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Fee hunting.

Opening up farms or forest lands for paid hunting access may provide a profitable opportunity to some landowners. In addition, gaining control of poaching, unwanted access, vandalism, negligent damage and damage of an excess deer population to gardens or crops is a primary concern for some landowners.

Paying hunters can deter trespassers. For example, some years back one writer to this magazine complained that just about everyone in their area felt they had the right to hunt on their newly acquired property since all previous owners had allowed it. In this case, leasing the land to a responsible group of hunters may have aided this situation in that it now became the responsibility of the hunters to control who else had access to the land.

Control of the deer population can also be a major concern. For example, the population of whitetail deer in 1942 was estimated to have been 3,000 for the entire State of Tennessee. Today, the population is estimated to be 800,000 and increasing steadily.

What might a hunting lease be worth?

In my area of Tennessee (considered to be among the top deer, turkey, dove and duck hunting areas in the state), per acre hunting fees range from $1 to $10 per year. The difference is determined by opportunities and amenities and whether or not the hunting is for a limited season, such as dove only, or exclusive rights to all game available during all seasons.

Your local Extension Service agent should be able to help you determine a fair price for your particular situation. The agent may also be able to provide a sample hunting lease, liability release and hunting access permit. In addition, if you advertise, the price may be established through the equivalent of competitive bidding.

Some types of leases:

Annual leases are normally the most popular. These leases usually include the right to take all game species during their respective seasons. Annual fees can be assessed on a per-acre basis or a lump sum. Landowners often reserve hunting rights for themselves and their immediate family, and annual leases may also include camping and fishing privileges.

A cooperative landowner-hunter relationship may evolve into a multiyear or long-term lease. It is not necessary, but most annual leases include the option for lease renewal upon expiration. Once a desirable relationship is established, marketing effort and landowner involvement is minimal compared to other arrangements.

Groups or hunting clubs which lease on a multi-year or long-term basis usually perform habitat improvements, put up posted signs, help maintain roads and fences and patrol the leased property to protect against trespassers.

Under a seasonal lease, a landowner specifies the species of game to be taken. For example, by specifying only quail be taken from one group, opportunities for harvesting deer or turkeys may be marketed to another. In this manner, a higher annual income might be realized, but it involves more marketing and landowner management.

Short-term arrangements usually involve daily, weekend or weekly hunts. Short-term leases are most successful near populated areas where the demand for hunting opportunities is strong, but hunters may only be able to go hunting a couple of times a year.

Short-term arrangements are sometimes offered by someone who has leased the hunting rights on an annual basis from the landowner and then acts as a broker, subleasing the hunting rights. Under this situation landowners might receive a higher annual lease fee than otherwise.

The income from hunting rights can be enhanced by offering amenities, such as providing guides, lodging, meals, entertainment, pre-hunt game releases and intensive habitat development. Another possibility, if you offer bird shooting, is to provide an area where the hunters can practice by shooting sporting clays.

For most landowners, the most practical opportunity may be a long-term lease to a responsible hunting club.

For liability purposes, many landowners leasing to a hunting club require it be incorporated, carry liability insurance, such as $500,000, and to also release the landowner from any liability from its use of the land.

Opportunities to market the availability of hunting rights might be classified advertisements in your state's Farm Bureau publication, regional publications, state hunting magazines or the local paper. Also contact your local Extension Service, as they may be receiving calls from hunters looking for opportunities and they can then be referred to you.

Contact your attorney, insurance agent and local Extension Service agent for assistance in the development of hunting lands and leases.
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Title Annotation:land owners charge hunters for access to land as a source of revenue
Author:Scharabok, Ken; Waverly, Tennessee
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1998
Words:742
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