Will Hunters Pay to Lease Your Land?
By Anne Petry
In Texas, there is very little public land so hunters often turn to leasing. Bill Cark, who lives Beaumont, Texas, might be typical. He and a group of friends, all avid hunters, lease hunting rights on a 2,000-acre ranch in southern Texas each year. They need that much space because the country is so dry it can only support a few cattle and deer per square mile. It’s hard to believe but Clark and his friends pay the rancher $10 per acre, or $20,000 total, for the year.
In Minnesota, we have millions of acres of public land so hunters would not be willing to lease land like they do it Texas, right? Wrong!
Since my family doesn’t hunt, we looked into leasing our land to hunters 14 years ago. A simple ad in Outdoor News resulted in an inquiry from Tom and Mark, friends who are avid bow hunters. They leased hunting rights on 160 acres that first year and have renewed every year since. The lease rate started out at $10 per acre and, with periodic increases, is now at $12. I imagine a landowner could get more per acre for a 40-acre parcel and more yet for 20 acres.
Why would hunters like Tom and Mark be willing to pay for a place to hunt, particularly when we have state land on two sides of us? With exclusive right to the land for hunting purposes, Tom and Mark can enjoy the season from start to finish. During the summer they plant food plots and then install trail cameras monitor usage. They enjoy watching photos of bucks developing over the summer and even from year to year. During the hunting season, they practice Quality Deer Management by letting the young bucks go and harvesting either a big buck or antlerless deer. The number of deer harvested is not a big concern; it’s the season-long experience they enjoy.
Our lease is for the 12-month calendar year. This allows Tom and Mark to plant food plots, do early season scouting and just enjoy their portable cabin. If you are thinking of leasing to turkey hunters, the dates and duration of a lease might be more complicated since it is not certain they will get permits to hunt.
During the first couple of years of leasing, the cost of insurance was nearly a deal-breaker at first. Since the hunters were paying us, we needed a special liability policy that cost nearly $1,000. Then we heard about a policy available through the National Woodland Owners Association. We actually purchased the combined coverage for Woodland Liability and Hunting Lease Liability at a cost of 210 plus a required $45 membership in the association.
About the only other cost we have had was the fee paid to an attorney the first year to draw up a simple lease agreement. As Tom and Mark renew each year, we simply change the dates on the original agreement.
For ideas on what should be included in a hunting lease, there is helpful information on Alabama Cooperative Extension System web site.
The benefits of our leasing arrangement go beyond the money. For one, we have found Tom and Mark to be even more appreciative of the hunting experience than the friends and relatives who used to hunt our land. Whereas the friends and relatives seldom showed up when there was work to be done, Tom & Mark have spent many hours helping with chores like picking rocks on the small fields, as shown here, and cutting trail-blocking trees. In general, they care for and watch over the land as if it were theirs.