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How To "Cash Crop" Your Wildlife
You can cash in on the wildlife you feed throughout the year by selling hunting leases. It doesn't mean you, your family and your friends can't hunt the land; it just means you get paid for letting others hunt it too. You can do it yourself or sign up with a lease management firm like the Hunting Lease Network.
"We have close to 40,000 sportsmen regularly bidding on our network, looking for places to hunt and fish," says Mark Lyon, a network representative for Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. "We have seasonal leases, such as for deer hunting, but 90 percent are for 12-month leases and all species. The landowner can set it up the way he wants and be as involved as he wants."
One of the advantages of going with an outfit like the Hunting Lease Network are the "extras" they offer, like liability insurance. Although most states have a liability exception for landowners who allow the public on their property, once you charge for access, it's another story.
"We write a policy that is the best you can get in the industry," says Lyon. "The lessee and landowner are insured. If a hunter gets sued, he can't sue the landowner, and likewise the landowner can't sue a hunter/lessee."
Lyon warns against simply adding liability coverage to a farm policy. He warns that most insurance policies have fine print that can get you in trouble.
"I've seen some policies with exclusions for hunting from stands, use of motorized vehicles and other things common to hunting today," he says. "We've had some major clients that have turned our policy over to their legal teams, and it is seamless."
The disadvantage to the network is they charge an upfront fee of $100 to enroll in the system and take a 25 percent fee from each year's payment. The enrollment fee covers placement on their website and review of the legal description or a visit to the land by the franchise holder for the state. It also covers all legal documents, including the insurance. Franchise holders like Lyon work with the landowner to establish reasonable rates for the property. These vary by property and state. High-end properties are often managed for wildlife, have hardwood ridges, a creek or river and are next to public land.
"If it is close to a park, wildlife refuge or waterfowl resting area, the price will be higher," says Lyon. "In Illinois, lease rates run from $8 per acre to a high of $30. The low range is for land without much timber, though a good fencerow can still hide a lot of wildlife."
Terms of the lease affect price too. Lyon notes that if hunters have exclusive access year round, it is icing on the cake.
Landowners, especially those with a business background, can also profit another way from hunting leases. Lyon says his firm, a division of Farmers National, a farm management company, is looking for additional franchise holders to represent the company. "The company is expanding rapidly and looking at adding three to four states after the first of the year," he says. "There are 7 representatives covering 17 states at this time."
Lyon says the connection with Farmers National provides the expertise in lease writing and appraisal. In addition, should the landowner decide to sell his property, most franchisees are also licensed real estate brokers and will help sell the land.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Troy Langan, Farmers National, 11516 Nicholas St., Suite 100, Box 542016, Omaha, Neb. 68154 (ph 402 496-3276; tlangan @farmers-national.com; www. national huntingleases.com).

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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6