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Guide to Lease Hunting in Iowa

Iowa Land Management and Real Estate Company, Vinton, Iowa

Each year million of people look to hunt and fish throughout the Midwest.Not all of them have free access to private land or public land and wish to pursue a lease on private land.That can work well for landowners as leasing property to individuals for hunting purposes provides another passive source of income!It certainly has it's pro's and con's.Whether you're a hunter looking to lease ground for your hunting party, or a landowner with land that might fit the bill, I hope this article is helpful to both sides of this equation.

Some landowners in certain areas of the country have been leasing hunting ground for decades.In other areas, it's a fairly new practice.Texas for instance has had deer leases in place back into the 1950's if not earlier.In parts of the Midwest, it's fairly new.Waterfowl leases are becoming more numerous in the Dakota's and deer leases more numerous in Illinois.

What About the Liability?

Generally, when I speak to clients that are wishing to lease land to hunters, the first question/concern is about the liability that goes along with it. In 2013 the Iowa Recreational Use Statute was made more “user friendly” to landowners, especially those who were not charging to recreate on the land. Individuals who charged for these rights, which are the subject of this article, are held to a higher standard however and must take steps to make sure the property is safe. Certainly it's a concern, but with the risk management tools that are available today, and a well written lease, a landowner need not lose any sleep worrying about liability. There are companies that specialize in hunting lease liability, but most insurance companies can keep a landowner protected. In addition, tenants should be required to obtain and show proof of liability insurance. Also, there are usually steps a landowner or the landowners agent can take to help with potential liability issues that involve some personal involvement. For instance, regularly inspect your property to identify areas that could harm someone and take steps to remedy them. Always warn, in writing, tenants about any hazards you are aware of. As always, we recommend that any lease document be reviewed by an attorney of your choosing.

Factors That Influence Cost for Hunters

When I speak to the other side of the equation, the hunters, the first question/concern I get is about cost. That number varies based on a lot of factors that are unique to the hunting leases we manage. Location, vegetation/timber in place, size, surrounding land use, access, history, and housing availability are a few of the items to consider. Let's take a closer look at these items.


If a property is close to a large metropolitan, it will command more than a property that is a long drive away. Land in western Iowa for instance, generally commands less money than land in eastern Iowa as the eastern Iowa land is closer to larger metropolitan areas. If housing is readily available, the proximity to larger cities is less important as hunters are generally willing to travel.

Vegetation/Timber in Place

Upland game leases require nesting and cover habitat for pheasants, new timber growth for grouse, a mixture of newer and mature timber for turkey and deer. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for instance works extremely well for pheasant habitat.


Depending upon the species being hunted and the number of hunters, size is an important part of the equation. Obviously, an individual hunter doesn't need, and probably can't afford, to rent a large tract. Forty acres might work well, whereas a large group might be looking for a half section of land.

Surrounding Land Use

Deer leases are worth more if the surrounding land is conducive to helping the parcel that's being leased raise more and higher quality deer. So, surrounding timber land that does not allow hunting makes the leased property worth more. Pheasant hunters are looking for neighboring land to provide food to complement the cover and nesting habitat of the parcel they're looking to lease.


This one isn't that complicated. Deer hunters want seclusion generally and pheasant hunters are looking for something that isn't sitting next to a highway if possible. Dirt roads don't work well as access can be limited during rainy times.


In all cases, land that has not been hunted in the recent past is preferable to land that has been heavily hunted for years. The species quantity and quality are generally better when the neighboring land hasn't been hunted or has had it restricted.

Housing Availability

Whether as part of the farm, or from nearby hotels, housing has an impact on rental rates. If housing is located on the farm, leases are for considerably more money obviously than if the hunter has to pay the hotel charges. In some cases, the landlord strikes an arrangement with the local hotel and includes it in the rental package. However, it seems leased property with housing on site commands a premium as it's more of an isolated getaway! It needs to command a premium though as you'll have upkeep costs to a home on the property.

Costs to Consider For Land Owners

For landlords, other costs involve the time spent managing the wildlife, securing a lease, and attorney's expenses for preparation and/or review of the lease. Should you hire a management company to do these things for you, the management fee will come into play in place of these costs.

After the cost issue, which you can see covers a number of points, the next question from hunters is generally about timing as many leases we have in place are multi-year leases. We usually have new leases to put in place every year, but not always. So, a waiting list for certain areas is not uncommon.

Caring for the Leased Property

Often I get the question/concern from landowners about the care of the property by the tenant. That's certainly a legitimate concern. While personally owning and managing an upland game outfitting business for many years, I found that the large majority of people who are guests on your property are very conscientious individuals. They usually understand that they need to treat the property as if it were their own. The hunting population, in general, is comprised of good individuals and not the “slob hunters” that are sometimes portrayed. However, for the landowners protection, a well written lease, should have language addressing this concern.

Preventing Unauthorized Access

Trespassing, and the handling of this issue, is another matter to be considered. There's nothing more frustrating to a tenant who's paying to lease your property than to have someone without permission in his deer stand when he arrives at it. There's nothing more frustrating to a tenant hunting pheasants than to have people in orange vests going over the hill on your property when they show up to hunt!

Today, trespassing is a little easier to regulate due to trail cameras. They can easily be placed on your property. When well concealed, they do an excellent job of capturing photo's of any activity. I once saw them used by an individual who had brought his daughter and her boyfriend to hunting camp. He put them up on the hallway railing between all the bedrooms! Making it well known that you are ready to prosecute anyone caught trespassing generally punts a damper on that activity!

Leasing can Truly be a Win-Win

In conclusion, leasing hunting rights provide a good source of income to the landowner, is a way to utilize those “nonproductive” acres, is one tool to help manage wildlife populations to their betterment, provides hunters a place to create memories with family and friends, and helps keep hunters safe by allowing them to be less congested than what they would be on public land. These are winners for everyone and I encourage you to investigate this option! If I can help further or you're looking for a property in Iowa, just call me at 877-718-LAND.

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