Hunting has a strong heritage and presents both opportunities and problems for today's forest landowner. As "parcelization" reduces the number of sites for hunters, landowners are often faced with numerous requests for permission to hunt as well as trespass problems. Demand for a quality hunting experience has increased such that many hunters are willing to pay for exclusive hunting rights. A hunting lease can provide income and access control for the landowner.
Although some landowners have been leasing hunting rights for years, there is no formal market for leases, and it is difficult to determine how much land is being leased. Average corporate hunting lease prices for ten southern states range from $1.08 to $1.90 per acre per year. Many timber companies have more requests for leases than can be accommodated.
In the past, hunting clubs were interested only in larger parcels of land (1,000 acres or more), but as demand and prices increased, smaller tracts have become more attractive. Tracts as small as 100 acres are currently being leased and may provide significant income to the landowner. In many situations, a lease of $2/acre/year can add 15 to 20 percent to the net present value of timber investments.
Lease hunting may not be beneficial to all landowners. Before entering into a hunting lease, landowners are advised to consider potential conflicts with other uses of the land and what their personal liability might be.
The lease agreement should be viewed as a partnership for long-term management of wildlife resources. The landowners' long-term interest may best be served by a lower lease fee that will accommodate lessee longevity and the welfare of the wildlife resource. Consult with state wildlife biologists for current lease fees in your locality.
The lease agreement protects the rights of both the landowner and the hunters and should detail:
Most hunting clubs are interested in a long-term arrangement that guarantees them a place to hunt. Leases are usually renewed annually and should contain provisions giving the hunting club rights of first refusal if the lessor wishes to change lease conditions, especially the lease fee.
The lease agreement should also identify prohibited activities, such as:
A properly prepared lease agreement will prevent most conflicts between landowners and hunters. When entering into a legal binding agreement, an attorney should be consulted.
Income from private forestland can be supplemented by hunting leases. Since lease prices are often tied to game abundance, landowners should consider wildlife habitat enhancement in timber management plans. Maintaining wildlife populations on intensively managed timberlands demands protection of critical habitats and satisfying the needs of each species. As the demand for quality recreational opportunities increases, proper management of valuable wildlife resources will become more imperative.
Hunters who invest in a lease will help guard against vandalism and unauthorized access. Meanwhile, relatively simple forest management strategy can improve forage and favorable habitat for desired species of wildlife.