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Hunting land for hunting?

Potential solutions for farmers, hunters, and landowners to work together
By Hannah Nave 7/31/2018

 

Hunting is popular and important across the South. Sometimes, it is hard for urban and suburban hunting enthusiasts to find suitable land for the challenging sport. Leasing private acreage can increase its value and benefit the sportsman and the landowner.
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In rural America, hunting is a part of life. However, hunters sometimes face difficulties in finding available land for the pastime due to increased urbanization and deforestation.

Farmers, in turn, may face the hardship of utilizing all their land efficiently. While it can be overlooked, landowners, farmers, and hunters can use the same property and cooperatively work together through hunting leases.

Hunting leases assist outdoorsmen in finding suitable hunting ground closer to home. Landowners who have wetlands, hilltops, and forested areas that are not suitable for production but are great for hunting can benefit from these leases.

Dr. Philip Smartt, professor of Park Management and Heritage Interpretation at the University of Tennessee at Martin, offers four main benefits for a farmer leasing land, starting with maintaining family traditions.

“If [the farmer and the farmer’s family] hunt on the land, it helps create connections within the family,” says Smartt. “I think it creates strong connections to the land. Leases make it possible for extended family to benefit, too, and create connections in that way.”

Smartt says another possible gain is the chance for additional revenue.

An article published by UT Extension states that leases for hunting rights normally generate at least enough income to cover the cost of property taxes and possibly much more.

Farmers may ask a set price for a season, per day, or establish a reasonable fee to help bring in additional revenue from the land and broaden their diversity of income. Smartt adds this can be truer for someone who is either not using the land or is leasing it for farm land.

“When land is unusable, forested, wetlands, or otherwise not fit for production, it can still be valuable because of the game that inhabits the land,” he says. “Hunting leases make it possible for landowners to gain from this land rather than let it remain unprofitable. Also, a landowner will be able to charge more depending on the size, diversity of game, and diversity of terrains of the land.”

Smartt’s third benefit of hunting leases for farmers is to control nuisance species present on their land. He points out how deer and other herbivores can cause great harm to crops, and wild fowl can bring unwanted disease to poultry operations.

“Being able to control the populations of wildlife that can be a nuisance is a great benefit to crop control and biosecurity,” he explains.

The fourth gain outlined by Smartt is the security of knowing another person who is concerned with the well-being of your farm land is also visiting and watching the acreage.

“If there was an issue with trespassing or something else on the property, someone out hunting might actually observe that and can report it to the landowner,” he says.

Because of the difficulties hunters face in finding private land to hunt, Smartt says leases benefit them as well. Public land, he explains, brings many safety concerns because of the unknown; therefore, hunters using private land should be more educated about their surroundings to encounter fewer safety issues. Another positive aspect to the hunter, Smartt adds, is the possibility of seeing new types of land.

“Hunters on a lease will have access to lands they might not normally get to see like the wetlands and areas that are forested,” says Smartt. “If you live in an urban area or even a rural area and you have a small home place, you don’t normally have access to these kinds of places.”

Outlined by Smartt are some things farmers and hunters need to take into account and discuss before entering an agreement. First, the landowner retains all rights to the land and may give any stipulations to the hunter including payment, times to hunt, areas of the property allowed for hunting, or other contingencies set for specific reasons.

“I think sometimes landowners don’t realize this is still their property,” says Smartt. “They don’t vacate all their rights; they can still stipulate how they want things done.”

Second is to have a written agreement. The UT Extension article states that a “signed, written document, stating all terms, payments, expiration dates, and mutual agreements is the best way to ensure privileges of both the lessor (landowners) and lessee (hunter) are recorded and understood.” This written document helps all parties understand their rights, privileges, and expectations through the lease.

A third consideration is well-defined boundary lines. Smartt says it is imperative to protect the hunter and the lease agreement. He mentions the Tennessee Purple Paint Law as a way to easily mark clear boundaries. Through the Purple Paint Law, a landowner must place one conspicuous “No Trespassing” sign in a prominent location on the property then mark the perimeter trees with purple paint using “vertical lines of not less than eight inches in length and not less than one inch in width; placed so that the bottom of the mark is not less than three feet or more than five feet from the ground.”

Lastly, Smartt encourages landowners to consider liability insurance to minimize risk.

“The Tennessee Forestry Association has a hunting lease/ liability insurance program that is not very expensive,” he says.

Overall, Smartt feels that using marginal, less productive lands for hunting can help farmers benefit from their land more effectively and offer hunters safer and more interesting hunting ground.

“Hunting leases are still new to some degree in Tennessee,” he says. “I certainly see it as a good possibility for farmers to use.”

 
 
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