How Does Leasing Work?
How does the hunting Lease work? What is a hunting Lease? What's the true definition of it? It's simple. It's just an agreement between a landowner and a group of hunters or hunter. Down south, where they have all those thousands of acres, they have big hunt clubs. They might have 150 members in a Hunt club and that club leases 15,000 acres, that's how that works. That's how it got started. We talk to people from Louisiana and Alabama all the time, and we've had conversations where we say, “Well, people up in the Midwest aren't quite into leasing” and they're shocked. Well how do they hunt? If they don't Lease, how do they hunt? It makes no sense to them. A lot of them down south have had that lease or they've been in that Hunt club for generations. Their great grandfather started the Hunt Club and those clubs typically have dues and by-laws for the larger ones. In the Midwest or out East, you have four or five guys on a lease, and they are considered a hunt club. They're not a club that has bylaws. You don't have to have all that stuff, but in the industry, we refer to you as a hunt club.
A hunting lease is simply an agreement between a landowner and a hunter or a group of hunters for access to the property. It's just access to the property. There are people who do it on the back of a napkin. There are people who do it on a handshake. There typically has to be some compensation, of course, in an agreement like this. But that has to be worked out between you guys. That's why we provide the secret to hunting private land so that you can work out the deal with the landowner, you approach him. But tell them “I understand your situation. I want to take care of it. What can we do?” And then, of course, with the lease, we recommend two things. The insurance policy or a lease agreement. The lease agreement is the big one. Paramount. It really is. That lays out the expectations of the landowner and of the hunter.
I’ve talked a lot about how the entire relationship between hunters and landowners needs to be based on communication, and that's where that lease agreement comes in. That serves as the centerpiece of your communication. It sets expectations for both parties. There's no confusion, and it just makes the whole experience just so much cleaner and more enjoyable for everybody. And then there's things like ATV use. On our Indiana Lease it says “no ATV use while crops are in.” Fair enough. Our crops are still in. I have a new ATV. I'm dying to get it out there, but that's okay. That's what the landowner wanted so that's what the landowner is going to get.
Also, in the agreement should be the term of the lease. I recommend a full year. I want a traditional annual hunting lease because I want to do all those things for my money. I want to run trail cameras and I want to turkey hunt. squirrel hunt. If I want to, waterfowl hunt, I like to shed hunt in February or March. All those types of things. I like that. I understand the industry is going towards maybe seasons or monthly. And I can understand that if you're agreeable to it is a hunter or hunt club, do that. I prefer an annual lease though. It just allows us the opportunity to nurture the property the way we want. Then, if we have the first right of renewal the following year, we know all the work that we've put in previously is going to roll over into the next year. And that's a great win, and that needs to be in the agreement. It needs to say “I have first right of refusal.” I don't plant food plots for three or four years and then have somebody else show up with a little more money and try and outbid me, right? I don't want that to happen, so it has to be in the lease agreement that it's exclusive access for me. I don't want to show up and see your nephew in my tree stand. That's not good.
Leasing has been established in the South. They're used to it. We're now getting more accustomed to it here in the Midwest. Why would hunters choose to lease? In my case, I don't have grandparents that own land. I don't have a reasonable expectation to own 200-300 acres in my lifetime. I just don't. I lease so I can actually hunt on ground as if it were mine. I can manage the game. I can pass on deer and hope they're around next year. I can hang stands where I want, when I want. I can hunt where I want, when I want. I can control or manage that farm as if I owned it. You know, on both sides, I also take care of it like I own it. I don’t leave trash. I take care of it. So that's why I think Hunter's choose to lease. If you're not going to own land, and I don't want to hunt on public land all the time, leasing is the best option. We've mentioned that we've hunted public land, and I still do. But I want a farm that I could go to that is safe because I know when I get there, I'm not going to get walked in on or I shouldn't. This is real life so that happens. It happened to us 2 years ago. That was somewhat understandable, but they didn't know that it had been leased. They only show up on opening day of gun season and it’s the only time they're there, and they've been hunting there for five to ten years. That's unfortunate for them, but there were still people hunting it. If you're about to say ”you see that's what we're talking about. You denied access.” No, I denied their access. There are still people hunting it. It’s still being accessed. That farm is still being hunted, but now the landowner is recouping some of those operational costs. Which is a good thing.