How Hunting Leases Work

Types of Hunting Leases

With public land scarce, private land can be the way to go -- with permission, of course.
With public land scarce, private land can be the way to go -- with permission, of course.
Joel Sheagren/Collection Mix: Subjects/Getty Images

­There are several cate­gories hunting leases can fall into. Here's a breakdown of some frequent scenarios:

Non-Fee Access: The most basic and traditional method of hunting on private property does not involve charging a fee for access to land. These can be verbal or written agreements that hold the potential to help out both parties. Landowners -- often farmers -- are spared from having their crops become a buffet for the local wildlife, and hunters are able reach game that otherwise wouldn't have been available.

Exchange of Services: In some cases, landowners don't charge hunters to hunt on their land, but they do request a service of them in return. This request might be as simple as keeping an eye out for trespassers or something a little more intensive like helping manage the grounds. Hunters might pitch in by repairing fences, clearing up debris or maintaining food plots for wildlife.

Fee Hunting: There's a growing trend, however, for landowners to charge hunters a monetary fee to hunt on their property and this is for a couple of reasons. While getting assistance containing wildlife populations within the habitat's carrying capacity, landowners can also maximize their return from the land or in some cases, turn a hobby into a sideline business. And last but not least, many charge for leases simply because the demand is there. A landowner planning to charge for a lease has a couple of options.

  • Daily Hunting Leases: Daily leases usually tend to be less formal hunting leases. Because the hunters will not be spending a great deal of time on the property, the lease agreement typically doesn't need to be as rigorous and the landowner doesn't need to be as selective when choosing hunters. However, since the hunters also won't have much time to acquaint themselves with the property, daily leases often include aspects such as guide services, hunting dogs and transportation. Supporting many of these leases can be labor intensive, but it also has the potential to be the most lucrative path -- and the most likely jumping off point into a commercial hunting outfit.
  • Short-Term Hunting Leases: Generally weekly or seasonal in length, short-term leases are also ideal for landowners who want to host multiple hunters on their property throughout the year. Like daily leases, some services (including lodgings) might need to be provided, and these types of leases are recommended while hunters and the landowner get to know one another, before they consider entering into a more long-term lease.
  • Long-Term Hunting Leases: Long-term leases are very common and generally span either a year or several years. In this setup, the hunter (or group of hunters) typically has exclusive use of the property during all hunting seasons. These leases often work well because both parties are interested in the ongoing health of the land and its animal inhabitants. A hunter might contribute by putting up a rough shelter, tree stand or other structure, paying a farmer to leave some crops unharvested for feed, or creating wildlife resources such as watering spots, shelter belts or wind breaks.

Another way leases can be tweaked is by which species they cover. For example, even though many hunting seasons overlap, a lease can dictate if a hunter can shoot all eligible game or if he or she is limited to a specific type such as deer or turkey.