Hunting Leases for Whitetail Deer Hunting
There are a variety of ways to pursue trophy whitetail deer each deer. Of course the hopes of every whitetail hunter are to take trophy whitetail bucks each fall, and as many of them at the highest scores possible. Many avenues exist to complete the feat of harvesting whitetail deer in regard to preparing for the oncoming season. Some whitetail deer hunters will elect to surf the internet and study whitetail deer hunting outfitters until they arrive at a selection for their fall outing. Other whitetail deer hunters with deeper pocket books will even consider buying a piece of real estate which they feel holds trophy whitetail deer and assume a great debt on a long term basis. Some whitetail hunters will seek out hunting leases in areas that hold trophy whitetail deer. Still other whitetail deer hunters will seek long and hard to lease ground by themselves or with a group of friends. Hunting leases for whitetail deer have advantages and disadvantages, and need to be well thought out prior to the leasing of a whitetail deer hunt lease.
Advantages of Hunting Leases for Whitetail Deer
The main advantage the hunter has when leasing a farm for whitetail deer is that they get to obtain an entire land tract for the season and have it all to themselves. At first glance this can be tempting, but one must remember the work that goes into scouting, patterning, planting food plots, running trail cameras, and jousting hunt partners to obtain the best treestand location on the farm for harvesting a trophy whitetail buck.
Possibly not an advantage but a distinct sense of accomplishment is present when a hunter finds and pays for a hunt lease of whitetail deer. Further the sense of accomplishment of studying your hunt lease and then patterning your own whitetail deer sometimes gives the whitetail hunter a sense of ownership.
Another advantage to purchasing your own whitetail deer hunt lease is having the freedom to come and go as you please without the rules an outfitter may impose upon you. (Although often times the rules the outfitter imposes are for your own good and increases harvest results on trophy whitetail bucks.) If you want to spot and stalk then you may. If you want to do a deer drive then you may. If you want to hunt via treestand you may. A sense of making your own rules often times gives the hunter a sense of freedom sometimes not otherwise found with an outfitter.
Other than those 3 reasons to seek a hunt lease, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages of going a different route.
Disadvantages of Hunting Leases for Whitetail Deer
The first disadvantage of a hunting leases is the great amount of money involved in a hunt lease. Even if the hunter finds a “screaming deal” financially the investment of doing things right on a hunt lease also encompass the employment of mineral licks, foodplots, multiple stand sites, equipment for preparing the lease, and ton of hidden factors that can add up rather quickly. For the price and correct preparation of a hunt lease one could book several of the best hunts in the world. The only way around the expense of a hunt lease is to recruit a group of buddies who will likely drive you crazy throughout the season. Remember that everyone involved in the lease wants to harvest a couple trophy whitetails and will do anything to complete the task. Simply put I have watched the best of friends end up bitter enemies after being involved in a hunt lease for whitetail deer at the end of the season. In the best locations in the United States like Buffalo County, Wisconsin and Pike County, Illinois a hunt lease will likely run you over $50 per acre and you will have to pay for the tillable ground as well as the timber. For example if you pick a hunt lease in Pike County, Illinois and the hunt lease is 1000 acres you would pay around $50,000.00 or more per year for the hunt lease. Of the 1000 acres their may only be 300 acres of timber as terrain in these locations holds little amount of timber. Now add in the foodplots, maintenance, gas, mineral licks, treestands, and adding a ton of friends just to pay for the lease. Always remember the initial bill of a hunt lease is not where the buck stops.
The second disadvantage of hunting leases is we live in a world that is high paced. Gone are the 40 hour work weeks. Today’s company man is putting in more hours than ever. Even if finances are not an issue think of the time both in the timber and driving to the lease to prepare it. Hundreds sometimes thousands of man hours are involved in just preparing for the oncoming season if you are going to prepare the hunt lease correctly. Scouting is involved throughout the season. The hunter that thinks he can lease a property from his hometown of New York and travel to Illinois to hunt for several days of even a couple weeks seems to always walk away from the hunt lease saying one of two things. #1. The preparation was too demanding over the course of the hunt lease time period. #2. Hunters that find a hunt lease normally state at the end of their hunt period, “By the time I figured out where I needed to be hunting it was time to go home and get back to family, holidays, and work.”
The third disadvantage of hunting leases for whitetail deer is that normally the lessor will seek out a State like Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, etc. In any of these states the hunter can only take one to two bucks in a season dependent upon state regulations. Thus all the preparation your done on your hunt lease doesn’t allow the hunter to legally harvest a half a dozen animals, but merely one or two. (Especially if you’re a trophy whitetail deer hunter.)
