The positive aspects of leasing are:
- General maintenance. I have clients with hunters on their properties that maintain roads and trails, post boundaries, bush-hog, and plant food plots, all of which add to the land’s appeal and value.
- Security. A hunt clubs presence on the property will generally keep trespassers away. One of the first things I do when working for a new client is inquire as to whether they have hunters on their property. Even if they say no, I almost always find signs of hunting—old corn piles, stands, cartridge casings, etc. So if you don’t lease, you stand a good chance have hunters anyway unless you spend a lot of time on the property.
Past problems I’ve experienced with hunters:
- A hunter ran off a buyer that had come to bid on a timber sale on the property. The hunter had been informed both by myself and the landowner that buyers would be working on that section of the tract and he had plenty of other areas to hunt. I persuaded the buyer to come back, complete his inventory, and place a bid. The buyer was the high bid, paying $20,000 more than the next highest bidder.
- Verbal abuse/harassment of contractors (foresters, graders, loggers). Most were upset because they thought the logging activity was going to ruin their hunting season (it does not).
- Hunting on adjacent landowners property. Whether a deliberate act or incompetence, this is not acceptable and a liability.
- Cutting/changing gate locks. On several occasions, I’ve had my gate locks either removed or taken out of the loop, inhibiting my access to do the work I was hired to do. Some occurrences were accidental, some not.
- Beer cans, tobacco packaging, snack wrappers, etc. strewn through the property.
- Use of ATVs in sensitive areas without proper erosion control.
- Damage to roads. Driving on woods roads when saturated, causing ruts and wallows.
Leasing your Property
In my work area, deer and turkey are the most popular seasons. Together, they comprise five to six months of the year, so it is almost a certainty that they’ll overlap with either forest management fieldwork or a timber harvest. If you manage your land for timber or crops, it is essential that you have lessees that are not going to be a thorn in your (or your contractors) side.
To head off potential problems, you should be upfront with any potential lessee letting them know:
- Your land management priorities come first. It is vital that you make this abundantly clear. I can assure you that there are quite a few hunters that think that because they have a lease, they should control every action on the land. As Barney Fife would say,”Nip it in the bud!”
- That you or your forester will be checking in from time to time to inspect the condition of the property. Even the perception of being watched will result in better behavior.
- That you can end the lease at any time.
You should always have a written lease with terms that both protect you and empower you to rid yourself of problem lessees. I recommend having an attorney review your lease document before signing. See the following sample lease.
View or download pdf document here: Sample Hunt Lease
In addition to a yearly fee, you may want to consider holding a security deposit (just like when renting a house or apartment) for added leverage and protection.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to handle the lease yourself, there are service providers (I do not) that will handle the process for you for a fee.
Hunt Lease Insurance
Before the hunt begins, make sure your lessees have purchased insurance. Hunt Lease insurance is relatively inexpensive and is a must in an activity that involves guns, ATVs, and tree climbing.
Sources for Hunt Lease Insurance:
- North Carolina Forestry Association
- South Carolina Forestry Association
- Quality Deer Management Association
- Outdoor Underwriters, Inc.
- American Hunting Lease Association
- Swamp Fox Agency
Having hunters on your property can be beneficial—just make sure you protect yourself and set clear boundaries.