Log landing with stacked timber on a hunting property

How to Make Money Off your Hunting Land

Legendary Whitetails 6.29.2016

Certainly, we would all love to own a couple hundred acres of prime deer hunting property, but who can actually afford to?  Not many of us, that’s who. For the majority of us, even owning just 40-80 acres seems impossible. This is precisely why I’m here to change your “can’t-do” attitude into a “can-do” attitude. The latter of which allows you to actually act towards fulfilling your dreams.

You’re not getting any younger, and land isn’t getting any cheaper. Which is exactly why you need to start saving today.  Contrary to popular belief, hunting land may be more affordable than one would think. Use creative options to fuel your desire to own hunting land.

Partner Up

It’s no secret, the more partners you have, the more funds you’ll have to buy a hunting property.  Partnerships are great when they work out, but they can also turn ugly and ruin friendships, so choose wisely.  Partnerships work best when all parties can be trusted and have their principles clearly laid out ahead of time.  Everyone involved should have similar hunting goals and expectations of one another.

Hunting partners study a map of the propertyPartnering up is a great way to add funds and enjoyment to a hunting property.

You never think any issues will come up between you and your hunting buddy when you’re signing the offer, but you need to be prepared just in case. Forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or at the bare minimum, a legal contract between parties is highly advisable.

This talk isn’t meant to scare you out of a partnership, as they can be extremely beneficial, but rather to make sure you are covered when potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake. A healthy partnership will make owning and hunting a property much more enjoyable and affordable.

Make the Land Work for You

It applies the same principles as the age old investor saying, “Make your money work for you. Don’t work for your money.”  Here’s a few investor savvy strategies that can turn your dream hunting property into an income producer.

CASH RENT CROPLAND

The first strategy that many hunters are familiar with is to rent out any farmland.  In this Wired to Hunt Podcast, Dan Perez, owner of Whitetail Properties, talks in great length about using this strategy as a means to own large amounts of hunting land in the Midwest, properties that ultimately earn an income.

Combine harvesting a corn field on a hunting property

As deer hunters, we often look for properties with an ideal mixture of timber and farmland. The more farmland there is, the more rent you can collect.  Use this strategy as a means to lower your monthly payment, help with property taxes, or even make you money on your property.  Of course, the fertility of the ground and current crop prices will ultimately dictate the amount of income potential.  Here in Wisconsin, most farmers are paying anywhere from $100-$150/acre to lease out for farming rights. To put this into perspective, let’s say you are looking to buy a 100-acre property and 60 acres are tillable.  Farmland is currently renting for $125/acre, which would leave you with an annual income of $7,500 . . . not bad for sitting back and doing nothing!

HARVEST TIMBER

Timber harvest may also be an income generator from a hunting property.  Selling off timber is a bit more complicated than simply handing a lease over to a farmer every year.  Going into a property, it’s always wise to have an experienced forester along to walk you through the process.  Just because you see a lot of trees doesn’t mean there’s a profit behind them.  A lot of factors can impact the value of a timber stand such as: size of trees, species, accessibility, and current market conditions. The one nice thing about timber compared to ag crops is that it grows year round.  This allows you to time the market over the course of several years, all while the timber volume increases.

Timber harvester with a load of wood in the forest

As a buyer, you should have a game plan for what to do with and after the harvest.  Will you be doing a clear-cut? Selective thinning? High-grading?  Each option will impact the amount of income you can earn immediately and in the future.  Since trees grow relatively slow, it’s important to plan it out right the first time.  Understand what the impacts of cutting are in terms of income and property value before and after to help you decide what the best path is moving forward.

LEASE OUT HUNTING RIGHTS

Wait, what?  You’re probably asking why would this dude would tell me to lease out my hunting land to other hunters if I bought it for hunting?  But, before you get your undies in a bundle, let me explain some ways it could benefit you.

Scenario 1: Maybe you’ve always wanted land to enjoy with your family as a recreational property.  Hunting is one benefit the property offers, but it may not take precedence over how you utilize it.  Maybe you strictly gun hunt and wouldn’t mind leasing it out to a bowhunter for a little extra income. Depending on the area, you could potentially get a pretty decent chunk of cash if you leased it out for bowhunting – which by the way, has fairly low odds of success.  In the end, you get a check and the opportunity to gun hunt with your family.

Scenario 2: You end up buying a large property that can easily hunt multiple people.  Instead of always having hunting buddies who don’t pay a dime hunt it, maybe you lease it out with the agreement that both of you will be hunting it.  Now, you’re getting a check while still being able to hunt effectively.  Heck, you might just find a new (paying) hunting buddy while you’re at it.

Scenario 3:  You buy land near your permanent residence, but the only way you could buy the land is if you bought it with the existing house and outbuildings.  Since you live nearby you don’t have any use for the buildings, so you decide to rent them out.  Now, you’re getting a monthly rent check to help pay off the mortgage, while still owning the land to hunt on.

Bonus tip: With sites like Airbnb and HomeAway it’s now easier than ever rent out your cabin or home for extra income while you’re not using it.  You might be surprised by what people will pay for a little seclusion.

Leasing out hunting rights isn’t fit for everybody, but it can be an advantageous income stream if need be.

Buy > Sell > Repeat

Here’s a strategy that is often overlooked by potential land buyers.  Most hunters who are thinking about buying land tend to set a target price and acreage amount from the get go and won’t act until they can afford their final destination.  This could take years and years of saving or even worse, it may never come to fruition.  Instead of waiting on your dream, why not act now?  Nobody said you had to buy your “dream” property from the get-go.  In fact, the education gained from buying a smaller tract or tracts of land before purchasing your “dream” property is invaluable.   You’ll learn exactly what to look for, what you like or dislike, how much work and money projects costs, etc.

Starting small with an end goal of improving and selling down the road is a great method for working your way up to bigger properties.  Remember, land can be a great and profitable investment if you buy right and improve the property.  If your end goal is to own 200 acres of prime deer hunting land, start with a 20 or 40-acre property.  Throw some food plots in, create a good trail network, maybe a water hole or two, and remove any junk to add instant equity into the property, while also improving its value for a future sale.  Not only will the property look nicer to future buyers, but it’ll also probably hunt better.

Once you sell the small property, you can use a 1031 tax exchange to defer capital gains taxes by rolling profits into another property.  Using the buy>improve>sell method along with the 1031 exchange, you can acquire your dream property faster than you ever thought possible, all while having your own deer hunting property along the way.  Short term sacrifices can lead to long term gains.

Final Thoughts

So you see, owning and affording your dream hunting property may not be as impossible as you once thought.  The beauty of many hunting and recreational properties is that many of these options coexist – you can partner up with a hunting buddy, do some improvements, cash rent the cropland, harvest some timber, and sell it at a later date for a profit.  Bottom line is creativity is often the fastest vehicle to reaching your dreams.

RELATED: THE FIRST STEPS TO BUYING A HUNTING PROPERTY


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