The fourth disadvantage of hunting leases is just about any landowner will tell you that their farm is nothing short of great. Because most lessors seek hunting leases outside their own state it is often tough to read the deer sign of the State you are interested in. For example, I know a guy who took on a hunt lease in Pike County, Illinois. He was excited as he had always heard Pike County, Illinois was some of the greatest whitetail deer hunting in the world. After a few walks around the farm the hunter (from Florida) saw the most whitetail deer sign he had ever seen on this particular hunt lease. He leased the land and thought he had landed the deal of the century. The thing he hadn’t done was look at multiple farms in Pike County, Illinois and was not aware he was looking at a below average farm. His efforts to harvest a trophy buck were unsuccessful. Whitetail deer evolve differently in each State in the Nation. When one comes from another state seeking a hunt lease he or she must realize they are looking at a region they haven’t seen before and have traveled a long way full of excitement wanting the farm to be great. Almost by the time they arrive they have convinced themselves during the car ride out that the lease is good, because they want it to be.
The fifth disadvantage of hunting leases is very few landowners will enter into a long term deal the first year of a hunt lease. Therefore the lessor may often times take the hunt lease and work feverishly to make the hunt lease of higher quality only to see the landowner lease the tract of ground to someone else the following year. Then all your work is nil. I can’t count the number of times I have leased a farm and had to employ a series of long term strategies to improve the property to the level of quality I desire. As a lessor you will find the first year, a landowner will be shy to enter into a long term lease with a stranger.
The sixth disadvantage of hunting leases is you never know the history of the farm unless you find that “needle in the haystack” landowner that will tell you the truth. Could be the farm has been leased over and over or over hunted year after year. Finding that pot at the end of the rainbow is very difficult. In fact you will find Whitetail Outfitters will have the best farms leased leaving the hunting leases as the worst tracts of ground in the area. There is a certain state that offers a hunt lease program wherein hunting leases are available. (I cannot name it for fear of lawsuit.) The project is located in a great area for whitetail deer where many Whitetail Outfitters and Hunt Guides reside. Of course the Whitetail Outfitters have the best ground leased which leaves this pool of farms in this project to be the poorest quality farms in the entire county. You’d never know it by the way the project is advertised. Think about this hard for a brief moment. If you are seeking a hunt lease in a great area like Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, or Illinois you must know Whitetail Outfitters have the best farms leased already, leaving only the poorest quality hunting leases up for bid.
The seventh disadvantage of hunting leases is that to pay for a high quantity of acreage that you can employ a Quality Deer Management Program on your probably going to have to involve several hunters to pay for it. While you may be a great trophy hunter and possess the stealth and patience needed to harvest a big whitetail deer, not everyone in the group will possess the same skills. Thus you may be rest assured their will be a few hunters on your lease (possibly even your closest friends) who will run deer off by being detected and walking around too much. With the number of hunters you will need to finance the hunting lease you will find the group as a whole will spook deer as they explore areas just as you are doing. They will all try and lay claim to the best spots. Kind of like the fishing buddy who cast their cork and worm in the same spot you are catching fish from. Many a friendship has gone sour with the planning of a hunt lease. At times you will feel like you are building a house with a grumpy wife that wants every detail of the house to fit her needs, while aborting your ideas. Therefore there isn’t as much freedom in a hunting lease as one may think.
The eighth disadvantage of hunting leases is not knowing what types of strategies or techniques the next door neighbors employ while hunting. The greatest of hunting leases can be ruined easily by being next to the wrong neighbors. I recall back a few years a guy that leased a farm in Missouri. The farm was strong and held many trophy whitetail bucks but the neighbor’s kids road dirt bikes throughout the adjoining timber all during hunt season. Then the neighbor insisted property lines were not properly marked and ended up stealing all the lessor’s treestands claiming they weren’t on the right side of the property, when indeed they were placed correctly. Another scenario on a hunting lease a few years ago was a man who leased a farm which bordered a small public piece of hunting ground. Come opening day the hunters on the public ground infiltrated the hunting lease and the hunter was overrun with trespassers. Find hunting leases that are bordered by good neighbors that have employed Quality Deer Management Programs and are easy to get along with. I wouldn’t even lease a farm without having a history of what the neighbors do and how they may react to you leasing. Many neighbors of hunting leases don’t like the idea of someone from out of town leasing ground next to them. Normally the reason is the neighbor has been trespassing for years and now they must stop. I have watched bad neighbors deflate tires, vandalize trucks, and just be plain mean to the new lessor no matter how hard you try and get along. Often times these neighbors know just how to keep from getting caught by law enforcement, while many times law enforcement simply has better things to do than referee hunting leases and property lines between lessors and neighbors.
By the way have you noticed the disadvantages of hunting leases are far outweighing the advantages? While I’m not trying to discourage you from hunting leases I am trying to realistically educate you to both sides of the hunting leases coin.
