The pay-to-play method doesn’t have to be extremely expensive
Some hunters prefer to hunt public land. Others gain permission to hunt private. And some choose to hunt with outfitters. If you don’t like those three options, and you prefer to do the work yourself, you’ll have to lease or buy land.
Maybe buying your own piece of hunting land through Realtree United Country isn’t on your radar right now. If so, leasing is your best bet. On the surface, it might seem expensive. But there are ways to lease hunting land on a budget. It just takes time, work and a little bit of luck. I did it. Here's how.
1. Lease Less Land
You don’t need a big farm to kill deer. Leasing the right property is more important. Quality over quantity. That’s the mindset. Properties under 50 acres are much more affordable than those of higher acreages anyway.
2. Lease in Less Popular Areas
Land in areas that don’t receive as much press will be cheaper to lease than areas that do. Focus on states, regions and counties that don’t get as much attention. You’ll pay less per acre.
3. Lease Land No One Else Wants
Just because others ignore a property doesn’t mean it’s bad for hunting. Tough access. Hilly terrain. There are many reasons why a property might go unleased, or leased for less money. You just have to be willing to work a little harder to milk the tract’s value.
4. Lease Privately Instead of Through Agencies
Leasing through agencies is convenient and has plenty of perks. They certainly have their advantages. But it’s cheaper to lease directly with the landowner. Just make sure you still protect yourself with a contract and leasing insurance like you’d receive when operating through a leasing agency.
5. Lease with Partners
Bringing others on board to lease a property with you will drive costs down. Divide the lease price by however many members are on it. This means less money spent, bigger properties, or both.
6. Lease the Right Property
It’s better to have 30 or 40 really good acres than 200 or 300 average ones. Think about proximity, layout and huntability. Think about everything that makes a good property what it is and translate that into the perfect tract of land. Then find the closest possible thing to it.
7. Lease Luck Requires a Little Prayer
Despite all these tips, finding the perfect property requires a little bit of luck, too. Good thing we believe that you create your own. The best way to find the right property is to scout digitally. Look for land that catches your eye. Then find out who owns it, obtain contact information and ask them if they’ll lease. It’s also good to ask everyone you know to talk to landowners in their networks, too. Use every resource at your disposal.
Budget Leasing in Action
Finding the perfect lease is doable, even on a budget. I leased an Ohio property for three years. It was small. Barely 40 acres. Only half of it was huntable property. But the 20 acres that were good, were really good.
I took a nice 8-pointer off the property the very first day I hunted it. Then I spent the next two seasons chasing a giant that I never quite caught up to. I never filled a buck tag after that first one, but I did have opportunities at nice bucks the following seasons. They just weren’t the right ones.
My dad also joined as a guest from time to time. He was blessed with an incredible opportunity at a 140-inch buck. Other years, he passed opportunities at good deer in search of bigger ones, too.
The lease was a good one. It produced great deer, good memories and a solid place to hunt. And it was all done on a budget. You can do the same.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.