By Josh Boyd
With the passing of every year, it becomes increasingly difficult to secure land access for the purpose of hunting. Growing urban sprawl has begun to cannibalize once pristine farms, leaving subdivisions in their wake. This has created a bottleneck of sorts, as hunters compete to locate any remaining available land to hunt.
This has given rise to the era of hunting leases. In the past, it seemed as if only large tracts of highly sought-after ground were offered purely on a by-lease basis. However, today nearly any block of timber greater than 5 acres is a hot commodity for potential lease. As a byproduct of this fierce competition for available ground, lease prices have skyrocketed to near unfathomable rates in many regions.
To offset these rising costs, many hunters have begun banding together to lease promising properties as a group. Doing so divides the cost of a lease among several members and reduces the total fee for which each is responsible.
While this can certainly be an excellent means of procuring property to hunt during the upcoming season, there are some issues to hash out among those involved. Tending to the following concerns now, can save much in the way of trouble and hard feelings at a later date.
Define Lease Rules From The Onset
Nothing tends to cause as much trouble among a group of individuals, as an overall lack of understanding toward the rules of a lease. Making sure that everyone is on the same page is some of the best insurance imaginable against aggravation. While these rules can be as comprehensive or as minimal as the group decides upon, they should be steadfastly acknowledged by all involved.
If the members of the lease opt to allow no visiting hunters outside of those listed on the lease, this fact should be clearly defined. If there is to be an agreed upon size limit or points restriction that is to be placed upon the harvest of bucks, this too should be thoroughly understood by all.
It is also advisable to print a copy of all such lease rules for every member, and have all members sign a ledger acknowledging the receipt of these rules before season. This is a uniform way of holding all lease members to the same standard and prevents any rules from being bent in one party’s favor.
Establish Set Workdays
From time to time, every lease will require maintenance and upkeep. From maintaining trails to hanging stands, at least a few workdays will likely be required in any given calendar year to prepare for the season ahead. To accomplish this work in a timely manner, it can be quite helpful to sit down as a group and hash out mandatory workdays when all members are to be present.
However, hard feelings can arise if one or more of a group’s members forego such designated workdays, leaving others to take up the slack. To safeguard against this scenario, many groups choose to implement some form of penalty for missed workdays. Some of these groups stipulate that those who do not participate in workdays must forfeit their pick of a particular stand sight, while others levy a modest monetary fine, which is then used to purchase camp supplies.
Formulate A Fair Stand Usage Method
If you want to see even the closest of friends fight amongst one another, let a dispute arise as to who is the next to hunt the stand closest to a trophy buck’s last known location. When one or more members of a lease decide that it is their turn to hunt a particular stand, things can become rather chaotic in short order.
One of the best ways to remedy this dilemma, is to prevent its onset in the first place. This can be done relatively easily by establishing a standardized, yet fair, way of dictating where each member of the party is to hunt on a given day.
Some leases choose to draw straws or pick numbers to make this determination. Others, however, utilize a set rotation, where every member of the lease alternates their usage of each stand site, before beginning the cycle once more.
As with any lease rules, the chosen method of stand site determination should be made known to each of the group’s members well in advance of season. This serves to eliminate any possible disputes when the buck of a lifetime suddenly makes an appearance.
Communication Is Key
Signing into a lease with fellow hunters is no different than entering any other multi-party contractual agreement. Ample communication is the key to avoiding conflict and ensuring that the upcoming deer season is one to remember. With a firm understanding of all rules and protocols in place, the season’s biggest argument will likely be over nothing more than who makes the best deer jerky.