Let’s face facts; the popularity of Whitetail hunting has not been such a good thing for the average deer hunter when it comes to land access. The long standing tradition of simply asking neighbors and farmers for permission to hunt is almost extinct thanks to the hunting industry driving up the value of hunting property. However, be it good or bad, we hunters have to adapt if we want to continue pursuing our version of organic grocery shopping. One popular and somewhat affordable way to overcome the lack of familiar hunting ground is to lease your own private property. If you think finding a lease is a daunting process, chances are good that you are over thinking it, and here are some tips to get you on the path to having your own hunting paradise.
Think long term.
The most important first step is to figure out what you can afford on an annual basis. Find a hard number that you can count on having available to you every year. Having a hunting lease is a great opportunity, but it can be an even greater opportunity if you can afford to retain the lease for multiple years. This will allow you to go from simply having a private place to hunt, to actually managing the deer herd to produce high quality deer year after year. There is nothing more rewarding than to watch the growth process of individual deer, or having your own group of trophy bucks to choose from. So, if you want to get the most out of your leasing experience, be realistic about your budget so you won’t be disappointed by losing a lease because you couldn’t pay for it.
Where to start?
There are two options for obtaining a lease, finding one on your own or paying a professional lease service to find one for you. Lease brokering is a specialized service and there are more organizations doing it than you might imagine. Like everything on the internet, make sure you check references and ask about hidden fees and fine print. One important service that some reputable brokers offer is an insurance policy that protects you and the landowner. Give them a look if you are interested.
When it comes to finding your own lease, don’t waste time and energy. Go straight to the local sporting goods stores and ask around, look at bulletin boards, and put up your own flier that states what you are looking for. Then go to local game processors and taxidermists, and tell them what you are looking for. Don’t forget to leave your contact info. Meat cutters and taxidermists are some of the most under-utilized resources in the hunting community. They know more secrets than a local priest.
After you have put your finger in all the local hot spot pies, move on to getting even more aggressive. Put an ad in local papers. Almost every guide and outfitter that I have been associated with in my outdoor career has found success placing ‘wanted’ ads in local papers. It could be the best money you ever spent.
Keep using those resources. To actually get a real peak at what a property holds, you can use websites that offer aerial and satellite photos. I use the Google Earth website. The most important tool for finding information is one that you have a right to use, and that is county records. The public has a right to know who owns all property in our country and your local county clerk will be the point of contact if you want to investigate who owns what land and how to contact a landowner.
Size doesn’t matter.
Forget the ‘bigger is better’ myth. One of my top-five archery Whitetail bucks was taken on a 25 acre lease that sat between two huge Illinois farms. I stumbled on this place by chance. Large numbers of deer moved through this small parcel as they traveled between the two farms. The buck gross scored 146 Pope & Young, and it wasn’t even close to being the largest buck running through the place.
One outfitter I know in the state of Missouri had hunters take deer scoring 152, 155, 160 and 182 inches Boone & Crockett out of a single stand on only 7 acres of property. Can you imagine a guide advertising guided hunts on only seven acres? Of course not, but thankfully for him he has thousands of acres for hunters to choose from; however, he has this little nugget of a property that he offers to the occasional adventurer. So forget size, and look for small properties that might be in strategic locations possibly offering great travel, bedding, or feed areas. To narrow down the search even more efficiently, look for potential micro-lease properties that sit next to rivers and swamps, as these places might force deer to travel through them on a daily basis.
Like most endeavors, you will get out of it what you put into it. Technically, there is no excuse not to have your own hunting lease. Use these tips, be optimistic, and make having your own hot-spot a reality.