OK, bowhunting.net readers. I know most of you have been waiting for this all year long. The rut is here!
This year I am hunting the peak week in southeast Illinois, a place where I hunted last year trying to make a TV show and did not shoot an arrow. But that doesn?t tell you the story. Even though deer movement was minimal here last year, I still had a 160-class 10-pointer at 40 yards for 60 seconds begging me to shoot him. And I would have ? but my cameraman couldn?t get on the deer, and that was that. And we saw lots of great sign, so here we go again.
One reason I am back here again is because we control our own destiny. The property we are hunting was leased through Hunting Lease Network. I got onto this awesome program through my good friend John Brown of BOSS Productions. It?s a superb program. Here?s how it works.
I weigh all my finished hunting shafts with broadheads to make sure I have a quiver filled with arrows that weigh exactly the same.
Hunting Lease Network is an internet-based service for landowners and hunters that makes it easy to find quality, affordable land for hunting and other outdoor pursuits. The goal of this unique system is to arrive at a fair hunting lease arrangement. Landowners contact HLN to inspect their property and if the property meets HLN?s criteria for a good hunting lease they post the property on their website along with quality aerial maps, property photos and other property details. If you find a hunting lease you like you can submit a bid to lease the property, starting at a minimum set by the landowner. Added to this minimum bid is the cost of a $1 million liability insurance policy covering the landowner, anyone named on the lease and their guests. It’s that simple. There are no hidden fees, no cost for the public to register, view property information, or to submit a bid.
HLN has created 88 franchise territories, breaking some states into multiple territories because of population and size, the amount of private land available, and how much money is spent on hunting and fishing. The landowner pays a $100 fee per property that’s listed on the website.
“The really great thing about our relationship with Hunting Lease Network is that no longer are we put at the mercy of someone else’s timetable, rules or regulations,? Brown said. ?For the first time in my 16 year career I’m now able to decide when we hunt, where we hunt and who we take hunting. We’re now able to plant food plots, institute quality deer management programs and have all year around access to the properties. No longer is it a one shot deal where I’ve got 3-5 days of hunting to get a show produced.”
I moleskin everything when setting up my BowTech 101st Airborne, including the prongs of my arrow rest.
The first year is always a one-year lease, the program designed that way to make sure that the landowner, lessee, and HLN are all on the same page. After that, if you desire, HLN can help you set up a long-term lease. Once you secure a lease, you have the right of first refusal when the lease comes up for renewal. However, anyone can bid on the property. If your lease is up and another party comes in and bids more money for it, you can match that bid and keep the lease. Also, when they sign up with HLN the landowner agrees that your group will have the exclusive rights to hunt the property. Exceptions to this are listed in detail in the description to the property on the website.
Lessees are not limited to hunting whitetails. Out West, for example, there are properties available that have elk and mule deer. Some people lease properties for waterfowl or upland bird hunting. HLN records show that demand is greatest for waterfowl and deer hunting areas. As a testament to client satisfaction, a bit more than 80 percent of all leases are renewed.
While hunting in southeastern Illinois last year I met Mark Lyon, the area?s HLN franchisee and an avid whitetail hunter. ?We really go out of our way to acquire hunting rights to prime tracts of land, not land that is marginal,? Lyon told me. ?I know that as a serious hunter myself, I wouldn?t want to be hunting poor land, but only the best. That?s one reason we work with our landowners to make it possible for lessees to create food plots and do some quality deer management programs. As long as it doesn?t interfere with a farmer?s crop plans, I?ve yet to see that being a problem.?
In preparation for the hunt I padded my Bushnell Scout 1000 laser rangefinder first with stick-on moleskin, then hockey tape, to both protect it and help prevent unwanted noises when I accidentally bang it on something while on stand.
And so, here I go again. My BowTech 101st Airborne is dialed in with Carbon Express Maxima Hunter shafts tipped with 100-grain Slick Trick broadheads. I?ve got a new pair of Bushnell Elite 10×42 binos and a Scout 1000 laser rangefinder, and I?ll be wearing the new Optifade camouflage from W.L. Gore, a camo scientifically designed to be invisible to a deer?s eyes. So come along with John and I as we try and shoot a big buck on camera this week. It should be ultra-exciting!