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Hunting Leases: An Investor's Guide


Nov 11, 2020 by Kevin Vandenboss
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We all know the value of owning real estate that's providing income or appreciating in value. But what about vacant land that doesn't seem to have any practical use or isn't in an area that makes sense for development? Paying taxes on property that's not providing a return doesn't sound like a great investment.

Maybe you already own a piece of land you don't have an immediate use for, or you've come across a cheap vacant property that doesn't seem usable because it's low, wet, and/or not buildable. These properties might actually be great for hunting, and a lot of hunters may be willing to pay to use it.

What is a hunting lease?

A hunting lease gives someone the exclusive right to hunt on a piece of land in exchange for compensation. This type of lease only provides limited rights to the land. While hunters are typically allowed to put up tree stands, blinds, and feeders, they're not allowed to alter the property, build any structures, or use the land for any other purpose.

A lot of hunters don't have their own land to use, and many others want to be able to hunt in different locations. Public land isn't always ideal, because several hunters are often roaming the same area at the same time. Not only does this mean many people are after the same animals, reducing the chances of success, but it also causes a huge safety risk.

Types of hunting leases

Not all hunting leases are the same. The hunting rights a landowner gives can vary depending on whether they hunt themselves, have other uses for the land at different times of the year, and what hunters are looking for.

Common types of hunting leases include:

Annual hunting lease

Some leases give hunters access to the land for all hunting seasons throughout the year. This is more common on land with features that attract multiple species of wildlife over different seasons. The hunter may use the property during deer season and then return for duck season.

Seasonal lease

Some leases only cover certain hunting seasons. The land might only be home to certain species, the property owner might hunt during certain times of the year themselves, or the land might have other uses at different times of the year. For instance, the owner might lease the land to a farmer during the spring and summer months and offer hunting leases after harvest. The owner might even use the land as a vacation spot during summer or winter months.

Short-term lease

In many cases, the property owner might lease the land daily, weekly, or monthly. This is common if the owner hunts the same seasons or if the land is in an area with high demand that people travel to specifically for hunting.

Species-specific lease

A property owner may choose to only allow people to hunt certain species on their land. Many hunting seasons overlap, so the hunter may be limited to what they're able to hunt even on a seasonal lease. The owner may want to reserve certain types of game for themselves. They also might want to limit hunting to small game and birds during certain years to allow the deer population on the property to grow, for example. Hunters are typically willing to pay more for a lease on a property where there is a healthy population of larger deer.

What land can be leased for hunting?

Not all land is suitable for hunting leases. The No. 1 thing to consider before offering to lease your land or investing in land for hunting leases are local laws and ordinances. Hunting isn't allowed in certain areas, and there are often requirements on the minimum size of the property and how far away hunters have to be from roads and houses.

You always want to make sure the land is even suitable for hunting. You'll have a hard time getting anyone to lease your land if the types of animals they're hunting are rarely seen there. If you do, they probably won't be very happy.

Most wildlife are attracted to areas with spots of thick brush for cover and plants that will provide food, as well as areas away from a lot of noise. Land with a water source, such as a river, stream, pond, or marsh, will typically attract several types of animals. Farmland also attracts a lot of wildlife, especially deer.

If you own land that doesn't currently have much wildlife, you may be able to make simple improvements to attract more animals. Planting fruit trees and bushes can go a long way to getting animals to visit. You can also look at what types of native plants in your area provide a good food source. If it's feasible, you can also add a water source.

Income from hunting leases

So how much can you actually make from a hunting lease? Hunters often pay a considerable amount of money for prime hunting land. While some owners make enough to cover their property taxes for the year, others can earn a considerable profit, depending on what they paid for the land. Lease rates for hunting land varies by location and the types of animals found on the property.

On the low end, an annual lease for a property limited to deer and small game may have a rate of around $20 per acre. Land for duck hunting can generate a significant amount more, with hunters paying as much as $400 to $500 per acre.

Is hunting land a good investment?

Like any real estate investment, it depends on your long-term goals and if you get the right deal. Paying $2,000 per acre for land that's going to generate $20 per acre in annual revenue isn't an exciting investment on its own. However, if you see future potential in that land, leasing it for hunting could be a great way to cover the expenses while you wait for appreciation or the opportunity to develop it.

On the other hand, paying $2,000 per acre for land that will generate $500 per acre in revenue could be an amazing investment. Hunting leases have the potential to be profitable if you buy the right land at the right price. Do your research on the most popular locations for hunting, what people are paying to lease land in those areas, and learn how the laws work. If you know what you're looking for, you may be able to spot a great investment opportunity.

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