The public ground I hunted last season was seriously crowded. Each state - five in total - that I bowhunted in was busier on the common ground than I’ve ever seen, and it got me thinking. I know public land is the hot ticket right now, with some hunters going so far as saying that if you don’t hunt public dirt you’re cheating, but that can’t fully explain the amount of bowhunters I ran into.
It’s likely the upsurge in public land hunters has something to do with the amount of property being locked up for deer. Leasing is big, big business these days with individual hunters and outfitters alike throwing money at landowners across the country to ensure a year of quality hunting. Whitetail hunters are also more inclined than ever to buy ground if at all possible, and if not, at least advocate that the family farm becomes a tightly controlled sanctuary.
Lament these trends all you like, but that’s just how things are going. Some people have it made whitetail-wise, and many don’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some options out there for deer hunters who don’t have the financial means to tie up some dirt.
Year To Year
Full disclosure, I’ve never leased any ground. I’ve come awfully close several times, but my willingness to lease has been poisoned by two things. The first is that I’ve bought a few small parcels in my life. Signing a personal loan on the first property and then paying it off opened up a world to me that I didn’t believe would ever exist. I became a landowner, and while that sounds pretty sweet, the land I bought was mostly swamp and at best good for does and forkies. Still, it was better than not owning dirt, and it always factors into my thought process when I think about writing a good-sized check for a lease because I know I could put that money, year after year, toward owning a new property.
The second reason I haven’t leased yet is simply because I’m hooked on the challenge of bowhunting public land. I love the fact that any one of us can find some dirt that is open to all and work hard enough to find some success there. To me, there isn’t anything more satisfying when it comes to whitetail hunting.
All of that stated, I can feel myself inching toward leasing something. My twin daughters will be old enough to hunt deer in a few years, and I’m starting to fantasize about having control of a chunk of deer and turkey ground somewhere out of state to take them each spring and fall. This is one of the reasons I joined Basecamp Leasing. I wanted to see what was out there and what the prices were on random leases throughout several states. Each week I get emails about new properties that come up and plenty have piqued my interest.
Leasing might not be for everyone, but it’s a major part of deer hunting these days.
Go Big, Or Not
Buying land is like dating. You’ve got to be honest about your range, which can be depressing. The upside is that if you’re as realistic about potential mates as you are deer properties, you’ll find something good enough. Deer hunters often dream big when it comes to owning land, but that’s simply a mental insurance policy against actually looking at land they can afford.
You’ll probably never own a full section in southern Iowa, but what about 25 acres of so-so ground within an hour of your house? You can set it up the way you like, plant a few food plots on it, and enjoy the process of owning land. You probably won’t kill Booners every year (or any year) on a small parcel, but you probably weren’t doing that anyway.
The rub when it comes to trying to buy a little piece of whitetail heaven is most banks won’t give you money for recreational land. They just won’t, so you’ll have to get creative if you need a loan. For my last property, I walked into my credit union and asked what the options were. I could have taken out a personal loan with a high interest rate, a home equity loan with a decent rate and some tax benefits, or refinance my paid-off truck for a loan with a killer rate. That’s what I did, and after three years I still had the truck and was the title holder on 30 acres of deer ground.
Again, buying isn’t for everyone and I get that, but don’t believe that it can never happen because you never know.
Here’s the option I don’t want anyone to choose when it comes to dealing with deer ground. Don’t give up hunting. We are seeing this already in many states when it comes to firearms hunters, and it’s not good. I realize there are other factors playing into this trend besides access, but there’s no denying it’s a big one.
If you love to deer hunt, and you probably do if you’re reading this, there’s an answer out there. It might be leasing, it might be buying, or it might be bumping elbows with a bunch of other hunters on common ground. The worst choice any of us can make is to throw our hands up in frustration and trade in our hunting gear for golf clubs.
Access is one of the largest impediments most of us face when it comes to deer hunting, or experiencing quality hunting. There are options out there for all of us worth exploring. It might cost you some money, or it might simply mean you’re going to deal with the deer hunting general public on a daily basis. The sacrifice, however it’s made, will still be worth it though because after all, you’ll still get to deer hunt.