For the majority of big game hunters living east of the Mississippi River, quality public land can be hard to find. Even if you do locate a parcel of property with a healthy deer herd, you’ll be competing with many other hunters. A well-managed hunting lease is a much better option, where you can pursue a less-pressured herd and have a section of woods to yourself.
Due to the popularity of deer hunting, land prices have drastically increased in recent years. Tracts of unused forested lands that were once easily hunted by just asking for permission are now fenced-off, high-dollar hunting clubs. Competition is also fierce. Slots will often fill up a year in advance.
Thanks to technology, finding a hunting lease is relatively easy with dozens of websites dedicated to helping you do so. With the influx of new hunters crowding the deer woods, here are a few tips to help you understand how find your own section of land to lease.
Finding a Hunting Lease
Using a search engine to find a hunting lease is a good first step. Learning the general details, seeing photos and having the ability to email or call the landowner rather than driving to each piece of property will save you time and money. Here are a few of the top websites:
Local newspapers will also advertise land leases. Sometimes it’s the landowner, though hunting clubs also place ads to seek out new members, especially if the club’s owners are older. Don’t underestimate asking around too. Talk to friends who lease property or are club members. Go to a local sporting goods store and speak with the staff. Ask if they know any landowners looking to lease their property.
While you’re weeding out possible leases, a question you’ll need to ask the landowner is if past lessees have managed the deer herd at least somewhat close to Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) standards. If so, the deer on the property will be healthy and easier to maintain. The same goes with a hunting club.
Finding a hunting lease with a QDMA-like management program is key to harvesting mature deer.
Hunting property that’s been unmanaged can still produce quality bucks. But without a management plan, buck-to-doe ratios and overall population could be unbalanced. You can contact the QDMA about assessing your lease and getting it up to their standards.
If you’ll be sharing your lease with a few friends, and especially if you’ll be joining a club with strangers, you’ll want to engage in ethical hunting practices. While ethics aren’t usually bound by laws, this moral code helps to keep hunting fair and manages wildlife in the same manner. Being around other hunters with this mentality fosters a bond among sportsmen working toward a common goal.
Always communicate with others about where you’ll be hunting and try not to impose on anyone else. If a fellow hunter makes a harvest, offer to help track or assist with cleaning the animal. If you make a harvest, share some of the meat or offer to cook. Keep the mutual areas of the camp and property clean, just like you would your own. Remember, you’re using someone else’s land, so respect that by picking up after yourself and keeping up with the area the best you can.
Pros and Cons of a Lease and Club
Having a hunting lease to yourself is a treat. Hang stands and develop food plots exactly how you want them. Management practices are completely up to you (you’ll always have to consider neighbors, some of which shoot everything). Conversely, that also means upkeep will be solely on your shoulders. Cutting grass, setting up stands and planting food plots can be a lot to take on by yourself during the summer months.
If you’re part of a hunting club or share a lease, you’ll have the benefit of camaraderie, swapping stories around a campfire and the wisdom of elder hunters at your disposal. After all, a large part of hunting is sharing the traditions with others. If you’re new to the area, you can talk to veterans about the lay of the land and some prime spots to hunt. The downsides are competition for spaces to hunt. Got a trophy buck on your camera? Chances are the guy who is hunting near you does too.
Regardless if you hunt a lease or club, by yourself or with a group of friends, having a place of your own can provide you with ample opportunities to harvest wild game consistently. Unless the acreage of public land sky rockets in the east, leases and clubs are the way to go for quality hunting. Just remember to treat the land as you would your own each time you head outdoors. The gesture will go a long way with other club members and landowners, who by the way, we will talk about the best way to approach in an upcoming blog.