Leasing Hunting Land vs. Buying – Things to Consider

A group of hunters has been working with the same hunting lease for nearly a decade. Then along comes an opportunity to buy a piece of land that they believe would be equally attractive. Should they buy, or should they continue with their lease?

There are pros and cons to both choices. The one thing that is clear is that buying hunting land is no simple matter. Hunting land transactions can be as complex as buying and selling residential properties in suburban neighborhoods. Indeed, there is more to buying than just figuring out who is responsible for hunter liability insurance.

Organizations like the American Hunting Lease Association offer plenty of tips for maximizing hunting leases without running afoul of landowners. Many of the tips they offer provide a glimpse into the issues that have to be considered by hunters planning to purchase. Below are just a few examples.


Who Owns Access Rights?


Hunting lands are often large parcels of property that exist as islands surrounded by property owned by others. So just as a hunter looking to lease would ask who owns access rights to the property, the buyer should be equally concerned about how he or she will get to the land purchased. It is not uncommon for sellers to promise access by way of a road owned by a neighbor only for that agreement to fall apart years after the sale. Then the hunter finds he or she cannot get to his/her property because the access road has been blocked.

Access issues can be a big headache for landowners. Hunters who own their land will be left to deal with such issues by themselves. Hunters who lease can let landowners deal with the headaches. If an issue cannot be settled, the hunter has the legal right to back out of the lease because its terms have not been met.


Are There Other Rights to the Land?


Hunting lease lands are not just great properties for hunters. They also tend to offer other valuable resources like timber and mineral rights. Hunters looking to buy should be concerned about who owns rights to those other resources in the event of a sale. Mineral rights can be especially troublesome.

Mineral rights often conflict with the rights of landowners because what runs underneath the surface of the land may not belong to the actual owner thereof. Rights may belong to an entirely different entity that has no interest in preserving the value of hunting land. Once again, a lessee is in better shape in a mineral rights dispute because he or she can always back out of the lease. Owners do not have that luxury.


What Are the Ownership Costs?


Finally, there are the ownership costs that come with purchasing. Even hunting lands incur expenses like taxes and insurance. Yes, those expenses get passed on to hunting groups and clubs through leasing arrangements, but then they can be spread out among all the hunters using the land. A hunter who buys his/her own land will be responsible for those expenses entirely.

Where insurance is concerned, it should be understood that owner property insurance is not the same thing as hunter liability insurance. A liability policy covers both landowners and hunters relating to the use of the land for hunting. It does not cover things unrelated to hunting.

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