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Hunting & FishingOwning Land

Landowner’s Guide to Hunting Leases

February 19, 2019

There are many benefits to having a hunting lease on one’s property. The most obvious is for generating revenue to help pay for taxes. But beyond that, there are many other reasons someone should consider allowing a lease.

Hunters want to hunt on good land, so any improvements they make to your property such as adding gates or keeping up the roads will benefit a landowner as well. Many contracts require hunting clubs pay liability insurance for both themselves and the landowner. This is just one less cost that he or she doesn’t have to pay for. Another added benefit is security of the property. Hunting club members are known for being good at keeping people off an owner’s property, even to a fault. I have been interrogated countless times by members while on a property. They will keep a watchful eye on the land to make sure no one else is on the land they paid to hunt on.

After deciding to allow a hunting lease, there are many things to keep in mind in order for it to operate smoothly. I would say that the most important thing when making a lease is to have a well-written contract. A good contract will save a landowner from many future struggles. Along with that, enforcing the contract is just as important too. A landowner should have clearly defined rules and regulations and follow through with the repercussions when a breach of contract is committed. Having all of this written out well in the contract will make it easier when something actually does happen.

Aside from the contract, there are other good things that the lessor can do to run efficiently. The landowner should screen the people leasing, ensuring that he or she has quality, trustworthy people on their land. A background check or reference couldn’t hurt either. Going along with this, it might not be a bad idea to consider leasing to people in the local area. Oftentimes, conflict can occur when people from far off are coming into the land to hunt. Good communication with the lessee is important, as well as having a list of all members and their contact information. It makes sense to allow members to have meaningful food plots, over ½ an acre at least. It’s better to have fewer large, well-done food plots than many small unproductive ones.

Administratively, there are a few things that a landowner can do too. He or she should make sure that all of the property lines on the tract are well marked to avoid conflicts with neighboring lands. Also, the landowner should conduct an annual inspection before and after each hunting season to make sure things are up to par. Finally, a good idea is to have collection for dues during the off season and at the end of the year. For example, I request that money is due on July 1st. This ensures that the landowner has time to find other members or lessees before hunting season begins.

What Not to Do

So far, I’ve talked about things that a landowner should do for a hunting lease, but now I will talk about a few things that he or she shouldn’t do. Following the same example as above, one of the most important things is to not have a verbal contract. Everything should be clearly written down to avoid future squabbles.

Another important thing is to not allow hunters to hunt until they have paid, no exceptions. From a management standpoint, don’t allow more hunters in the club than the land could support. All this does is anger members and hurt the harvest population.

Another thing that a landowner can do to upset hunting club members is allowing friends and family to hunt on the property for free. The lessees pay for that right so landowners shouldn’t infringe on it. Sometimes, members might ask to do favors for the property, such as putting in a culvert, etc., for a reduced leasing price. I would caution a landowner on bartering like this as it can lead to a slippery slope in the future.

Finally, one last important thing is that a landowner should not allow members to do dangerous activities on the property. This is pretty broad, but there are many examples of this. Burning should not be done unless arranged by the landowner and conducted by a burn manager. I have seen things such as log crossings or rope swings across rivers in order to get from one side to another. This is an injury waiting to happen. Another dangerous thing is having a simple cable acting as a gate to a property. This can be unseen and hazardous late at night. All barriers and entrances should be easily visible and reinforced with reflectors.

Having a hunting lease on a property can be a very beneficial thing, but there are many important things to consider before creating one. Having a good contract can protect the landowner from many situations in the future. And being smart and treating lessees with respect can go a very long way towards creating an environment that is beneficial to both parties.

About the Author
Mark Anderson has an extensive background in forestry and land management with 34+ years experience as a forester and 10 years in real estate a federal, municipal, and private client level. With Mark’s unique background, he is able to guide clients and families through the often difficult decision of when, how, and where to purchase or sell real estate properties. Mark worked for the U. S. Forest Service for 13 years on National Forests throughout Mississippi, where he practiced a holistic approach to combining wildlife, fire, recreation, and timber production into overall land management. In addition, Mark spent eight years employed by the City of Hattiesburg, MS, to direct the Urban Forestry Program and work with builders and developers by integrating smart land development with urban natural resources. From 1998 to present, Mark has been a private client forestry consultant, managing timberlands for individuals, family estates, and institutions. Mark’s formal educational background includes receiving a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management, Mississippi State University in 1986, and an Associate’s degree from Pearl River community College in 1982. Mark graduated from Forrest County Agricultural High School, and while working with the U.S. Forest Service, he completed the Program of Advanced Studies of Silviculture, at Clemson University, West Virginia University and Syracuse-University of New York. Other qualifications and relevant membership include being a member of the Mississippi Forestry Association, Forrest-Lamar County Forestry Association, member of the Mississippi State University Forestry Advisory Board, USM Lake Thoreau Education Center Advisory Board, and Piney Woods Chapter of the Land Trust for the MS Coastal Plain. Mark is a MS Registered Forester, and a Mississippi licensed Real Estate broker. Mark, wife Lori, and their children, Luke, Sarah, and John Mark reside in the Hattiesburg, MS, area. View Mark's Listings and Reviews on NationalLand.com