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Deer Hunting Lease or Outfitter?

Perhaps last week I got ahead of myself with a post entitled “Finding the Best Whitetail Outfitter.” Depending on your particular situation, a hunting lease may be a much more viable option in harvesting a mature whitetail. This is absolutely bad business for outfitters including myself but all pros and cons should be factored in. Bottom line- It’s all about time.

Finding an ideal property doesn’t happen overnight. Researching harvest reports, densities, and any cases of disease in a potential area is always a good idea. Very few people have a gem of a property just fall in their lap. Weeks and even months are spent searching through various agencies, Craigslist, and word of mouth. Compounding the issue, the outcome of many parcels are filled with uncertainty. In fact, many are scooped up from interested parties for a number of reasons not limited to family/friend ties, previous parties releasing, owners dropping a leasing agency, or even owners changing their minds last minute in leasing their land. This can leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth, especially when precious time is wasted in visiting and walking a property, not to mention potential travel expenses etc.

As many have found out, hopefully not the hard way, many properties look like an absolute death trap on paper leaving the potential lessee with hopes higher than the birds your sky-blasting buddy shoots at. A boots-on-the-ground approach is crucial in deciding whether or not to lease a particular parcel. Be sure and ask who has hunted the property in the past and verify this through your findings. Old tree stands, mineral sites, amount of trash, and the condition of fourwheeler trails are all solid clues in the amount of human traffic the property has received and potentially how hard the property had been previously hunted. Furthermore, look for old deer sign such as rubs, scrapes, and trails. Are these few and far in between? Are the majority of the rubs smaller in size? Are the trails worn or filled with small tracks? Confidently answering these questions takes time and due diligence.

Unfortunately the difficulties do not stop here with finding a fitting property only being half the battle. One must still invest time and money in equipment to be utilized. Hanging stands, planting food plots, and doing additional homework and patterning are a few essentials on a lengthy and never ending to-do list. Additionally, neighboring landowners could potentially be an issue. These matters are exacerbated when the lease is a couple states away.

Leases are not cheap and therefore many folks start a club with membership ranging from a couple to a couple dozen. Unfortunately, countless horror stories have been told with a number of problems stemming from management issues where what constitutes a shooter buck being disagreed upon, who gets to hunt where and how often, how many stands each member can hang, or even the chief contact running off with the collected dues. These are all preventable issues to be aware of with hopefully a few being down a road you’ll never have to travel. Furthermore as with any property, managing your herd takes time. Often years are spent in getting an appropriate age structure and a balanced buck to doe ratio. Fortunately, many leases have extended options so every spring you can rest assured your party will be on the lease, no one else will be benefiting from the bucks passed last fall, and you won’t have to make a special trip to take down your stands, feeders, etc.

For such an enjoyable and rewarding sport, deer hunting can be extremely frustrating. In debating whether to lease or book a hunt, ask yourself if you have the time and patience to lease. Otherwise, I may just know a place for you. Hunt hard, safe, and ethically and while you're at it- thank a veteran.

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