John Brown of BOSS Production shot this dandy 8-pointer in 2007 on land leased through the Hunting Lease Network.
Serious whitetail hunters everywhere dream of controlling their own hunting property. They would love to be able to plant food plots, improve the habitat for deer and other wildlife, and when hunting season rolls around, not worry about other hunters screwing up their plans.
In this day and age, when knocking on a farmers door and getting permission to deer hunt is becoming more and more difficult, those of us who don’t have a family farm or secret offshore bank account wonder how we can make this happen. I had almost given up hope myself until last fall, when my friend John Brown invited me hunting on a farm in southeastern Illinois. “It’s a new lease I have,” Brown said. “I think you’ll love it.”
I have known John, one of the country’s best hunting videographers and half the BOSS Productions team, a long time. I knew to trust him, and he was right. The property was outstanding, and though we didn’t punch my tag – we did have a 160-ish 9-pointer within 40 yards but couldn’t coordinate the camera and bow so no shot was taken – I knew John was on to something.
That something is the Hunting Lease Network (HLN).
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 Networkis 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.”
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 HLN land in southeastern Illinois 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.”
This fall I will definitely be back to the southeast Illinois farm where John and I had our close encounter. After I left, he and his crew took a couple of very nice bucks on film and had several other close encounters. While I was there Brown and I found some scary-good rub lines, and we know that the farmer will be planting corn in a certain field that sets up to be a red-hot honey hole. This summer food plots will be planted and stand sites prepared. Come mid-October we’ll start checking it out, and when the Halloween moon rises in the sky we’ll both be as nervous as a pair of young bird dogs when they see daddy head for the gun cabinet.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to obtain exclusive access to your own piece of prime hunting ground, check out: Hunting Lease Network