Looking at how leasing might impact hunter access long term

Posted on: December 9, 2019 | Bob Frye | Comments

Hunter access is important.

A recent survey looked at how hunters feel about leading land.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

Truly scientific polls are conducted at random.

This does not appear to be that, so any results have to be considered in that context.

But it’s interesting nonetheless.

The survey

The American Hunting Lease Association is an organization that connects hunters and landowners, sells lease insurance and generally serves as the leasing industry’s representative. Earlier this year, though, it looked at how leasing of private land for hunting – common in the South for a long time, but spreading to other areas, like the Midwest and East – might impact hunting’s future.

To find out, it mailed surveys to 90,000 hunters, their names and information collected from social media, industry partners, and the Association’s own contacts. Some, it stressed, “have no membership or interest in the AHLA or leasing hunting access.”

It did not provide a breakdown of who responded or from where.

But the Association did say its questions were “unbiased and non-leading.” And it reserves commentary on the report to a document separate from the “objective” findings.

So, with all that said, about 2,200 hunters responded. And this is what they said.

The results

Not surprisingly, the study found that white-tailed deer hunting is the number one driver of hunting activity.

What is more surprising maybe is that most hunters are OK with what they experience while chasing deer. According to the survey, 65 percent are ‘mostly satisfied” with their experiences on public land. Only about 1 percent quit because of too much hunting pressure.

What’s more, 76 percent say they hunt mostly to enjoy the outdoors. Harvesting a deer or anything else is just a bonus.

Those who access to private land to hunt – for free – really like that arrangement. Eighty-five percent appreciate that.

Most hunters, the survey said, are concerned enough about future’s hunting to want to mentor newcomers or otherwise grow the sport, too.

Opinions varied – and were at times contradictory — on what role leasing plays in that, though.

Fifty-six percent blamed a culture that “has shifted away from hunting” as the top threat. No other issue ranked higher. By comparison, “lack of access to quality habitat” ranked second, with 34 percent of the vote.

Still, report authors said that raises questions.

“A significant percentage of hunters pointed to lack of access to quality habitat for (hunter) decline,” they said.

“That seems to contradict earlier survey results such as hunters’ satisfaction with current access and the amount of time hunters spend afield over the last five years. Both received high totals of answers to the positive.”

At the same time, while 58 percent said leasing “will play a vital role” in growing hunting by providing access to better habitat, another 28 percent said leasing “will have a negative effect on hunting as we know it.”

The conclusions

Taken altogether, the report’s authors – no surprise here — conclude that a majority of hunters believe leasing arrangements benefit not only landowners, but hunters, wildlife and wildlife management as well.

They did include comments to the contrary, however.

One “hunter comment” said leases are keeping some hunters from the woods; another said leases are becoming too expensive for middle-class families.

“There are way too many landowners nowadays that will not let people hunt their properties, which is sad and it hurts our sport, plus keeps our younger generation of hunters, which is the future of our sport, out of the great outdoors,” commented a third.

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Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.