Hunters looking for hunting leases have more ways than ever to find coveted ground to pursue trophy big game and plentiful waterfowl and upland birds. However, just because it is easy to find a lease doesn't necessarily mean that you should sign right away.
If you've hunted or fished public land before, you've probably thought about getting your own private hunting ground. The pressure on public land can lead a great number of outdoorsmen to seek out private ground to buy, though the most common approach is to lease established farm ground. Leasing a farmer or rancher's property can carry risks and responsibilities and should not be entered into lightly.
When approaching a landowner to inquire about a hunting or fishing lease, you need to have your ducks in a row. What will you be hunting? What are the seasons for that animal? What kind of equipment will you be using? Do not assume that every farmer or rancher immediately knows what all will be entailed in a "Deer Hunting Lease" or a "Duck Hunting Lease" or "Bass Fishing Lease." It is in your best interest to have all of the information about your particular desires for the lease in mind and written out before you even think about approaching someone.
Additionally, be prepared to retreat from some of the things you ask for. A rancher may not like the idea of rifles on his property between September and November while cattle still graze on the grass, while he may be open to late season hunts in January after the cows have been moved to harvested corn fields. This illustrates how important it is to be completely prepared with exactly what you are looking to do. Finding out in September that the farmer doesn't want rifles near his place may leave you without a spot to hunt.
When you sign a lease, you are looking to be the exclusive user of that property for that purpose. Your lease absolutely must reflect this. Many state's laws state that the individual who leases the property for crops or grazing also leases the hunting rights to that property and may invite guests of his choosing to hunt. Likewise, a landowner may not realize that even if you are there to deer hunt in December, that may mean his kids or grandchildren cannot duck hunt during or before that time. What does your lease say about activity on the property before the actual season that you wish to lease it for?
A common pitfall often seen in hunting leases is the failure to provide for unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances. A farmhand may not know of the existing waterfowl hunting lease and drain the pond or flooded field that the hunters planned to hunt. Who is responsible for filling the pond or field again? Was the draining a necessary action to prevent loss or damage to the farmer's crops or property? Your lease absolutely must provide for common eventualities like this that may leave your hunting property completely worthless for the whole season and give you no recourse for reimbursement.
At The Law Office of Nathaniel Gilbert, an attorney who actually hunts and fishes and understands the nuances and details special to hunting and fishing leases will review your lease or draft an entirely new lease for you and your hunting party. Call Nate Gilbert to set up an absolutely free consultation to talk about your hunting and fishing needs.
Today's farmers and ranchers are in a unique position to capitalize on the current overwhelming popularity of hunting. More hunters means less available public land for those hunters to enjoy. It won't be long before those hunters seek out private land to hunt and hold as their own private hunting area. If you own land or water features in Colorado or Kansas that you do not personally hunt (or even if you do) then you could benefit from leasing your huntable ground to a hunter or group of hunters. Before you start listing your land, there are a number of concerns that you should consider. In the following paragraphs, I'll touch on some very basic concerns that a new owner may have regarding the prospect of leasing their land. Obviously, leasing your Colorado or Kansas farm ground will require additional considerations, but these points will get you headed in the right direction.
1) Who Will Be On Your Property?
This may be the biggest concern of leasing your most valuable asset to someone. Are you leasing to an individual? Can that individual bring guests that you are not familiar with and how many at a time? Is the person leasing your land an outfitter that will be charging other people to come onto your land? These are big questions that you and your lease drafter or attorney will need to go over in detail. Leasing to outfitters or guides or companies that charge per-hunt fees to other groups is a very different situation than leasing to a father and his son or daughter. Increased traffic, unsafe conditions, and general wear and tear on your land may keep you from leasing to an outfitter company unless concessions are worked into a lease that provide for those types of considerations.
In Colorado, guides and outfitters are regulated by the Department of Regulatory Agencies which maintain records of compliance, discipline, and complaints and also requires minimum insurance for outfitters to provide. Checking these resources if a Colorado outfitter wishes to lease your ground may save you headaches from dealing with a company with a a history of complaints. This in turn, also gives you another avenue if the outfitter is found to be in breach of the lease or disrespects your property. Kansas outfitters are not regulated and can even provide guiding services on public land. While it may be a little more difficult to do your due diligence on the outfitter wishing to lease your property, it will be more than worth it should an issue arise.
Additionally, a hunter who pays a goodly sum to lease your land may not appreciate anyone else being given access to the land. Leasing your land may mean saying "no" when your nephew or granddaughter or neighbor asks to put a deer stand or duck blind on your property for the year. Even if the two parties are not hunting the same type of game, if their chances to harvest animals on the property is affected, you may be in breach of the lease and have to refund the hunter's payments.
2) What Will The Hunters Be Hunting?
This is hug for both the hunter and the landowner. Not only will this affect the time of year that your property will be accessed, but also the kinds of structures that are allowed on the property and the type of equipment used to harvest the intended game. A farmer with a smaller, 50-60 acre plot next to his house may want to allow a deer hunting lease, but prohibit any rifle or shotgun use on the property due to the proximity to house/people/livestock. This kind of restriction is not only perfectly acceptable, but very practical and popular.
Many seasons, such as waterfowl, have early seasons as well as late seasons. These early seasons, usually in September (Kansas Teal season) and October (Missouri early dark goose season), may occur during the harvest or calving times on your property. It would serve the farmer or rancher well to advise the hunters of your estimated time frames for the real work on your property before they sign the lease and even provide that kind of clause as a condition of leasing.
3) How Much Should I Charge?
Now we're getting to the real meat and potatoes. Why would you go through all this trouble unless you were certain you could make a profit or at least enough to make the hassle worth it. Unfortunately there is no easy answer. It essentially comes down to asking yourself what it's worth to you as the landowner. The price will be different depending on the amount of usage as well. An outfitter bringing clients in to the property daily will obviously pay more for a property than a group of three-four friends looking for a new spot to deer hunt a few days a year. I personally have seen small ponds leased for hunting at around $500/year and ranches of several thousand acres fetching upwards of $30-40,000.00/year just for hunting rights in Colorado.
If you think you want to lease your property, The Law Office of Nathaniel Gilbert will meet with you to discuss this new venture at your Colorado or Kansas property personally and go through the questions you may have. The lease can be a rewarding opportunity for the landowner, but must be carefully considered and well thought out before allowing any hunters onto the property. Nate Gilbert offers 100% free consultations on hunting lease drafting; Call Nate now to learn more about extracting the hidden value of wildlife on your property!