Deer hunting is big business in Texas. Texas landowners hold a unique position. Unlike many other states, Texas has little federally or state-owned land available for public hunting. As a matter of fact, 98% of all lands available to hunting in Texas are privately owned. This position affords the Texas landowner a unique source of income.
Location of the deer and not the ownership of the animals, however, generates the revenue. In Texas, all indigenous wild animals, such as white-tailed deer, belong to the state. As such, the state regulates the taking of game through hunting laws.
Although the state regulates when, how, and the number of deer that may be taken, the state cannot authorize trespassing on privately owned land. Independent permission from the landowners must be secured. Granting the right to enter and hunt generates the income.
Historically, permission to hunt was granted for the asking. Recently, however, Texas landowners began exacting a price for this privilege in the form of an agreement commonly referred to as a hunting lease. Depending upon the size of the lease tract, the abundance of game and the amenities available to the hunter, prices may range from a few dollars per day to thousands of dollars per season. The lease may last a few hours, a few days, several weeks, the duration of the hunting season, or throughout the year.
The so-called Texas hunting lease is not, in fact, a lease but rather a license. Technically, a lease is a contract that conveys exclusive possession or control of land to another for a specified period. A license, on the other hand, grants permission to do something that otherwise would not be allowed or would be illegal. Because the typical Texas hunting lease does not grant the hunter exclusive possession or control of the land, it is better characterized as a license. However, in this publication, the common term lease is used.
The hunting lease takes numerous forms. It may be granted orally on the payment of a specified amount of money. Or, it may be given by way of an elaborate written document covering all aspects of the hunt, including how the landowner’s property may be used.
Whether the lease is oral or written, the landowner and hunter should concur on key issues before consenting to the agreement. By doing so, each party knows what to expect and thereby avoids possible misunderstandings. The terms of the agreement may affect the lease price.
How to acquire a Texas hunting lease:
Step 1: Gather your hunting party together and determine the group’s goals and desires. A few things to consider…
What type of game is desired?
What quality of game is desired?
Is quality more important than quantity, or visa versa?
Are there any bow hunters in your group?
How much are you willing to pay?
Do you need shelter, or will you be bringing an RV?
If the latter, do you need water and electricity?
Step 2: Decide on the duration of the Lease Term.
Is a season lease acceptable, or does your group want year-round (annual) access? If you lease a property for the deer season, you may not be allowed to participate in hunts for Spring turkey, dove in September, etc… An annual lease generally provides access to hunt all game throughout the year.
Step 3: Decide on a general location.
Even though your hunting party resides in Dallas, and you would like to keep the drive as short as possible, you won’t find many good hunting leases in Dallas County. Be realistic. Research. Purchase a hunting magazine specific to Texas and read what’s being said about the different regions. Call the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Austin, or call me at DeerTexas.com. I am always glad to help you.
Step 4: Gather your hunting party’s money together.
It does not do any good to search for a hunting lease if everyone in your hunting party is not prepared to pay when a suitable lease is found. Do not proceed until all money has been gathered, or at least promised. Be prepared to pay immediately once a good lease is found. If you hesitate, you may lose the opportunity.
Step 5: Search for a lease.
There are several ways to do this. Word of mouth is still a great method. However, when you are lacking good personal referrals, you may use more common methods such as scouring the classified ads in the major newspapers, calling the Chamber of Commerce in the county you are seeking a lease in, etc… Better yet, you may use an online hunting lease service such as DeerTexas.com.
DeerTexas.com was created several years ago because of the dead-end leads I often found in the newspapers and Chamber of Commerce listings, and the frustration that went along with it. DeerTexas.com provides all its members an equal opportunity to find a good lease in a very user-friendly format.
Step 6: Set-up an appointment to see the property in person.
Regardless of the method you use to find a lease, set an appointment to look at the property in person. Make the appointment at your earliest convenience, and try to get everyone in your party to visit at the same time.
Step 7: Scout.
There is no substitute for thorough scouting. Actual game sightings are always good, but tracks, droppings, rubs, scrapes, rooting areas and roosting areas are all good keys. Try to arrange your scouting trip to coincide with game movements, early and late.
Step 8: Talk with the landowner.
If you have done your scouting and you like the property, now is the time to talk with the landowner. Before you enter an agreement, find out what the rules are.
1) What game is allowed?
2) What sex (of game) is allowed?
3) What weapons are allowed?
4) Can you bring guests?
5) Can you bring children or grandchildren?
6) Are ATV’s allowed, and if so, where?
7) What is the lease price and payment schedule?
8) If electricity and water are available, is there an extra charge for it?
9) Whose responsibility is it to maintain roads, senderos, wells, etc…
10) Are food plots allowed?
11) Are there any stipulations to the placement and location of blinds and feeders?
12) Why did the previous hunters leave?
13) Can you contact them?
Step 9: Enter an agreement.
If everything you have learned about the prospective property is good to this point, it is time to enter an agreement with the landowner. Some landowners will provide the hunters with a written contract complete with all the rules and expectations. In that case, it is up to the hunter to READ the contract and discuss any objections with the landowner. Sometimes contracts are negotiable. Sometimes they are not. If you, or any hunters in your party, come across something that needs further clarification or revision, talk with the landowner about it. Often times the landowner is willing to bend a little. If not, it is better to know up front rather than down the road.
You may draw up a contract yourself and then present it to the landowner. However, understand that many Texas landowners still believe that a handshake and a word is as good as any written contract. Simply do what you feel is right in this regard.
Step 10: Enjoy your new hunting lease.