A best-case scenario for all parties involved is when hunters want to renew a lease year after year. The benefit to the landowner is that they are dealing with the same hunters and can budget for revenue at a set time each year. For the hunters, learning how best to hunt a property can sometimes take several years and it is a ton of work to move stands from one lease to another. Both parties involved benefit from a good experience. Hunters must abide by all of the specific rules stated in the lease agreement, but Landowner “Do’s and Don’ts” may not be quite as defined. Ever curious about what’s on a hunter’s “wish list”? We’ve compiled a list below.
Farming activities occur when the weather permits and crops are ready – most hunters understand that. Activities like cutting of firewood, general maintenance, and casual use of the property tend to be things that are not as tied to the weather or a specific date. For these non-farming related activities, try to do them outside of October and November, which is when most deer hunting takes place. The first half of November tends to be the most crucial time for success; property disruptions should be kept to a minimum. If that is not possible, certainly try to avoid doing them while the hunters are on the property. Give the hunters as much space as you can when they are there hunting. Doing this will greatly increase the odds that the hunters will want to renew the lease again next year.
If food plots are allowed on the lease and the landowner has tilling and planting equipment, offering to help the hunters put these in is also a very popular thing to do. Many hunters do not have this type of equipment or the ability to haul it, thus if the landowner is willing to help them, even if for an additional fee, it tends to be a good selling point for their property. Hunters may also be willing to buy an acre or two of standing crops if the landowner is willing to not harvest them. This then becomes their food plot.
Having water on the property is also becoming a very sought-after feature on a hunting lease. In many cases there is not a natural source of water on the property, so hunters will ask if they can put out small plastic-type tanks that they then fill with water. Landowners being receptive to allowing this is another plus to helping create a good hunting experience for whoever leases their property.
Notifying neighbors and previous hunters that there is a new lease on the property can be a tremendous help. Having to deal with trespassers and unauthorized hunters is one of the biggest concerns among lessees. Whatever help the landowner can provide to minimize unauthorized activity will help create a good experience for the hunters. Simply contacting neighbors and previous hunters and letting them know the property is now leased is a great first step. Don’t forget to remind them to remove their stands & gear before the season begins.
Providing the hunters with the names and phone numbers of neighbors is also helpful. Being able to track a wounded deer should it go off of the lease requires the permission of that landowner. Having this list before hunting season can help prevent unwanted issues during the season.
If changes are expected to be made to the property in some way (timber, new pipeline or well, clearing hedgerows, etc.) let the hunters know in advance so they don’t show up after a big change only to find their hunting areas are greatly impacted. Some of these events are scheduled way ahead of time (timbering, for example). Lease price can be worked out ahead of the time to adjust for the impacted areas. Setting the expectation and letting your lessees and leasing agents in on your 2 yr. – 3 yr. plan can be a big help.
Limit recreational activities at certain times of the year. If your grandson rides his ATV or motocross bike through the fields and trails every Saturday during the year, you may need to put some limitations on when or where he can ride. The same can be said for taking the dog for a walk or going on a hike. If you are not sure on timing, get feedback from the lessee or leasing agent. Mature deer do not tolerate pressure.
Open lines of communication. Stay in touch with the hunters on a timely and regular basis and share information. Feel free to contact the hunters as early as possible and introduce yourself and start setting expectations. They like hearing “I am happy you are leasing my property and I want to ensure you have a great experience”. Communicate often, especially if there is something on your mind; don’t let it fester. If the hunter has a question, try to get them an answer in a timely manner. Share information about scheduled crop harvesting or farming activity on the property if it is relevant to their hunting experience.
Doing small things to help the property lease or renew goes a long way. This could include leaving end row crops unharvested, moving cattle or sheep out of the best hunting areas during hunting season or letting hunters know of livestock movement, keeping the dog away from hunting areas, maintaining access to the woods when crops are in so hunters can get to their spot quickly & quietly, assisting with re-posting of no trespassing signs, communicating when crops will be harvested, and so on.
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