Hunting & Hunt Leases
Hunting is big business. According to the latest (1996) U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, hunters spend more than $920 million annually to lease land for hunting. More than $356 million of this money is spent solely on deer hunting leases; other species hunted on leased property include waterfowl and small game such as doves, quail and rabbits.
The value of wildlife and hunting is increasing, as available hunting land is disappearing every year because of development. In many instances, finding a place to hunt is more difficult than locating the game pursued! The demand for quality hunting areas has created a market that provides incentive for rural landowners to consider hunting as alternative income. More and more landowners (especially in the South) are generating additional income by taking advantage of this situation, thus diversifying their income base.
Many landowners are in a quandary concerning what is being bought or sold in a hunting lease agreement. All wildlife is public property. Only by legally harvesting a game animal can a private citizen take possession of an animal. In a hunting lease situation, landowners provide limited access for the stated purpose of hunting game. The hunter pays for access and the hunting experience. Naturally, the value of this experience varies with each hunter with regard to upbringing, individual attitudes, past experiences and personalities.
Leases for hunting rights normally generate at least enough income to cover the cost of property taxes, and possibly much more. Reciprocation also can be in the form of volunteer labor instead of monetary payment for those who need extra help more than additional income. Additionally, many lessees agree to implement wildlife habitat improvement practices (along with other Best Management Practices) on the land leased, which can add to the value of the property. Many landowners want to manage their wildlife habitat properly, but cannot justify the cost unless they receive a financial return. Hunters can provide this financial return as well as supply equipment, materials and labor.
There are other benefits from entering into a lease agreement with hunters. A primary concern for many landowners is the problem of poaching, trespassing and vandalism. Hunters who pay for their sporting opportunities usually provide routine patrols of their hunting lands. The increased presence of paying hunters is enough to deter most poachers and trespassers. By entering into an agreement with a responsible group of hunters, landowners may alleviate worry over trespassers and damages. Also, many farmers who do not allow hunting access currently can add crop damage control to the list of benefits to be derived from a hunting lease agreement. Without question, the most effective way to control deer damage to soybean and grain crops is to increase hunting pressure, particularly on does.
Before you decide to lease, evaluate your property and other resources. Answering a few questions will allow you to assess whether or not your property is suited for a lease arrangement, how much revenue can be expected, and for which species the hunting rights should be leased.
"PB1627-Earning Additional Income Through Hunt Leases on Private Land," The University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, PB1627-2M-5/99 E12-2015-00-262-99, https://trace.tennessee.edu/utk_agexfish/2