With hunting season starting soon, now is a good time to consider whether you should lease your land for hunting. Leasing your land for hunting can be beneficial by giving you an extra source of income as well as managing wildlife populations and decreasing crop damage. However, there are some considerations to make before granting that lease to someone.
Your first concern should be whether or not you would be liable for hunting accidents on your property. You likely wouldn’t be, thanks to Ohio’s Recreational User Statute. In certain situations, Ohio’s Recreational User Statute provides immunity from legal liability for someone harmed on your property during recreational activities. The types of recreational activities included in the Recreational User Statute include: hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, swimming, operating a snowmobile, all-purpose vehicle, or four-wheel drive motor vehicle, or engaging in “other recreational pursuits.”
Under the Recreational User Statute, those who lease nonresidential property for hunting do not have any duty to keep the premises safe, do not give any promises of safety by granting permission, and do not assume responsibility or liability for injuries caused by any act of the hunters.
Next, you should consider the lease itself. To create an enforceable lease, the lease must:
1. Be in writing
2. Identify the land being leased by legal description, address, and acreage
3. Properly name the lessor (the owner of the land) and the lessee (the person leasing the land to hunt)
4. Be signed by both parties
5. Be acknowledged and certified by a notary public or local official if the lease is over three years
It is also important to consider what should be included in the lease. Some terms and conditions you should consider including are:
- A description of the property: Clearly defining what property is/is not included in the lease will set clear boundaries for the lessee
- A description of what activities are/are not allowed including fishing, camping, tree stand or duck blind construction, etc.
- Allowance or restriction of sub-leasing: Do you want to give permission to the lessee to sub-lease or is the lease strictly between you and the lessee?
- Who is allowed to hunt or access the property? Just the lessee? Or may the lessee bring guests? Is there a limit to the number of people allowed to hunt at any given time? Do you want the lessee to ask permission to bring guests?
- Amount of payment and payment dates: How much will you charge for the lease and when do you want paid?
- Termination clause: When will the lease end? On a specific date and/or if a violation of the lease agreement occurs?
- Are you limiting the number of deer that may be killed? Requiring a certain number of female deer killed?
- Landowners reserving some rights to hunt on their land: When leasing your land for hunting, you give up your right to hunt the land yourself unless you reserve some rights to hunt for yourself
- What season is the lease in effect? Is the agreement only deer, deer and turkey, etc.
- Vehicle access to the property: Where can vehicles drive and park on your property? What vehicles are permitted — will you allow ATV’s?
- Requiring hunters to maintain liability insurance
These are important considerations to think about including in a hunting lease, but this is not an exhaustive list. You should really consider what your goal is for leasing your land for hunting. Make sure the terms and conditions you include in your lease will help accomplish those goals. While hunting lease templates can be found online, you should consult with an attorney to create a hunting lease that will satisfy the goals and needs of your particular situation.