The ninth disadvantage to hunting leases would be Acts of God that are disasters. For example I know a man who leased a great farm in the river bottoms of Illinois. The lease looked great in the early Spring, but as Spring progressed record rainfalls hit the State and flooded the area, ridding it of treetops and bed areas while destroying the agricultural crops. When Illinois Whitetail Hunting Season rolled around the lessor had nothing but a barren tract of ground void of the whitetail activity he had seen earlier in the year. With only the one lease he had nowhere else to hunt and was simply out the money. While the farmer and the lessor had the best of intentions there was no saving the Illinois Whitetail Hunting he had looked so forward to participating in on his hunting lease.
The tenth disadvantage to hunting leases is often housing. Normally the best areas to hunt whitetail deer in the United States are in rural settings where hotels are scarce. Just this year I know a man who had a hunting lease in Iowa. When deer season rolled around he literally could not find a place to rest his head at night. If a hotel is in the area you find a hunting lease in you will want to book it months in advance, and still may not have a vacancy as normally these rural hotels book a year in advance with loyal deer hunters who book them in advance year after year. Also these same rural areas don’t normally provide a vast array of places to eat that are nearby, but if you are like me you may not care about the eating part. Of course if the landowner has an old farmhouse for you to sleep in, or if you own an RV and the landowner will permit you to park it on the hunting lease then you are in business.
The eleventh disadvantage to hunting leases is that the first year you lease the farm from the landowner you might be lucky enough to get a good deal. You may even be lucky enough to find that needle in the haystack quality hunting lease, but often times year two the landowner will drastically increase the price as he sees your love for the farm increase. I can’t count the number of lessors I have known that after they completed the first year on there hunting lease the landowner wanted much more money the second year of the hunting lease.
The twelfth disadvantage of hunting leases is that you as the lessor have no control over the farm’s routine work practices. I know lessor after lessor that have returned to hunt the farm months after the lease was signed to find a heavily timbered piece of ground that didn’t even resemble what they leased. How do you stop a landowner from clearing out a brushy bed area with a bulldozer. All you have is the hunting rights. Just this year a man I know from New York found a hunting lease in Illinois. When he arrived to hunt in October he found a logging company on the farm literally raping the forest of all mature trees. While sometimes logging will help hunting leases they definitely don’t help you when you a bunch of loggers are in on the farm smoking and laughing and yelling and running chainsaws while your hunting. This lessor was simply sick to his stomach and it ruined his Pike County, Illinois Deerhunting.
The thirteenth disadvantage of hunting leases is the implementation of a legally binding document and the attorney’s fees associated with the construction of valid hunt lease. Although the following hunt lease is a mere model there are many other things to consider when entering into a hunting lease agreement. For example: What happens if the landowner sells the ground after you pay him the lease money? Many other tragic scenarios can apply that I could write about.
Legal Example of a Hunting Lease Agreement
(Keep in mind this is a Michigan Hunting Lease Agreement and would not be valid in any other State, but will serve as a model.)
HUNTING LEASE AGREEMENT
THIS HUNTING LEASE AGREEMENT is made this day of ,
20 , by and between(Owner), whose
address is , ,
Michigan , and (Lessee), whose
address is , ,
Description of and Consideration Paid for the Leased Premises
For the sum of $ paid to the Owner, receipt of which is
hereby acknowledged by the Owner, the Lessee, subject to the Terms,
Provisions, and Conditions set forth below, hereby leases from the
Owner, for hunting purposes only and for the period beginning on
, 20 and ending at midnight on ,
20 , the following described property:
All that parcel of land in County,
Michigan, containing acres, more or less, and being more
particularly described and/or diagrammed on Exhibit A (which is
attached to and hereby made a part of this Lease Agreement) and
being hereinafter referred to as the "Leased Premises".
Terms, Provisions, and Conditions
1. The Lessee assures and guarantees the Owner that the Lessee shall
have and possess a valid 20 Michigan hunting license that
covers the following species:
which the Lessee intends to hunt on the Leased Premises.
2. While on the Leased Premises, the Lessee shall comply with all
Game and Fish laws and regulations of the United States of
America, the State of Michigan, and all other appropriate
3. While on the Leased Premises, the Lessee shall: (a) observe the
rules of safe gun handling; (b) never shoot in the direction of
any people, buildings, or livestock; (c) leave all gates as the
Lessee's finds them; (d) use proper care in crossing fences; and
(e) not use alcohol or drugs.
4. The Lessee shall exercise due care to prevent, control, and
eliminate forest fires, and shall not cause or permit damage or
injury to fences, crops, trees, or equipment, and shall not commit
or permit waste or damage or injury, and shall not conduct or
permit any illegal activity on the Leased Premises.
