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Hunting Leases Raise Money, Protect Land
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Leasing the hunting privileges to land provides a way to raise revenue and help protect the value of the land.
Dean Stewart, extension wildlife specialist at Mississippi State University, said many people who lease hunting rights generate enough revenue to cover property taxes and still make a profit. Lease prices in Mississippi range from $1.50 to $25 per acre annually.
Tracts between 40 and 300 acres in size tend to generate more profit per acre than larger tracts. Tracts of about 40 acres are the smallest an owner would want to lease, Stewart said. Exceptions occur when the land can be combined with adjoining land to create a larger tract or in special cases, such as dove fields, where not much land is needed.
Leasing hunting rights to the land gives someone besides the owner a vested interest in the care of the land. Because hunters pay to use the land, they are willing to help control trespassing and litter. They also may help improve the wildlife population on the land, which increases the land's value.
"The ability to provide several different species of wildlife on one tract enhances desirability and commands a high dollar," Stewart said. "It is possible, though not common, to lease the hunting rights to each species separately. Hunters also value good roads, some sort of housing or camping facilities, fishing opportunities and a shooting range on the property."
Large animal populations also appeal to hunters, Stewart said. Attract populations by managing habitat and food for the animals and controlling human access to the property.
Mississippi's most popular game species is the white-tail deer, Stewart said. Other popular species include wild turkeys, squirrels and waterfowl.
Stewart said landowners interested in offering hunting rights for lease should check with experienced neighbors who lease for help in determining their property value. Allowing hunters to bid on the rights to the land is one way to set market value. Factors that help determine land value include the location and size of the land, the number of different species and recreational opportunities available, and the quality of the lease offered.
Stewart recommended a one year lease with renewal options at the end of that year for landowners leasing for the first time. Landowners should make clear the starting and expiration dates of the lease.
The lease also should include financial arrangements, a description of the acreage, the hunter's and the owner's rights, any restrictions placed on either party, and a liability clause to protect all parties.
"Wildlife belongs to the people of Mississippi, not the owner of the land. The landowner cannot sell the animals on his land, but he can sell access to the land," Stewart said.
When possible, a landowner should lease to a local, traditional hunter or hunting club. These people will be around longer and will have more of an interest in the care of the land than an outside group or club. Outside groups, however, may be able to offer more money than a local hunter or club, Stewart added.
Stewart warned landowners to include a cancellation clause in the lease in case there are problems with a hunter. Put in writing any rights the landowner reserves for personal use of the land.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service offers sample leases and guidelines for writing leases at each county office. Contact local extension offices for this information.