How To Score A Great Deer Hunting Lease Right Now

The off-season is the best time to find a new deer lease with help from HuntStand. Don’t hand over your cold hard cash before heeding this advice.

by Josh Honeycutt

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Josh

The off-season is the best time to find a new deer lease with help from HuntStand. Don’t hand over your cold hard cash before heeding this advice.

Finding a productive hunting lease is getting more difficult by the year. People are scooping them up as fast as they hit the market. Today, hunters are grabbing them without even walking the property, and that was unheard of as little as five years ago. Today—with help from cutting-edge tools typified by the many-featured HuntStand app—it’s commonplace.

Leased Land vs. Permission Properties. Twenty years ago, most people didn’t even know someone with a deer lease. Today, you’re likely in the minority if you don’t have one. Times have certainly changed, and hunting simply by permission is dwindling. While it once dominated the private landscape, it’s now less common. This has forced hundreds of thousands of hunters (perhaps more) to pay to play, especially in areas where public lands are scarce.LeasingLand6 900For those still unfamiliar with the concept, lessees (hunters) rent land from lessors (landowners). Leases are generally priced by acreage, and can range from $5 to $50 per acre, location depending. More desirable destinations—such as big-buck-rich midwestern states—cost more, and lesser-known states—like several in the South—are cheaper. That said, $20 per acre is fairly average in today’s economy.

The longevity of a lease is generally detailed in the contract, or is agreed upon prior to a handshake if ink and paper aren’t present. Usually, these will last a calendar year, but other arrangements can be made, such as multi-month, multi-year, or day-to-day fees.LeaseADD1 900Due to rising costs of leases, it’s becoming more popular to go in together with family and friends. This is a great way to save money, but make sure the property is large enough to accommodate the number of hunters who plan to join it. The last thing you want is for people to get left out, or feel they’ve been cheated.

Fortunately, some properties hunt “bigger” or “smaller” based on the terrain, topography, cover, food, and overall deer density. As a result, some smaller tracts might actually feel larger than bigger pieces of lower-quality hunting land. Keep that in mind.

Prepare Now For When Bucks Go Missing This Fall

Once the property is deemed large enough for all parties involved, the HuntStand app offers a handy Stand Reservations feature to help your group keep track of all blind and stand locations. This provides an efficient way for lease members to select hunting locations. Simply search for available blinds or stands, see which ones are occupied, and which ones are vacant. This prevents people from interfering with each other’s hunts, and potentially helps reduce the likelihood of a hunting accident. BaseLayers 900Learning Lands With HuntStand Layers. Fortunately, there are many things HuntStand can tell us about a property before we ever see it in person. While it’s almost always best to inspect a property before signing the dotted line, that isn’t always possible.

This is especially true if looking to lease a property in a popular state—such as Ohio—via a popular lease broker, such as Basecamp Leasing. One of its employees recently told me that southern Ohio listings last an average of 10 minutes after

Can You Speak Deer Antler Lingo? Here’s A Quick Guide

being posted online. Ten minutes! That certainly doesn’t give you enough time to jump in the truck, let alone drive to the property, which might be hours away. Because of this, it’s become even more important that people have the tools and skillset necessary to determine a piece of land’s potential without being there.

In 2019, I leased a great property in southern Ohio without ever stepping foot on it, and took the risk solely based on the agent-provided information and a detailed analysis using HuntStand. But more on how that worked out later.LeasingLand7 900First, here are the ways you can pick apart a potential lease using only HuntStand. And remember, the word “potential” comes before each of these, because on-site verification is needed to guarantee what you’re getting.

Property Acreage: A great aspect of HuntStand is its ability to show you exactly how large a given tract of land is. This is beneficial when trying to find the right-sized property, which directly correlates with price.

Property Topography: Reading the topography—by using HuntStand’s topo or 3D layers—is a great way to predict how deer might use the land. It can mean the difference in deer living on the property a lot, or merely passing through infrequently.PropertyInfo 900Property Boundaries: Knowing where the out-of-bounds lines are located (see above) is very important. Not only when trying to stay out of trouble, but also when determining whether the best potential spots for stand locations are on your side—or not.

Ease Of Access: Being able to access a property easily is important to some people, especially those who are older or physically limited. Because of this, it helps to know if there are steep hills, hard creek crossings, established two-track trails, etc.

Neighboring Pressure: You can’t always know how your neighbors hunt, or how many are hunting on a particular tract, but you can likely measure how many neighboring properties you share borders with. For example, if a small property touches seven or eight other tracts, rather than only three or four, chances are good the area receives higher volumes of hunting pressure. Personally, I’d rather lease a property with larger tracts of land around it, and have less neighbors.LeasingLand8 900Deer Density: The app can’t tell you how many deer are on the farm, but like the previous point, less neighboring tracts—which translates to larger properties around the tract in question—likely means a lower harvest for the general area. A few exceptions include large hunt clubs, outfitter properties, public lands, etc.

Age Structure: The same advice above holds true for buck age structure. It’s no guarantee, of course. But it’s a concept to consider.

