Nothing shatters the tranquility of a November daybreak more than the "pop" of nearby rifle fire. Such is the reality for those forced to utilize the limited hunting resources of public lands throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
It drives many to consider purchasing land solely for the purpose of quality hunting, but the costs of owning such land can seem daunting. With a little bit of planning and research one can easily put together a dream hunting property that doesn't strain the bank account.
For many, there is the option to lease hunting land. This is a tricky process, as habitat management is completely out of the lessee's hands. If the land creates a bad habitat for deer, it won't matter that no one else is hunting on it. Purchasing land offers the most flexibility to any avid hunter. It's important that the land be purchased on a Warranty Deed. This form of land deed ensures that the ownership is complete and free of liens, liabilities, outstanding taxes or other encumbrances. In the case of land contracts or quitclaim deeds, caveat emptor - may the buyer beware!
Owning a plot of land for hunting allows one the freedom to cultivate a good hunting environment. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, the first of which is to scope out the land you're considering purchasing. It is important that the plot contain a waterway or be in relatively close proximity to water. It is also important that your land has a balanced ecosystem - a mixture of forest cover and food sources - so as to facilitate the presence of wildlife. A large, empty cornfield may be cheap to purchase, but you'll see little more than transient wildlife on their way to "greener pastures", as it were.
Be sure to make a sound investment in the natural resources. Quite often, the circumstances that make land good for deer hunting will also make for great small game and turkey hunting. The presence of water also presents the opportunity for good fishing during those warm summer days. Focusing on the general strength of the ecosystem - and not just a single hunting opportunity - will go further to ensuring high-quality hunting land.
Once a plot is owned, the options available to hunters are varied. Owners of smaller plots should consider talking with adjacent landowners about various ecosystem management options. Developing a good relationship with the neighbors also gives some flexibility to everyone. With a few ground rules, everyone can enjoy a nice mix of each other's land.
Consider Quality Deer Management (QDM) options as well. Unlike public lands where an over abundance of desperate hunters scramble to bag any of the few deer that cross their path, privately owned land affords hunters the luxury of letting smaller deer go free. If you have a small plot (less than 10 acres), you'll need to coordinate QDM efforts with the adjacent land owners.
Trends indicate that this could be a great time to invest in land. With the development market slumping, many lands that may have been purchased for ambitious building projects are being offloaded at exceptionally low prices. Many of the nation's biggest developers - such as KB Home - are posting multi-million dollar losses. While nationwide developers may be able to weather to storm and hang on to prime property, most smaller developers cannot withstand such financial burdens and will be eager to offload land.
Hunting land isn't merely an opportunity for great hunting. The aforementioned leasing options are available to any landowner who may not be able to find time for a given season. These options are particularly lucrative when the owner is actively engaged in creating a quality hunting environment.
Erecting cabins on the land may also prove to be a worthwhile venture. In Wisconsin, participants in the Managed Forestry Law (MFL) can place small structures on the land without affecting their tax status. Even building a full home merely requires a reevaluation of the status and an acre of land (for the home). Such structures may also improve the profitability of lease options by offering out-of-towners a place to warm up or dry off between bouts of hunting and fishing.
It is important to note that a qualified expert should be contacted before venturing into the world of land leasing. Many real estate agents or property lawyers can draw of lease agreements that protect aspects of the investment that the average property owner doesn't consider. The lease needs to outline exactly who is authorized to hunt on the lands, to include any guests of the party with which you are dealing. Language in the document should also specify the specific hunting season and acceptable activities during that time. Finally, since hunting can be a lethal endeavor, it is very important to clearly define you liabilities in the event of injury. These and other issues are best discussed - at least initially - with a qualified property expert.
There is no greater thrill than that of the hunt. Sitting on the edge of a marsh, or in a deer stand, as the sunrise breaks the dark serenity of a quiet morning one feels as if they've transcended into a spiritual realm. Owning hunting land keeps that experience pure and free of disturbances, while still being able to share the stories and the thrill with friends, family, and neighbors for generations.