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How to Profit from Off-Season Farmland

Leasing land to a hunting outfitter can provide additional income, plus peace of mind when it comes to property oversight.

| November/December 2018

  • sunrise over property
    Hunting leases allow you to generate a profit from your property during the off-season.
    Photo by Getty/Bassador
  • Hunter
    Check with local outfitters to get an idea of what you can expect to earn from your land. If there aren’t any local outfitters in your area, consider a national outfitter, or check into local real estate agencies that work with landowners.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/cherie
  • hunting dog
    White Tailed Deer Wildlife Animals in Blue Ridge Outdoors Nature Scene.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Zach Cunningham
  • deer in a field
    White-Tailed Deer Wildlife Animals in Blue Ridge Outdoors Nature Scene.
    Photo by Getty/Werks Media
  • goose hunters
    A good guide will provide general oversight of a property, and use their knowledge of the land and its game to ensure that hunters get the most from their experience.
    Photo by Dale Cahill
  • Hunting group
    A reputable, trustworthy guide is a valuable asset to any outfitter, landowner, and hunter.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/gsshot

  • sunrise over property
  • Hunter
  • hunting dog
  • deer in a field
  • goose hunters
  • Hunting group

Farming comes with myriad financial risks, from violent weather that destroys crops to unexpected drops in wholesale prices. For farmers looking to mitigate some of those losses, leasing their farmland for guided hunts can bring in additional income. Private hunting leases can provide farmers with a way to garner income from their land during the off-season, after the last crops have been harvested and the fields are dormant.

Leasing land can be done in a number of ways, but many landowners choose to work with a hunting outfitter. Hunting outfitters operate as a go-between for farmers and hunters. They connect landowners with interested hunters, work with them to draw up a lease, supply hunting guides, and more.

Monetary gain from leasing land to a hunting outfitter varies widely depending on location, topography, and available game. Here in Vermont, it's not uncommon for hunters to trade maple syrup or other agricultural goods or services for hunting rights on a neighbor's farm. In Chazy, New York, Matt Martin, owner and hunting guide for Frontier Waterfowl Guide Service, leads fall and spring waterfowl hunts on local farmland. Each hunt lasts 2 or 3 days. Martin charges $200 to $250 per hunter per half-day. He says that farmers get a small revenue stream from their lease, plus the benefit of knowing that someone they trust is taking care of their property. While farmers won't get rich leasing their land to an outfitter, they're usually able to earn enough off-season revenue to offset taxes or update a piece of farm equipment.

Trust is essential to a successful leasing agreement between farmers and hunters. A farmer himself, Martin says he's familiar with the pitfalls and anxieties that can come with allowing public access to private land. When negotiating a hunting lease with a farmer, Martin includes individual provisions specific to that farmer's needs and concerns, such as setting a cap on the maximum number of hunters, agreeing on the duration of the lease, specifying hunting style, and spelling out payment.

Working with a reputable outfitter can alleviate some of the worries that come with allowing hunters onto your property. "More and more people are detached from nature, so they need help knowing what defines safe hunting," says Steve Hall, owner and operator of Kansas Farmland Outfitters. When taking groups of hunters on a guided hunt, a reputable guide will keep an eye on each hunter and ensure that evidence of their presence on the land is minimal. And a good guide will more than likely make sure that the farmer gets a share of game for his own freezer.

Hall says his farmers receive between $5 and $25 per acre. He offers guided hunts for whitetail deer, Rio Grande wild turkey, waterfowl, dove, and predators. He also offers lodging and meals on his own farm for an extra fee — another source of income to consider if you choose to lease your land.

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