by Chris Larsen
If you own great property or know someone who has superb hunting property and is willing to allow you access for free, congratulations. You, my friend, have got it made. But for most of us, hunting is done on public land. Hunting public land can be quite good in some areas but often times it is frustrating. Your faced with crowding issues, safety concerns, and the continuation of the rat race you’re trying to escape. But there is another way. More and more hunters are choosing to lease hunting property.
Leasing property has a multitude of advantages. First and foremost, it’s much cheaper than purchasing your own hunting land. You can build permanent stands and leave portable stands up throughout the season. A lease allows you to truly manage the wildlife on the land with practices like food plots, quality deer management, property harvest limits, and creating refuges within the property.
Sounds great, right? It’s not all milk and honey. Even though the price is far less than a purchase, leasing property can still be expensive. Expect to pay anywhere from $4 or $5 per acre to as much as $40 to $50 per acre depending on a variety of variables. If your lease is near a major city, in an area known for great hunting, or in a state with very little prime habitat, you will be paying a premium.
You can offset some of the costs by forming a group. But remember, the more people you add to your group, the closer the experience will feel like public hunting grounds. The last thing you want is to secure a great property only to be crowded out of your own lease. If you know someone who loves turkey hunting but spends deer season somewhere else, this could be a great person to be part of the group. He can absorb some of the costs but won’t be on site during the high pressure portion of the lease. Start with the smallest group possible and if you want to add on another person, it will be easier than getting rid of someone.
Another benefit to forming a group is shared work. Planting food plots and setting stands takes time, work, and money. These chores can be split among the group. It is important to set dates and costs before forming the group. If two guys want to plant food plots and manage the property and the other guy just wants to hunt in privacy, a conflict could develop. If everyone enters the agreement with an understanding of expectations, all members of the group will enjoy the experience.
After you’ve set a budget and formed a group(if needed), it’s time to find the property. You may already know of property you are interested in. In that case, the search is easy. If not, start making calls or knocking on doors in the area you would like to lease. A plat book can be invaluable. Couple the plat book with sites like Google Earth and you can literally get a snap shot of what your prospective hunting property looks like. Leases are also advertised on hunting websites and in publications. If you’re still struggling or looking to lease outside your immediate area, a leasing service or real estate agent may be able to help you out. There are several of them online.
Once you find the land you are looking for and come to an agreement with the landowner, it’s time for the legalese. Yep, that’s right… a contract. Without a contract your agreement is just that, an agreement. With thousands of dollars being exchanged, a contract makes sure both the lessee and the landowner have their expectations met. Don’t worry you don’t need to hire a lawyer. Templates for these types of leases are easy to find online. Within the contract be sure to detail how much you will pay, how much of the property can be utilized and when, how many people are allowed on the property, if camping and/or storage is permitted, and if other people will be permitted to hunt the property. Another thing to consider is a long term lease. With all the work required to secure and maintain a good lease, you don’t want to lose it on a whim. A three or four year lease with small, incremental compensation increases will keep both sides satisfied.
Leasing hunting property can be a rewarding but daunting project. It offers many of the advantages of ownership without the pitfalls. If you decide you don’t like hunting an area, you can simply lease land somewhere else after your agreement ends. But even the positives come with responsibility. If you think leasing is right for you, give it a try. You may experience the best hunting of your life.