How Do Hunting Leases Work?


Hunting leases are agreements between a hunter and a landowner, or a land-holding entity, that allows access to and the right to hunt land for a defined period of time. A hunter may pay on a per-acre basis, per-season fee, or per-hunt situation. In return, the landowner may provide or allow for certain improvements to the land that benefit both wildlife and hunters.

Hunters may be interested in securing a hunting lease because it will open up new access for them on land that receives less hunting pressure than public land or lands shared through a hunting club. Generally speaking, hunting leases will likely cost more than a typical hunting club membership but less than buying property outright, and the benefits to the hunter include having more input into how the land is managed for wildlife, less overall pressure on the parcel, and an opportunity to build a long-lasting relationship with the landowner so it can be hunted for many years.

Hunting on leased land got its start in the South in the 1930s, as public lands became more scarce. By the end of the century, nearly one million sportsmen were spending upwards of $625 million a year on hunting leases, at an average cost of $2.27 per acre. Today, the cost of hunting leases, on average, is a lot more.

How to Find Hunting Land for Lease

So you’ve decided that hunting on leased land is the right call for you, but unless you’ve already tagged along on a few hunts with buddies who hold leases, you might not know where to start.

First, there are several types of hunting leases. Some are classified as No-Fee Access, for which there is no money exchanged for access, just a written agreement between the landowner and the hunter. This type of lease is hardly more than having landowner permission to hunt their land, but with a contract.

Another type of hunting lease is known as the Exchange of Services lease, where a hunter does not pay money for access; instead he or she provides the landowner a service in exchange for hunting on the land. The service might simply be watching for trespassers, repairing fences, or tending to food plots.

The more typical hunting lease, and what we’ll cover below, is the Fee Hunting lease, which can be further determined by daily fees, a season fee, or a long-term multi-year fee.

When you’re ready to take the next step and start looking for land to lease, make sure you can answer the following questions about what you’re looking for:

  • What species do I want to hunt there?
  • How often do I plan on hunting the property in a given season?
  • How do I want to access the property (on foot,ATV, or vehicle for instance)?
  • What might I be able to contribute to the land in terms of improvements, amenities, or wildlife management?
  • How successful have previous hunters been on the property?
  • How many people does the parcel need to accommodate?
  • How much can I or each person on the lease spend?
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Simply jotting down these answers will give you important information to hone your search for the right property. Now you can start looking for available hunting land through some of the following resources:

  • Commercial Hunting Lease Networks – There are more than a handful of companies that specialize in pairing hunters with available lease lands. These companies may either own lands or have built a network of landowners who are offering properties. A few worth checking into include Rayonier Hunting & Rec, Legacy Wildlife Services, and Westervelt Wildlife Services.
  • Realtors – Call a few of your neighborhood real estate agents to let them know you’re looking to spend money on leasing a hunting property. They already have established relationships with landowners to which they’ve sold land and others trying to sell.
  • School Trust Land – There are many states in which lands owned by school districts are open to hunting. Sometimes those lands are public properties, but sometimes they are open by lease only. With these lands, make sure you know what other activities are allowed, as these properties are also often leased for cattle grazing.
  • Ask Everyone You Know – There’s a lot to be said about word-of-mouth advertising, and that applies to finding good hunting leases. Ask your hunting buddies, or ask them to ask their hunting club friends. Find good pieces of private land and knock on some doors. Not every landowner is aware there are people willing to pay to hunt their property.

How Much Do Hunting Leases Cost?

If you want the most truthful answer to “How much do hunting leases cost?” the answer is, “It depends.” Like most else, you’ll probably get what you pay for, so the more expensive the lease the better that property likely is. Most often, the value of hunting leases prove themselves over time because they have produced a fair number of high quality wildlife.

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But there are hard numbers for how much a hunting lease can cost. Today’s hunters can expect to pay between $10-$50 per acre for a hunting lease. The price is determined by a number of factors, including the quality of game harvested, exclusivity of the property to the hunter(s), the distance from town (ie. closer to a town is likely more expensive), amenities (use of existing tree stands or buildings on the property, running water, access to power, etc.), amount of acreage (generally, leasing more acres costs less per acre), and the improvements made to the property (essentially, how well it’s managed).

In 2014, Georgia Outdoor News published the results of a survey detailing the average cost and size of hunting lease lands in the state. The publication found that the average size of a hunting lease was 934 acres, and the average cost of the lease was $9.97 per acre. The average number of hunters on the leases was eight (compare that to hunting clubs, which may have as many as 20 hunters), and the most common animals hunted were deer and turkey. Interestingly, the survey also found that 98% of hunters said they would lease property again the next season, showing a very high satisfaction rate.

What Makes Good Hunting Lease Land?

Good hunting lease land is just like good hunting land, so if a property has good food sources, cover, and water, then it’s likely to hold quality animals. But what really makes good hunting lease land is the lease. Before you sign any contracts for a hunting lease, there are a few things you want to make sure you do.

First, scout the property yourself, so ask permission to walk the land, explore the access points, and see for yourself if there are ample spots to hunt.

Second, ask the lessee questions:

  • Who’s responsible for keeping up the roads?
  • What commercial activities are offered or planned for the property? Will there be cattle grazing or logging?
  • How many hunters are leasing the property outside my own group, if any?
  • How many deer are you permitted to take: just one or as many for which you have tags or permits?
  • And ask what input you’ll have for making improvements to the property. Can you suggest food plots, or new access points, or put up your own blinds or tree stands?
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Next, talk to the neighbors of the property. What kinds and quality of animals have they been seeing on their land. Then talk to the regional wildlife biologist directly and tell them what your hunting goals are to see if that’s achievable in that area. The state biologist would have a good idea, for instance, how many 4-plus-year-old bucks are around.

After you secured a hunting lease, make sure you do everything you can to keep it. If you find the success you’re looking for there, you’ll likely want to come back the next year. Treat the owner or land-holder as your partner with whom you share the same goal: to make the best hunting experience on the best hunting property possible. If you do that, you may just have the keys to incredible hunting land for years to come.

How to Use onX Hunt on Leased Land

You can set up the onX Hunt App or Web Map to help you search, prospect, and hunt leased land. With the many layers and tools available, hunters have an advantage on every hunt.

Here’s how you can set up the Hunt App for finding and hunting leased property:

  • Public/Private Land Boundaries – Use the Government Lands Layer that color-codes property boundaries for finding public school trust lands, or use the Private Land Ownership Maps to get contact information for properties that interest you.
  • Boone & Crockett Layer– onX partnered with The Boone and Crockett Club to highlight concentrated areas where trophy class animals were harvested. The layer has trophy data for every North American big game animal a hunter can imagine. With this layer, you can research any potential leased land based on the quality of the game.
  • National Wild Turkey Federation Records Layer – Similar to the Boone and Crockett Layer except for wild turkey hunting. With this layer turned on you’ll be able to access a NWTF score and the average weight, beard, and spur lengths for turkeys in the area. You’ll even see what turkey subspecies are in the region and their distribution.
  • Line Distance Tool – Whether you’re scouting a potential piece of property or ready to hunt the piece you’ve leased, using the Line Distance Tool will allow you to measure the distance between any two points: perfect for judging shooting lanes, distance to your tree stand, or for measuring across a food plot.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>