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Finding the Perfect Hunting Property

January 19, 2015 - Kyle Walker, AFM, AAC, CAC

Every outdoorsman dreams of owning their own hunting property, however finding that perfect property is not always easy. If you do your homework and ask yourself a few simple questions the perfect property may be closer than you think. First of all, I am by no means an expert hunter, and it’s highly doubtful you will ever see my face on any hunting show. I’m just an average guy with a passion for hunting in southern Iowa.

My love of the outdoors started at an early age, fishing and hunting with my brother. I got really serious about bow hunting whitetail deer over the past six years. Apart from spending time with my wife and kids, I count down the days until I can climb into my favorite tree stand each October. To me, hunting is about the experience of being in the outdoors and spending time with friends and loved ones.

Peoples Company and other brokerages have numerous recreational properties for sale, and many of my clients are looking for that ‘perfect’ hunting property. I find myself answering questions from prospective buyers on what makes a good property. Of course trail camera pictures of 200 inch bucks and an abundance of red headed gobblers is the easy answer. However, when you really think about buying a good hunting property, many questions need to be answered. Does the farm have a lease in place and does this lease include hunting rights? Does the property have water or electricity on site? Have large bucks been harvested on the property over the years? All these questions are worth asking and hopefully a capable land broker can help you navigate through all the small things to think about when purchasing a hunting property.

Three big questions need to be asked, and hopefully the answer is “YES” before you put in an offer.

Can the property hold and produce quality deer? It gets a little depressing watching hunting shows on TV and seeing them harvest mature bucks each and every year. Many of these bucks live exclusively on property owned by these TV personalities. They name each buck and put together a ‘hit list’ of which bucks are ready to be harvested. This makes for great drama and I set my DVR each week to keep up.

In the real world, most landowners don’t have own properties large enough for deer to exclusively live on their property. You don’t need to own a whole section of farm ground to produce quality bucks. Ideally you need good timber – oaks and other hardwoods – bedding, and year -round food to hold quality deer. The most important is food or the ability to hunt over standing crops or travel corridors between bedding areas and crops.

Farms as small as 40 acres can make great hunting properties, if they tie into larger timber tracts and have food. Personally, I killed my largest buck on a 40-acre farm with only about 10 acres of timber. Neighboring properties may have acres upon acres ofKyle Walker deer hunting standing timber, but if your property has year round food the big bucks will eventually be under your stand. On smaller properties, try to add food plots that contain different types of vegetation. I prefer to hunt over whitetail clover or alfalfa in early to mid-season and brassicas – turnips and rape – during late season. Choose your food plot locations based on predominate wind and trees large enough for stands.  Try to add natural grass areas or enroll some acres in CRP to provide natural bedding areas on your property. Look for farms that have a good balance of crops and timber with at least one water source. Corn and beans are great food sources but additional food plots are needed with late season foliage to hold deer during late season and into shed season.  Finally, keep mineral sites on your farm for antler growth and overall herd nutrition.

Is the property income producing? Most buyers wanting to purchase recreational land are also looking for some return on their investment. Buyers initially want a sizeable hunting property complete with an abundance of timber. This idea is quickly vetoed when buyers realize standing timber equates to minimal or no return on their investment. Buyers then recognize that they need tillable acres to maximize return and make their investment look favorably on a piece of paper.

If you’re truly interested in buying a quality hunting property, please understand these properties will not show a 4 percent to 5 percent return on investment. Investors will jump on properties that show a 4 percent net return after taxes, insurance, et cetera, and these farms generally have little or no timber. They may also be tied up in a long CRP contract or some sort of a sale-leaseback clause.

Timber acres can also be an additional revenue stream if you’re willing to part with timber. Tree buyers are generally looking for walnut and oaks, and to a lesser degree maple, cottonwood, and hickory. When assessing a farm in southern Iowa I usually put a $1,000 to $1,500/acre value on timber acres. This depends on the type of trees, the maintenance, slope of the land and overall age / quality of the timber. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has a complete list of bonded timber buyers. Please visit the website below to learn more.

Look for properties that are close to 50 percent to 50 percent in row crop and timber. Properties that show a 2.5 percent to 3 percent net return are more realistic when buying a recreational property, and should be given a serious look when you’re ready to purchase a property.  Most hunters are not interested in actually farming their property and need a little help taking advantage of all revenue streams. Peoples Company has a complete land management department headed by Randy Luze and Mollie Aronowitz to help you maximize revenue on your new property.  They can help you find quality tenants, pay taxes, insurance, increase land values, and address all questions pertaining to your property.

Do the surrounding landowners actively manage hunting? Good fences make good neighbors, but a good relationship with nearby landowners is critical to a good hunting property. Harvesting mature deer is usually an outcome of a collaborative effort with neighboring landowners. Ideally, your neighbors will work with you and allow deer to reach maturity or harvest ‘management’ bucks to wean out bad genetics. Three years of good deer management can completely change and improve the entire genetics in an area.

Everybody knows a nearby landowner who allows anybody and everybody to hunt on their property. These properties have commonly been in the landowner’s family for generations, and the owner is usually well liked in the community. They have a hard time saying ‘no’ when asked to hunt their property. In Iowa, a deer herd can be nearly ruined by large groups’ shotgun hunting and shooting anything that moves.

Investigate neighbors and try meeting the surrounding landowners before you put in an offer. Working with like-minded neighbors can transform an eighty acre property into one that hunts like a thousand acres.

Peoples Company agents are interested in helping buyers find that perfect property. Please visitwww.PeoplesCompany.com or contact me with any questions at (515) 291-5766 orKyle.Walker@PeoplesCompany.com.

Published in: Real Estate