New England Forestry Consultants, Inc.
|Volume 8, No.1
Leasing land for hunting purposes is a common practice in the Southeastern
United States; however, it is a relatively new concept here in the Northeast.
Due to increased posting of private lands, hunting enthusiasts are finding it
difficult to locate property where hunting is allowed. Therefore, many
hunters are forming organizations that lease lands with exclusive hunting
rights. While hunting leases are not the "norm" in the Northeast at this
time, it is simply a matter of time. It is not a matter of "if", but is a
matter of "when".
Property owners are discovering that in most cases it is advantageous to
lease their lands to these hunting organizations. Hunting leases pay the
landowner on average between $2.00 and $7.00 dollars per acre, which provides an
income to the landowner that can be applied to offset the cost of owning the
land. Just as importantly to most landowners, the lessees police the
property and take a vested interest in how the property is treated. AS
part of a lease, most organizations post the land and maintain the posting on an
annual basis. Lease organizations also honor the wishes of the landowner
and are courteous hunters. The understand that the lease can be revoked at
any time, and they do not want to be the reason for a lost hunting lease that
will affect a number of individuals.
In the Fall 2005 NEFCo newsletter, we announced our intent to begin a hunt
lease program for our clients. We were pleasantly surprised by the
interest expressed by our clients for participation; however, also came to the
realization that we needed to provide additional information about the hunt
lease concept in order to assist the landowner in the decision making process.
The information below is our attempt to address the majority of the questions
presented to us by our clients as well as to provide additional information in
order to insure that the landowner is making an informed decision.
The Hunt Lease
The characteristics of a hunt lease are as varied as the persons involved in
the leasing of their land; however, most leases will fall under one of four
prominent types. They are, the long-term lease, the annual lease, the
seasonal lease, and the short-term lease.
Long -Term Lease: This lease tends to cover multiple years and
multiple seasons. In normal circumstances, this type of lease is not
implemented until after a lessee has leased land for a number of consecutive
years using an annual lease and the lessor and lessee have developed a long-term
Annual Lease: This is the most common lease arrangement
and it covers all game species "in-season".
Seasonal Lease: Seasonal leases involve leasing the hunting
rights for a particular game species in a particular year. Some may cover
more than one year, but will still be limited to a particular game species.
Short-term Lease: Short-term leases normally involve daily,
weekend or week-long hunts, sometimes called day leases or "package" hunts.
Short-term leases are relatively uncommon and tend to be successful only near
populated areas where demand for hunting opportunities is high.
Hunting leases can contain as many limitations as the owner desires.
For example, a landowner may be an avid grouse hunter, but not a deer hunter.
Therefore, the lease could be for deer hunting only in order to allow the
landowner the opportunity to generate an income from a lease, while maintaining
exclusive grouse hunting rights. The lease could also dictate location and
date limits on hunting.
Effective hunting lease agreements protect the interest of the landowner, but
are flexible enough to allow enjoyment of the property for hunting by sportsmen.
Regardless of the appearance or stipulations within a lease agreement, there is
information that needs to be contained within any lease agreement. This
- The landowner's name and address.
- The hunter's name and address.
- A list of who is entitled to enter the landowner's land for the purpose
- A property description.
- The duration of the lease with beginning and ending dates.
- The lease cost and payment terms.
- The restrictions on use, if necessary
- Exemptions (i.e. the landowner may want to retain his or her right to
hunt the land).
- Insurance stipulations.
- General rules.
- Specific "do's" and "do-not's".
- Termination specifications.
- Signatures of all parties.
Currently, hunting leases in the Northeast are paying between $2.00 and $7.00
per acre. However, due to the fact that this is a relatively new concept,
the going rate may or may not be practical. The parcel size, location,
current condition, wildlife population, and lease stipulations will all have an
affect on the lease price. At the present time, probably the best way to
determine a lease rate is to advertise the lease opportunity and evaluate any
Unfortunately, due to our litigious society, the fear of liability deters
many landowners from executing a lease hunting agreement. This was
unquestionably the most asked about subject by our interested clients.
Undoubtedly, this is a legitimate concern; however, as has been shown in a
number of southern states, a landowner can be sufficiently protected.
The majority of states have enacted statutes that protect landowners from
liability resulting from the use of the landowners land. However, these
statutes may not be as protective if the landowner is charging a fee to use the
land. Typically, hunting lease activities are covered under a supplement
or endorsement to your general liability policy. Additionally, the lessee
or leasing organization should carry his or her own liability insurance naming
the landowner as being insured. Lessees or leasing organizations should
also be required to sign release or indemnity agreements, which provide
additional protections to the landowner.
All the signed agreements in the world may still not prevent a landowner from
being sued. This holds true to all aspects of land ownership, whether it
is ATV use or a logging operation on the property. The important concept
is that the landowner needs to be protected. Using the above mentioned
policies and/or agreements should provide ample protection to the landowner.
One thing that a landowner will not be protected from is the case of
negligence. If a landowner knows of a dangerous situation and does not
warn the user of the land of this situation, the landowner is certainly liable.
An example might be that of a known open well or the presence of an aggressive
bull in the pasture.
A signed, written document stating all terms, payments, expiration dates and
mutual agreements is the best way to insure that the rights and privileges of
both the lessor (landowner) and the lessee (hunter) are recorded and understood.
Various studies have shown that the demand for outdoor recreational
opportunities in the United States has tripled in the past 20 years, and this
trend is expected to increase in the future. NEFCo advertised two hunt
lease opportunities over the past six months and has received more than a dozen
inquiries, supporting the concept that there is a demand for hunt lease
opportunities. While hunt lease programs have been limited in the
Northeast in the past, and usually reserved on large industrial land ownerships,
increasingly more non-industrial private landowners are exploring the hunt lease
option to supplement the income generating capabilities of their land asset.
With careful planning, hunting leases can be an opportunity to diversify a land
management program and relieve or lessen the cost burden of land ownership.
Properties consisting of 200 to 500 acres tend to be at the highest demand;
however, there is a market for smaller acreages. One of the goals of the
NEFCo hunt lease program is the option of pooling smaller properties into a
lease package. This will allow us to offer a lease consisting of the
desired acreage, while at the same time, allowing smaller landowners the benefit
of being able to lease their land. If the concept of participating in a
lease program is of interest to you, please contact the nearest NEFCo forester
for more details.
Tony Lamberton , Manchester Center Manager