Leased Hunting Access and Its Effect on The Future of Hunting
Let’s start with this. Of the over 1000 hunters that lease their hunting access and responded to our survey, 98% of them are at least mostly satisfied and will lease again! That is an overwhelming reality and should at the very least cause every hunter in this country to take note. 98 out of every 100 hunters that choose to compensate a landowner for exclusive access to quality habitat and have some level of control over harvests, hunting decisions and safety are happy with their decision and will continue to do so.
Hunting Lease Survey Results
The AHLA undertook this survey to find out if access to quality wildlife habitat was in fact an issue driving hunters away from the sport. Or possibly keeping new hunters from picking up a weapon and heading into the woods. Clearly from the feedback we received from hunters that lease access, there is no cause for concern. Subsequently, our experience outside of the survey demonstrates the same level of satisfaction from landowners that lease access to their farms and properties.
So, why don’t more hunters lease?
Consider that in 2016 hunters in the U.S. spent over $20 billion (87% of all expenditures) on items unrelated to access (2016 USFWS National Survey). Read that again if you need to, let it sink in. $20 Billion on gear, travel, weapons, food, ammo and even magazines and memberships and yet some still balk at the idea of paying to access land. The ability or willingness to pay for hunting access isn’t for everyone. However, based on the above numbers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters are already “paying to hunt”, they are just paying companies instead of landowners.
For hunters that are sincerely interested and motivated to improve their hunting experience, a shift in priorities will be necessary. That change in the way they approach hunting season will mandate that hunters recognize the pecking order of what gear/expenses really matter and place access to quality habitat at or near the top of that list. Once hunters connect these dots and are willing to place a landowner ahead of all other hunting related companies that compete for their money, their hunting experiences will improve, their hunting trips will be safer, more productive and more enjoyable. Plainly stated, satisfied hunters pay for access before they pay for bows, guns, ammunition, technical clothing, tree stands, scents and calls etc…
Lets Talk Money
The financial challenges that come with land ownership are very real. Landowners, by virtue of their perceived assets are often mislabeled as wealthy. Landowners, in general are far from wealthy and many are living on a fixed or limited income. Family farms are being inundated with growing debt. Related to costs from farming, insurance, maintenance, mortgages and more. A simple offer to compensate a landowner or farmer for hunting access, can pay property taxes for an entire year. A hunting lease arrangement can make very real and immediate difference in a landowner’s life.
A willingness to compensate landowners, relieving at least some of their financial burden in exchange for exclusive access will undoubtedly (98%!) result in a better experience.
Final Thoughts on Hunting Leases
One final benefit of leasing that may well be the most important is its positive effect on habitat preservation. If access is truly a concern, then it seems to be obvious. That preserving the habitat we enjoy now should be at the top of any priority list. Landowners living on a fixed budget or in need of additional income frequently sell their land to generate revenue. Once that property changes hands, there is a high likelihood that it will be developed. With the habitat permanently removed. Landowners that have discovered the benefits of generating additional revenue through leasing access to their land. Are actually less likely to sell and that habitat will continue to flourish.
As hunters and industry representatives. We cannot standby and allow urban sprawl and still think the sport of hunting can flourish. Compensating those that own the resource and addressing their concerns and needs will directly result in reduced habitat loss.