Nearby Public Lands: Sometimes, you don’t want to hunt your lease. Bad wind directions. Low-odds days. Farmers working in the fields. The list goes on. It helps to have some public land in the area as a backup plan when things don’t pan out. HuntStand will lead the way. MeasureArea 900Area Measurements: Like to plant food plots? Have a certain amount you want to plant? Use HuntStand to measure the size of available fields to determine if the lease meets your expectations.

Distance Measurements: This can come in handy for many things, but ultimately helps you visualize just how large small fields, pinch-points, and other key terrain features might be. With HuntStand you don’t have to guess if you can effectively cover a particular funnel during bow season—measure it!LeasingLand3 900Water Sources: Knowing whether or not water is present on the property is crucial. With HuntStand, you can clearly see rivers and streams. Oftentimes, small ponds, seeps, and the tiniest of creeks can be seen, too. And in many cases, you’ll be able to pinpoint water sources, especially ponds, that do not appear on many (or even most) printed maps of the area. Most of you don’t have to be told that during hot weather, knowledge of these isolated water sources can be critical.

Stand Locations: You can’t pick out good stand trees from the app, but you can drill down on potential stand location areas (within a small area).LeasingLand1 900Bedding Areas: Being able to identify quality edge habitat is important for whitetailers everywhere. With HuntStand it’s often possible to pinpoint where pockets of early successional habitat are located. There’s a decent bet that’s where deer will be bedding throughout much of the year.

Entry and Exit Routes: A property is only as good as its entry and exit routes. An app doesn’t paint the entire picture here, but it can provide a very solid starting point.

Wind Directions: Knowing which way the wind will likely blow is important. While this is heavily influenced by the lay of the land, it is possible to have a rough idea based off of prevailing winds and thermals. If you’ve got a question on a certain area, whether it’s a potential stand site or entrance/exit trail, simply drop a pin and fire up the HuntStand HuntZone feature.

Likely Hotspots: While there’s no guarantee, it’s possible to pinpoint likely stand hotspots, such as: benches, hubs, leeward ridges, pinch points, ridge endings, saddles, and more. In the comfort of your home drop map markers at any points that you feel hold potential and, once on site, your scouting is not only more efficient, it takes on new meaning. LeasingLand4 900Food Sources: It doesn’t tell you what’s on the ground, but a view from above can provide clues as to whether a field has been used for ag crops, hay, livestock, etc. in the recent past.

Things You Can’t Learn from Above. To be completely fair, while the app is great for learning much about a property, and it can provide accurate clues as to what you’ll likely find there, it’s still important to confirm your expectations by walking the land.

While I previously stated that it’s possible to “guesstimate,” it’s hard to determine a tract’s exact deer density or age structure via an app. It’s also difficult to learn the trail networks, exactly how deer traverse the property, and where “hidden gems” might be located. Of course, once you walk the tract, HuntStand can help you log all of your many findings, including detailed notes of your on-site observations. That’s critical stuff.LeasingLand9 900An app also doesn’t reveal all of the potential negative factors that a property might have in store. These include—but aren’t limited to—deeper streams without crossings, neighboring hunters with stands/blinds on property lines, landowner problems, on-property tenants, signs of trespassing, livestock presence, recent changes in habitat, where good stand trees are located, etc. But again, once you walk the property, HuntStand helps record your findings for future reference (even in areas without service, thanks to the offline mapping feature).

My HuntStand Lease Testimony. As stated, I leased a property in the summer of 2019 without ever seeing it. It was a risk, no doubt. I was apprehensive. I’d leased lands before, but never before without walking them in person to see what I was getting. Still, I analyzed the many things listed above as best I could, decided it was a good play, and paid the deposit. Sure, I sweated a good bit, but it worked out…and quite well.LeasingLand12 900All in all, I decided the 80-acre tract (see above) didn’t have perfect entry and exit access. It checked most of the other boxes, though. The place seemed to offer plenty of bedding, water and a decent amount of food. I expected we could supplement the property with what it didn’t already have.

Upon arrival, there weren’t too many surprises, other than what I thought was an older barn was actually a house with a renter living in it. It actually worked out, though. They kept an eye on the place, and helped to discourage would-be poachers from hitting the property.

I also didn’t find as much food as I expected, and the access was a little worse than I thought it would be—but it was still good enough to get the job done. Who likes an easy challenge, anyway?LeasingLand10 900I hunted a good bit during the 2019-20 deer season, and had mature buck encounters, but it took until the late season to fill my tag. In January, during the late-muzzleloader season, my friend and lease partner tagged a narrow, tall-tined deer. Two days later, I tagged a 140-incher with similar characteristics. We had trail camera pictures of both bucks, and each of them were on our target list.

All things considered, leasing hunting land is always a risk, even if you walk the property beforehand. Still, it’s good to do so if you can. But if that isn’t a possibility with your situation, HuntStand can help relinquish some of the clues you’re looking for—from the comfort of your home!



HuntStand is the #1 hunting and land management app in the country. It combines advanced mapping tools with powerful map layers to allow users to create and share the best hunting maps possible.