I Am A Landowner
The earliest known hunting leases began to appear in the 1930s in Texas. Large landowners realized the significant income that could be made by allowing sportsmen to hunt and trap on their ranches. This concept quickly spread through the south and southeast, where large tracts of land were owned by foresters and industrial corporations. Hunters also realized the positive effect hunting private ground afforded them.
Today the hunting lease arrangement is a way of life for outdoorsmen and women throughout the south and southeast as hunt clubs lease large tracts of standing timber to pursue all types of wild game. Over the last 20 years, landowners and hunters in the Midwest and the rest of the country have learned just how beneficial the hunting lease can be for everyone involved. The hunting lease has become the most popular method to access quality wildlife habitat available.
How Does A Hunting Lease Work?
A hunting lease is a simple agreement between a landowner and hunter or a group of hunters. In exchange for a fee, the hunters are granted access to the property for hunting and/or recreational rights. What makes the hunting lease so attractive to landowners is that they establish the rules and set the limits of the lease. A good example would be a landowner that only wants hunters to hunt whitetail deer with a bow. The landowner can then add that limit in the written lease, effectively not allowing firearms to be used. Landowners need to keep in mind that by limiting the opportunities to hunters, they may affect the value (price hunters are willing to pay) of their lease.
An arrangement that will make both hunters and landowners happy must have two components. The first is a written lease agreement. Anything less than a written document, signed by all parties, leaves too much room for confusion and eventually a poor relationship. The lease agreement provided to AHLA customers is a state-of-the-art template that can be customized to fit any landowner’s needs. It has served as the industry standard for private landowners and leasing companies for several years.
The second “must have” component is a hunting lease liability insurance policy. Without a proper liability policy, you simply put too much at risk. When you invite hunters onto your property, whether for free or a fee, you assume some responsibility for their safety. A hunter that falls into an abandoned cistern/well breaking a leg, may claim he wasn’t informed of the hazard and seek compensation.
A good hunting lease liability policy will protect you against these types of claims. The AHLA, unlike other companies, requires that all landowners are listed as “Additional Insureds” for your protection. In most cases, a landowner will either require the hunters to provide a policy, or simply make the purchase themselves and pass the cost onto the hunters. IMPORTANT: Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover hunters or guests that have paid a fee to hunt.
Does a Hunting Lease Make Sense for you?
The decision to allow hunters access to your property or farm shouldn’t be made without serious consideration and some good research. Although there are some inherent risks when hunters use your property, the benefits of a well-executed lease are just too many to ignore. The first and most obvious benefit is the added income that a lease provides. Typically, landowners are unaware of the significant money that hunting rights can provide. If your land has abundant wildlife, some standing timber and good access, rest assured there are hunters and sportsman willing to pay for the hunting rights. Market values fluctuate across the country based on several factors such as game available, length of the lease, accessible crop fields and hunter limits.
A professional leasing company can be instrumental in providing you with a safe and professional experience. Most companies have local agents that can survey your property and recommend a fair asking price. Like any other service, a professional company can provide many benefits like marketing your property to hunters to providing all of the paperwork and insurance. Again, like any other type of service company, a professional hunting lease broker will typically collect a commission percentage once the property is leased.
If you decide to use a leasing company, be sure to look for the American Hunting Lease Association Certified Associate logo on their homepage. By displaying our logo, you as a client can feel confident that you are working with a reputable company with a trusted track record.
How to Prepare and Market Your Property
You may decide that you don’t want to use a professional leasing broker to promote your property and/or handle the paperwork. Marketing your own property certainly gives you more control and can be a fairly simple process.
Preparing your property is easier than it sounds. In fact, most hunters would prefer that the property is as “untouched” as possible. However, there are safety concerns that must be addressed. A simple but thorough walk around your own ground should reveal any safety hazards that hunters and guests need to be aware of. These hazards should be added to the lease agreement signed by each hunter and the landowner.
As hunters have embraced hunting leases, most landowners don’t have much of a problem finding hunters. Listing your property on Craigslist or taking out a small classified ad in a local paper usually will generate more than enough phone calls to find the right group of hunters. When you create your ad, make sure to include the high points of your property. The acreage and amount of timber vs cropland is good to include.
You should also include a couple of pictures of the land and the price you are charging. IMPORTANT: Do not include the address or the specific location of the property. The ad should be designed to generate phone calls or emails to you, so that you can properly interview prospective hunters. Once you have approved, you can grant them access to inspect your property so they can decide if they are interested.
Once you have found the right hunters, all that is left is to create a lease agreement and purchase your hunting lease liability policy. The AHLA proudly provides both of these components to landowners at a very affordable rate.