Ohio hunters are still blessed with the time-honored tradition of asking permission to hunt lands owned by an individual. Protected by law from liability, farmers and other landowners have allowed friends and family the use of their land based on a handshake.
But that friendly handshake has been less and less the contract of choice, as landowners come to realize the value of a hunting lease, a legal document granting the use of his or her property with defined limits.
Our hunting group has held a couple of hunting leases for several years and we like the process. Our agreements are with landowners who understand that the monetary reward is just a small part of the benefit because a lease lets him know who is on his property at all times and that we are just as interested in caring for the place as he is. If we find a broken fence, a downed tree that needs attention or anything of concern, we are sure to let the owner know about it or fix the problem ourselves. And the benefit to us is that we know who is in the woods at all times.
Pay to play
In the future, Ohio hunters will be faced with a “pay to play” map as more and more landowners turn to leasing. In some states, hunters find very little land that is not covered under a lease.
I once made countless calls to landowners in Wyoming looking for land to hunt antelope. I found that few ranchers who for years allowed hunters to pay a “trespass” fee, had not leased their holdings to outfitters and other groups. Even nearby Midwestern states are now predominately leased for hunting. Ohio lease holders can expect to pay an affordable to over-the-top prices to obtain a per-acre lease and to sign a legal contract.
Large holdings by land-use companies such as paper, clay, tree, and mining companies, can be a good option and there are now “trophy-managed” properties available at premium prices. Many of us just can’t justify paying big chunks of our household budget for hunting privileges, and prefer to deal directly with a landowner, but an Internet search will find several “re-leasing” companies and realtors that advertise lease-to-hunt properties in Ohio.
We lost a favorite lease a few years ago when the landowner, a commercial company turned their holdings over to a re-leasing company that quickly priced us out of the market. To the company that owned it, it was just business. In other words, it didn’t matter who hunted there as long as they paid.
Ohio hunters are destined to see more commercial landowners seeing hunters simply as paying customers. That said, Ohio hunters who still enjoy access to private land with permission sealed with a handshake need to be especially attentive to their end of the deal. Helping bale hay, walking a fence line, even elimination groundhogs in the off-season, can seal the deal for years to come.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!