As public land becomes more and more scarce, landowners and hunters alike have come to realize the value of leasing land for the purpose of hunting. But there is a lot to educate yourself on before you dive headfirst into a land lease. These are legal, binding agreements between a private landowner (lessor) and a hunter(s) (lessee) defining regulations around the temporary use of private property. This is long-term relationship status stuff. So, it’s important to take the time to closely evaluate the details contained within such a commitment. That’s why we’re going to walk you through how hunting land leases work, so you can be prepared before you commit. Think of it as hunting leases 101.
Why Lease Private Hunting Land?
When deciding whether to hunt on public or private land, most sportsmen would choose the latter. Private land allows for more privacy and less disruption, guaranteed access to specific game, and no risk of unanticipated run-ins with other hunters, photographers or passersby. Don’t get us wrong, public land is still a great option, but with increasing hunting pressure, the case for private land is compelling. The landowner also has much to gain from leasing land to sportsmen. Depending on the length of the agreement, it can be very lucrative. Plus, if a lessor can strike up the right deal, it could lead to less property management and a healthier game population with far less work required of them.
Types of Land Leases
There are a myriad of reasons behind why a private landowner prefers the type of lease they are offering to a prospective lessee. It all depends on what kind of land they have and the services they are willing to offer. A “land lease” can mean a lot of different things, ranging from a verbal exchange of service contracts to detailed, long-term exclusive leases. But it’s important to remember, the landowner will dictate the terms based on their capabilities, so there may only be so much negotiating you can do.
Exchange of Service (Non-Fee Lease Agreements)
Generally, a lease agreement without a fee is a variation of an exchange of services, mutually benefitting both the lessee and the lessor. This type of lease could be verbal or written. Often times, a landowner is also a farmer, so hunters can help keep crops from being eaten or offer a helping hand for miscellaneous projects.Non-fee agreements can be as simple or extensive as the parties prefer. Depending on the needs of the landowner, other commonly exchanged services on the part of the hunter include repairs, establishing food plots and simple land maintenance.
Daily Land Lease (Fee-Lease Agreement)
Generally requiring less formality than other leases, daily hunting agreements are considered lower-risk since lessees are only on the land for one day at a time. The lessee will not be familiar with the land, so they will likely need things like transportation or a guide to help navigate the terrain. Those add-ons cost extra and require available time from landowners, making this a worthwhile and profitable option for owners who are up to the task. Landowners who accommodate daily leases must generally be prepared to offer additional resources to hunters.
Short-Term Hunting Land Lease (Fee-Lease Agreement)
Short-term leases are a great way to feel out whether a long-term deal is a good fit. These agreements range from a week to an entire season, and similar to daily leases, often require additional services from the landowner, such as food, overnight accommodations, or guides. Short-term leases allow landowners the option of renting to multiple parties throughout the year or the season, making this type of lease an even more lucrative path than others.
There are some great regional websites designed to help connect landowners and hunters looking to enter into short-term and even daily leases. Check out Rentahunt.com or Hunting Land Rentals By Owners.
Long-Term Hunting Land Lease (Fee-Lease Agreement)
A long-term land lease is the most common, likely because of the simplicity and low maintenance of the agreement. We call this the “one and done.” They last between one to three years and tend to be most beneficial to both the owner and the hunter since both sides are invested in the betterment of the land and its wildlife.
In these leases, it’s common for a lessee to add value to the land by building food plots, watering holes, fences or even shooting houses. Of course any alterations require the landowners approval. Building a good working relationship between owner and tenant is advantageous in a long-term lease.
Note: None of the above information is referring to high fence preserve hunting. Daily, short-term and long-term leases are personal agreements between a landowner and a hunter or group of hunters. Other guided hunting excursions referred to as outfitting require a licensed guide, whereas all guides referenced in the above lease styles refer to the landowners themselves.
Hunting leases can be daily, seasonal or long-term in length.
Lease Terms and Regulations
The finer points of a lease are trickier to sort than the simple duration. Terms will need to be clearly defined with regard to expectations and limitations, and what might constitute the termination of a lease. It will be paramount that the regulations of a lease be made clear from the beginning, and needless to say, agreed upon by both parties.
What To Include
There is a wide variety of information that could be included in a lease, so we will focus in on the most important. Firstly, as simple as this sounds, the full name of each party intended to use the land should be included in the terms of the lease, along with finite beginning and end dates. A detailed description of the property limits should be included, and if possible, a map so there is no confusion. If specific game or quantity of game allowed to be hunted is of importance to either side, that agreement should be clearly notated. Payment methods and due dates are pertinent, along with any fees associated with late payments. And finally, grounds for termination of the lease should be outlined for both the lessor and the lessee.
Other topics for consideration in your lease might be related to no-shoot zones, environmental impact, subleasing, if notice is required when the tenant is using the land, or even limitations on guests the tenant can bring onto the land. Furthermore, liability is of the utmost importance to a landowner, and all parties will need to be properly insured and have the proper permits. We recommend an attorney be consulted whenever liability is involved, as they will be your most reliable resource.
Prices May Vary
With so many types of land and options for lease durations, there is no simple formula for calculating a fair or even an average price. The good news is, most landowners want to work with you, and there are tons of agents out there lined up to help you make the right decision, from real estate agents and brokers all the way to farm managers. Plus, nowadays, it’s easy to research and compare listings online yourself. Here are some of the defining factors that we’ve found seem to steer variations in price:
- Property amenities and maturity
- Location and acreage
- Wildlife diversity and quality
- Additional services being provided (by owner or lessee)
- Exclusivity of the land
- Length of the lease
The Pros of Leasing Hunting Land
As with most things, there will be pros and cons when leasing hunting land. For a hunter, it’s easy to focus on the potential positives, like exclusivity to the land or the quality of game, or simply the ease to access land for recreation. And for a landowner, the added income of leasing land is mighty tempting, not to mention the value and population control that a hunter can bring if they’re incentivized to.
The Cons of Leasing Hunting Land
Landowners are taking a risk when making the decision to lease their land to a stranger. Every sportsman will not take as much pride in the land as an owner would, and without enforced limitations set, some lessees might overhunt wildlife or even damage the land. That’s why it’s important to research your potential tenant.
Treat them as if they are an applicant to your company – ask for references, and make sure your contract is reviewed by an attorney if the terms aren’t crystal clear. Same goes for the sportsman looking to enter into a lease. Ask an owner for previous tenant contact information, and always seek legal advice when it comes to entering into contracts. A healthy dose of skepticism is bound to serve both sides well, and a solid agreement that both parties feel comfortable with is worth the added time it takes to handle a little due diligence.
And if you find a great lessee or landowner to partner with? Hang on to them!