5. The Owner shall have no responsibility or liability to the Lessee
or to any other individual or entity for any action, suit,
judgment, claim, demand, loss, damage, injury, or death resulting
from anything done or omitted or in any manner arising under this
Lease Agreement, and the Lessee hereby agrees, on behalf of
himself/herself and the Lessee's heirs, personal representatives,
and assigns, to indemnify and hold the Owner harmless from and
against any and every action, suit, judgment, claim, demand, loss,
damage, injury, or death, including interest, costs, and attorney
fees, resulting from the Lessee's occupancy of and/or activities
on the Leased Premises and/or from anything done or omitted or in
any manner arising under this Lease Agreement.
6. Unless approved in advance by the Owner, no structures of any kind
or character shall be permitted at any time on any part or parts
of the Leased Premises, and no nails or spikes or other objects
for tree stands shall be driven into or otherwise attached or
fastened to any tree on the Leased Premises.
7. No one other than the Lessee shall, at any time, be permitted to
exercise any right or privilege under this Lease Agreement.
8. Any and all debris and garbage brought on to the Leased Premises,
or created thereon, by the Lessee shall be removed from the Leased
Premises by the Lessee.
9. The Owner reserves, and at all times shall have, the full, free,
and absolute right and authority, by himself or his agents,
servants, and/or employees, to go on, upon, and over the Leased
Premises for any purpose or purposes, including, but not limited
to, planting, cutting, removing, protecting, caring for and
dealing with any part or parts or all of the Leased Premises.
10. Any violation of any term, provision, or condition of this Lease
Agreement by the Lessee shall, at the option of the Owner,
terminate this Lease Agreement, and the Owner shall, thereupon,
have no duty or obligation to refund or repay any part of the
consideration for this Lease Agreement. No failure of the Owner
to exercise such option and no waiver by the Owner of any right or
privilege shall operate as a waiver of any right, option, power,
or privilege as to any other, further, or future violation.
11. The Lessee accepts the Leased Premises in an "as is" condition and
the Lessee understands and agrees that hunting is a dangerous
activity and that there may be hidden hazards, such as holes,
fence wires, snakes, wells, swamps, ponds, harmful plants,
unauthorized careless individuals on the land, other hunters, or
other risks that may injure or cause the death of the Lessee and
the Lessee assumes all these risks as the Lessee's responsibility.
12. The Lessee understands that there is a Michigan statute that
provides, in part, that: "a cause of action shall not arise for
injuries to a person who is on the land of another without paying
to the owner, tenant, or lessee of the land a valuable consideration
for the purpose of fishing, hunting, trapping, camping,
hiking, sightseeing, motorcycling, snowmobiling, or any other
outdoor recreational use or trail use, with or without permission,
against the owner, tenant, or lessee or the land unless the
injuries were caused by the gross negligence or willful and wanton
misconduct of the owner, tenant, or lessee." MCLS 324.73301(1)
13. The Lessee understands that there is a Michigan statute that
provides, in part, that: "A cause of action shall not arise
against the owner, tenant, or lessee of a farm used in the
production of agricultural goods as defined by section 35(1)(h) of
the single business tax act, Act No. 228 of the Public Acts of
1975, being section 208.35 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, for
injuries to a person who is on that farm and has paid the owner,
tenant, or lessee valuable consideration for the purpose of
fishing or hunting, unless that person's injuries were caused by a
condition which involved an unreasonable risk of harm and all of
the following apply:
(a) The owner, tenant, or lessee knew or had reason to know
of the condition or risk.
(b) The owner, tenant, or lessee failed to exercise
reasonable care to make the condition safe, or to warn
the person of the condition or risk.
(c) The person injured did not know or did not have reason
to know of the condition or risk." MCLS 324.73301(4)
14. The Lessee shall have a copy of this Lease Agreement on his/her
person at all times while he/she is on the Leased Premises.
In Witness Whereof, the Owner and the Lessee have executed this Lease
Agreement as of the date first above written.
Witnesses: Parties to Lease Agreement:
(Signature of Witness) (Signature of Owner)
(Signature of Witness) (Signature of Lessee)
(Lessee's Driver License No.)
(Lessee's License Plate No.)
(Lessee's Vehicle Description)
This Exhibit A is to be attached to and is part of the Hunting Lease
Agreement entered into by and between
and and dated , 20 .
Description and/or Diagram of Leased Premises
In conclusion, my advice is that booking with a credible Whitetail Outfitter like IMB Outfitters will pay higher dividends and be less of headache than leasing a farm, however if you are still dead set on leasing a farm, IMB Outfitters provides a few farms each year of high quality nature that we lease to responsible whitetail hunters in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. Normally these are farms that landowners ask us to lease out that are too far from our lodges to outfit or transport clients from the lodge to the farm. We offer lodging and coach you through the process. These leases can be found on our hunt leases page or you may call Darrin Bradley toll free at IMB Outfitters at 866-855-7063.