Landowner's Guide to Leasing Your Hunting Land
Hunting Leases | Why You Should Consider Leasing Your Hunting Land
Maybe having a chunk of land to call your own was always one of your long-term hunting goals. Maybe you inherited a family farm from one of your parents. Or maybe you’re buying land to lease for hunting specifically as an investment strategy. Regardless of which group you fall into, there are plenty of benefits to leasing a hunting property out to others. We know what you’re thinking – why would you consider leasing your hunting land if you bought it specifically for hunting or to enjoy yourself?
The simplest reason is that owning land is expensive, especially if you’re on your own. After you consider buying it, paying taxes, and the time and money you sink into maintaining or developing it, it can be very hard on the bank account. Selling hunting leases is one way to recoup that money. The profits could then be further sunk into the property to increase its value, used to buy new farm or hunting equipment, or used to pay the taxes each year. When it comes to why you should consider leasing your hunting land, that’s usually more than enough for most people.
But in most cases, you can’t use every square inch of your property anyway. Let’s say that 40% of your land is tillable, but you have no time, ability, or interest to actually plant crops. That’s a tremendous waste of land and income potential. A farmer down the road is probably looking for a farm land lease to increase their production. And most deer hunters are also looking for farmland to lease for hunting, since agricultural fields are a tremendous draw for deer and hunting could mean an increase in revenue for a farmer. Or maybe you’re an absentee landowner who rarely gets to visit. That’s an invitation for poaching, trespassing, and illegal activities to occur. But when someone buys a hunting lease, they will generally spend much more time there, whether it’s for scouting, planting food plots, or just keeping trail cameras running. These are just a few of the benefits of leasing your hunting land out. Now let’s dive into some of the things you should consider before you decide to take this path.
Take an Honest Look at Your Property
There are several things that will influence land leasing prices in your area and for your specific property. Take a look through these different items as you’re determining if your land is suitable for a hunting lease.
Size and Location
The top two things to consider when leasing your hunting land are heavily related. The overall size of the property and its location will greatly determine how much you can lease it for and how attractive it is. A larger property will always lease for more money and garner more interest from people – if it’s in the right location. If the location isn’t the best for hunting, the price you can get drops. For a deer hunting example, a 20 acre chunk of scrub land will not interest people as much (and therefore will not lease for as much money) as a 200 acre parcel of prime Iowa hunting land. Makes sense, right? But on the flip side, 20 acres of high quality hunting land in Illinois may demand a higher lease price than even 200 acres of Florida swampland. The simple fact is that Illinois hunting leases will produce bigger deer (with larger antlers) than a Florida swamp buck. The genetic potential and the abundant resources in the Midwest are superior to the southeast. The hunting lease cost per acre for high quality deer hunting states like Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and Texas will almost always be more than leases in other states (e.g., Louisiana, Tennessee, Indiana, etc.) because of that known potential. Keep that in mind when you’re putting up hunting land for lease. If you market it the right way (see the section below), you can still do pretty well.
Related to size is how many people you think you could support on the property when leasing your hunting land. If you try to let a dozen hunters use a 20 acre parcel, it will eventually drive them away from you and cause your prices to drop. Yet while some people can afford to lease a 1,000 acre property, it might make more sense to divide larger properties into smaller lease units to be more accessible, depending on how attractive your location is. In high quality areas dominated by private land, you can usually charge higher prices because they are inaccessible to most people. But if your property is surrounded by lots of public land, the need to access your specific property becomes less important, which means the price will have to drop.
As mentioned, another important thing to consider is the quality of your property for a certain goal. If you’re going to market your land as a deer hunting lease opportunity, how well does it support deer? Is there adequate habitat to provide daytime security cover and winter thermal cover for a deer herd? Is there enough native browse, agricultural fields, and food plots to feed them throughout the year? Are there natural water sources or manmade ponds? Is there good access to your property or is it landlocked so that one would have to backpack across public land to get there? Lower quality properties will fetch a smaller price per acre when you’re leasing your land for hunting than truly high quality ones. Meanwhile, high quality land in the right location can fetch premium lease fees.
Neighboring Land Owners
An often neglected issue with leasing your hunting land actually involves your neighbors. There are two ways to look at this topic. Look at their existing land use and the habitat quality on their properties as well. If the quality of the land surrounding you is low, your high quality habitat might attract lessees who believe that it will draw wildlife to your property alone. On the other hand, if the quality is low around your property, it limits the potential abundance and quality of the wildlife as well. So even though it attracts more wildlife, the bar will be set lower. Similarly, if there are plenty of other hunting leases in your area, you should look for comparable properties to gauge how much you could charge per acre for your hunting lease.
