Yikes, son! Sometimes unexpected guests can sour a lease.

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Hunting Leases: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

While hunting leases can provide a great source of supplemental income for landowners and a better opportunity to hunt for sportsmen­, there are pros and cons to these contracts. On the good side, hunting on private land can harmonize with smart forestry and agricultural practices and help keep wildlife populations within sustainable levels. It can also increase the quality of a hunting experience and enable similar recreational activities like camping, fishing and wildlife photography.

But matters don't always go so well, which is one of the reasons experts recommend landowners request references from hunters before they enter into a lease. Sportsmen can overhunt the fauna or damage the flora, appear on the property at unwanted times and cause complaints from neighbors. Everything from litter to liability issues can crop up during a hunting lease, so it's best to be sure about someone before he or she is allowed the run of the land. Property owners, too, can fail to honor the agreement, so careful consideration should be taken by both parties.

But enough doom and gloom, let's talk about what landowners and helpful hunters can do to improve private hunting land. It's good to keep an inventory of the wildlife and habitat characteristics to help monitor the amount of game. Right along with this, steadfast and detailed harvest records (the amount of game killed each year) can help track how the different species are faring and help determine leasing and pricing plans. Another important land management practice is taking the time to understand how the lifecycles of animals and plants of a certain habitat function and interact. Once this knowledge is understood, steps can be taken to improve the land to better support the wildlife population.

In some states, programs are available to help develop habitats, offering technical advice, financial assistance or both. Some practical methods for improving game conditions include creating nesting areas, shelter belts, wind breaks and food plots, along with installing water sources and planting native plants. The healthier the animal population, the more successful the hunting will be.

If landowners are interested in attracting not just more sport but more sportsmen as well, they can do this in a couple of ways. One promising strategy is to increase the amenities on the property. Building a shelter can give hunters somewhere to store their gear or get out of the rain; a lodge can make weekly or seasonal leases more attractive. These are also effective ways to bridge communication -- hunters can leave notes detailing their activities and landowners can drop them a line if anything new comes up. Another good strategy is to offer guide services or maps. Giving a little advice and a nudge in the right direction is often appreciated.

Our advice? Go along that trail until you get over the second bridge, then head about 25 paces into the brush and wait. If you're patient, that's where you'll find a link that'll take you to the next page and lots of other hunting articles -- some with game that might not be quite what you're used to.