Rural Real Estate
Would you like to generate additional income from your rural property? Leasing it to hunters may be the answer. But before you venture into a lease arrangement, develop a lease agreement that clearly outlines the rights of you and the hunter. Here's what the experts recommend including in a lease agreement:
Duration of the Lease Term — Specify the beginning and end of the lease term. If the hunter has the privilege to scout the premises, set up feeders, erect blinds or conduct other similar projects before the season, say so. Most leases are for a single hunting season. But in order to undertake long-term improvement projects, your hunters may want a right of renewal in the lease.
Property Description — Describe the exact area on which the hunting privilege is extended, using a legal or metes-and-bounds description, sketch or plat.
Access to the Lease Tract — If the land does not have public access, you will need to designate a specific route for the hunters' access. If it has more than one public access, you may wish to restrict them to only one. The lease usually requires hunters to keep all gates shut and locked, and keys returned at the termination of the lease. Vehicular travel may be restricted to certain parts of the lease or to existing roads only.
Game That May Be Hunted — State what game may be taken and when. For instance, some leases may deny quail hunting until deer season closes. You may make the lease more restrictive than the state seasons, but a lease cannot grant permission to take wildlife outside the hunting season framework.
Weapons and Hunting Methods Allowed — Agree on the types of weapons that may be used -- bow, rifles or shotguns. Again, the lease cannot supercede general state regulations. The agreement also may limit shooting to blinds or stands only, or may allow stalking only during bow season. Dogs may be prohibited or limited to pursuing quail or doves. Decide if night hunting is permitted for game such as raccoons and, if so, when.
Number of Hunters and Guests — Specify the number of hunters who may participate on the lease. Stipulate if and when guests will be allowed, and the quantity of game they may take. Specify if guests are to be accompanied by the host hunter. Also specify the maximum number of hunters and guests allowed on the leased premises at one time.
Harvested Game — Many hunters want trophy bucks only. To ensure that an adequate number of does are harvested, you may require one or more does be taken before a buck. Game management programs are offered, but vary by state. In Louisiana, for example, some landowners with sufficient acreage may require that a leaseholder participate in the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' Deer Management Assistance Program, which requires the participant — not the landowner — to adhere to certain game management procedures.
Lease Price and Terms — Set the price of the lease per year, per day, per hunter or per animal. Establish whether the payment must be made in lump sum when privileges begin or periodically throughout the year. The lease should address whether the rights and obligations of either party may be transferred or assigned.
Use and Improvements — The lease price should reflect the quantity and quality of overnight facilities available to the hunter. Specify which facilities may be used, and who is responsible for cleaning and repairs. If there aren't facilities, specify whether camping and fires will be allowed. If the lease permits hunters to improve the leased land by improving roads, erecting blinds and so forth, specify who bears the expenses.
Safety and Compliance — Your agreement may impose safety rules, such as prohibiting consumption of alcohol or prohibiting loaded guns in the camp house. Stipulate that the hunter must comply with all state hunting laws. Many landowners also require hunters to maintain records and photographs of each harvested deer.
Landowner's Rights to Hunt and Inspect — The landowner may reserve the right to inspect the camp house, vehicles and game bags for compliance with the lease terms and game laws. Specify if the landowner has the right to use the property for hunting.
Use for Non-hunting Purposes — Describe non-hunting activities allowed, such as camping, fishing, photography and target shooting.
Release of Liability — Have hunters sign a release of liability, releasing you, as landowner, from liability. A sample release and additional information on landowners' liability is available by calling the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University at 1-800-244-2144.
Editor's Note: This article is excerpted with permission from The Texas Deer Lease, written by Judon Fambrough and published through the Texas A&M University Real Estate Center. Additional information was provided by Randy Spencer, Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks; John Leslie, Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries; and Jan Scott, Alabama Game and Fish Division.