Species and Seasons
Getting back to one of the first points above, why would you consider leasing your hunting land if you’re a hunter? Let’s imagine you’re a passionate deer hunter and spend most of the rut in a tree stand on your property. But you don’t trap furbearers in the winter, hunt turkeys in the spring, forage for morels, shoot hogs and predators, set up blinds for ducks or other waterfowl, etc. These are all opportunities to lease your hunting land with very few (if any) negative impacts to your deer hunting efforts in the fall. As a landowner, you can choose which terms to include in your hunting lease agreement, so you have the control in how hunters use your land. Knowing what your priorities are can help you decide how and when you should lease your land.
How to Prepare Land for a Hunting Lease
After you’ve really reviewed your property for the things mentioned above, it’s time to get ready for leasing your hunting land. To increase the attractiveness and quality of your parcel, take some time to clean it up or make any improvements. For example, maybe there’s that old junk pile that’s been sitting there since your great-grandparents owned the property. Take some time to remove it. Maybe a bridge across a creek is getting a little rickety – get some new lumber and replace it. Have any dead trees leaning towards your cabin? Take them down now. Liability is something you need to take responsibility for, so the safer you can make your property, the less you have to worry about on the back end.
Also, make sure you clearly mark the boundaries of your land. If you’re not even sure anymore exactly where they are, you can have a surveyor come out to help you. An important part of leasing your hunting land is also making others aware it is off-limits. As mentioned above, poaching and trespassing can be real problems on properties across the country. Buy some no-trespassing signs and clearly mark your property from any public roadway. The laws vary by state, but usually this means you should have a sign every so many yards from each other.
Finally, take lots of pictures of your property as you’re out doing these various checks. High quality pictures will make a property much more attractive to would-be lessees than properties without them. Get pictures of everything out there – you’ll be grateful you did later. Then pull up some aerial photos and roughly calculate the breakdown of your habitat types and topography. For example, maybe your farm is 30% low (wet) shrubland, 40% tillable fields, and 30% mature upland forest. This breakdown will also be a critical detail for someone as they’re reviewing hunting lease classifieds.
Marketing for Hunting Leases
Next, it’s time to start marketing your property. Review comparable properties in your area or region and use those prices as a starting point for pricing out a hunting lease. Then pull all the details about your property into one place, listing out the following things: acreage, price, habitat breakdown, current use, wildlife abundance, improvements to the property, neighboring landowners, any special terms you have, and pictures.
As mentioned above, it’s all about how you market your property. If you think your land truly stands out from other comparable properties in your area, you can charge more for it, but you need to provide some solid reasons. Proof of big deer potential on the property (through trail camera pictures and harvest photos) is a good technique. Discussing all the food plots, trail systems, and existing tree stand locations is another good tactic to interest serious hunters. On the other hand, if your property is lacking all of these, you can still market it for its potential. Give the lessee more freedom to shape the property themselves (with your approval, of course) through timber stand improvement projects, shrub planting, or food plots, and you will still find hunters who are looking for exactly that opportunity.
Legal Agreements and Insurance
Finally, you can list your property online through a hunting lease company, in newspapers, or using our LeaseSpotter program to get exposure to far more hunters than you’d likely be able to otherwise. After your property is listed and you start generating leads, it’s time to interview them via the phone or email first and see if you think it might be worth meeting them. Remember that the process of leasing your hunting land is definitely an interview. You need to decide if you trust them enough to use your own property, and that can be a leap for some people. If you think it might work, walk the property with them and see if it’s something they want to pursue further. If you both agree, it’s time to draft up an agreement and buy some hunting lease liability insurance.
At AHLA, you can create and print a customizable, legally defensible hunting lease agreement very quickly and for only $25. This hunting land lease form lists the terms of your agreement, including details about your property and how and when the lessee can use it.
Get your Hunting Lease Agreement Today - https://ahuntinglease.org/hunting-lease-agreement
Along with the agreement, you should also buy some hunting lease insurance. Why? Common law and even lease agreements don’t fully protect you from all concerns. But buying our specific hunting lease liability insurance legally protects you and the hunter from liability concerns, plus it helps a prospective lessee feel better about the commitment. Letting someone onto your property is a little scary. This takes the risk and liability off you so you can feel better about your new side gig earning lease fees as a landowner.
Start Leasing Your Hunting Land
As you start the process of leasing your hunting land, it can feel a little overwhelming. After all, there are tons of hunting properties out there already and you might start to wonder, “Are hunting leases worth it?” But now that you know how to lease your land for hunting the right way, we hope the mystery has been solved for you. It’s a win-win for the landowner and hunter. You get to collect lease fees for land you might not otherwise fully utilize, and the hunter gets to enjoy a hunting property they otherwise couldn’t afford. As long as you protect yourself with an agreement and insurance, there’s nothing to lose.
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