with their farm or land, such as insurance, operating expenses, taxes, maintenance, etc. It all adds up and if they can pay just one bill by allowing hunters to enjoy their property and at the same time reduce trespassing and control the deer population, it is a win-win for sure.
For more information on hunting leases and hunting lease insurance, please visit the American Hunting Lease Association website.
Sean Ferbrache is the Chief Operating Officer for the American Hunting Lease Association (AHLA). AHLA provides education and guidance to hunters and landowners who are considering a hunting lease. AHLA also publishes free articles, e-books and the American Hunting Podcast on iTunes.