Should you pay for a hunting lease? That is a big question bowhunters face when seeking exclusive hunting access to private land. There are pros and cons when it comes to paying for a hunting lease so before you invest, it’s important to keep reading.
Pro: Leases are relatively affordable.
Leasing hunting land is much more affordable than buying it. A 20% down payment is a usual prerequisite when buying land. If that’s not realistic for your financial situation but you value controlled hunting access, consider a lease. The going rate for leases varies by location, but they can generally be had for $10 to $40 per acre. Knowing that, a 40-acre hunting lease at $40 per acre would cost $1,600 in a top-producing whitetail area in Wisconsin. Land prices in that same county are about $4,000 per acre, so the 20% down payment on that same 40-acre parcel would be $32,000 — and then you have the remainder of the loan to pay following that. The lower price point of a lease requires less financial planning and can be realistically attainable on a much shorter timeline. If you don’t have the luxury of saving and planning for years, leasing hunting land is a good idea.
Pro: Leases involve minimal risk.
There’s inherent risk involved in any major financial decision. Even though land prices typically appreciate over time, they still involve lots of money that could be put toward other expenses. While the $1,600 hunting lease mentioned earlier isn’t cheap, it’s more affordable than buying hunting land, and therefore isn’t as much of a financial risk. A lease is an especially safe choice when hunting an unfamiliar area. Even if you aspire to own hunting land someday, leasing property in the area where you intend to buy will help familiarize you with the place, meet neighboring landowners, and determine whether or not the area is right for you.
Pro: Leases offer more hunting opportunity.
Hunting leases are excellent for bowhunters who don’t want to be tied to one property. Given their more affordable price point, it isn’t unrealistic to lease more than one spot during a single season. Doing so helps hunters distribute hunting pressure, increases opportunity, and makes for a great change of scenery.
Con: Why lease when you could own?
The cost of leasing hunting property year after year adds up. Let’s think back to the $40-per-acre lease example mentioned earlier. If the annual cost of $1,600 was saved for 10 years, you’d have $16,000 in the bank — a sizable chunk toward a down payment on your very own property. Sacrificing short-term conveniences (like a hunting lease) for long-term gain can be the deciding factor in some day becoming a landowner. If owning land is your goal, don’t be distracted by a lease. Instead, save your money, budget accordingly and stay the course. While owning land requires a decent amount of cash, it’s attainable for many who are disciplined enough to adjust their lifestyle accordingly.
Con: You don’t control habitat management.
Unless you own it, you don’t really control it. Improving habitat is the most rewarding part of being a land manager. Habitat projects like cutting timber, burning grasslands and planting food plots will make your favorite hunting spot more desirable to all forms of wildlife. In most cases, lessees only have access to hunt a property, and not the authority to make these management decisions.
Con: One day, you’ll lose that lease.
The only guarantee with a hunting lease or access via permission is that someday, you’ll lose it. Changes in ownership or landowner mindset can be all it takes to lose your favorite hunting spot. The only way to avoid the endless journey of seeking hunting access and to control your own destiny is to become a landowner yourself.
Paying for a hunting lease is a big financial decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. Start by reflecting on your own goals and values, jot them down, and weigh the pros and cons. Hunting access to private land is valuable and attainable. You just need to find the best path for meeting your personal hunting goals.