The Need for Written Hunting Leases
Protecting Your Property and Interests With a Written Hunting Lease
Every fall in Oklahoma, rural property owners and hunters often agree to allow the hunter access to the private land in exchange for some payment. However, an informal handshake agreement is often not going to protect either the owner or the hunter if any sort of incident occurs. The inherent risks associated with hunting activities and the nature of a payment or exchange of value for access to the private property mean a well-drafted written hunting lease agreement is crucial.
Standard Homeowner Insurance Policies Are Not Enough
One of the primary reasons landowners should consider a written hunting lease is the inadequacy of standard homeowner insurance policies in covering commercial losses resulting from hunting activities on their property. Typically, homeowner insurance is designed to provide coverage for personal liability and property damage related to non-commercial activities. When landowners allow hunters to pay for the right to hunt, or even allow some form of in-kind payment, they are essentially engaging in a commercial transaction.
Typical homeowner insurance policies will often exclude hunting injuries and hunting-related property damage from coverage. In such cases, the landowner could be held financially responsible for any claims or damages suffered by the hunters, the neighbors, or the landowner themselves. A well-crafted hunting lease can include provisions that require hunters to carry liability insurance (such as specialty hunting lease insurance) or assume the financial and legal responsibility for any accidents or damage.
Shifting Legal Risk to the Hunter
Hunting is an inherently risky activity and landowners should take steps to shift the legal risk associated with hunting accidents to the hunters. A written hunting lease is a crucial tool in achieving this objective which serves to clearly outline the responsibilities and liabilities of each party. This can be done using liability waiver language, defining insurance requirements, the inclusion of indemnification clauses, and other strategies.
Exclusive Right to Hunt
The issue of exclusivity within the hunting lease is another critical consideration, particularly for the hunter. Property owners must decide whether they want to grant exclusive hunting rights to a single party or allow multiple hunters on the property simultaneously or throughout the same season. Both options come with their own set of risks and benefits.
Granting exclusive hunting rights to a single party can provide a higher level of control and safety, as there will be fewer individuals hunting on the property at any given time. However, it may limit the landowner’s income potential and the flexibility to work with different hunting parties.
Allowing multiple hunters on the property at the same time can increase the landowner’s seasonal revenue but also clearly poses additional risks. The hunting lease should clearly outline rules and regulations for simultaneous hunting activities, ensuring that safety and property conservation are top priorities.
Other Essential Hunting Lease Considerations
- Limiting Shooting Near Residential Structures. To protect both property and human life, hunting leases should include provisions that restrict hunters from shooting near any residential structures and outbuildings. Clearly defining no-shooting zones and safe hunting areas within the lease agreement is crucial.
- Requiring Proper Licensing. Wise landowners require all hunter lessees have proper hunters education for the type of hunting taking place.
- Controlling Ancillary Activities. In addition to hunting itself, hunters may engage in various ancillary activities while on the property, such as setting up fires, camping, controlling litter and waste, or using the landowner’s facilities, including bathrooms.
- Income Taxes. Landowners who receive payments from hunters for the right to hunt must consider the income tax implications of such transactions for both IRS and OTC compliance. The payments received under a hunting lease are typically considered taxable income. However, property owners may also have deductible expenses related to the maintenance and improvement of the hunting grounds, particularly if the land title is held within a corporation, limited liability company, trust, or other entity structure. Consult with a tax professional to navigate tax considerations.
How We Can Help
The attorneys of Avenue Legal Group help landowners and hunters protect themselves through creating simple and enforceable written hunting leases all across Oklahoma. We draft custom hunting leases and sell hunting lease templates that are fully compliant with Oklahoma law. Contact us to begin preparing your written hunting lease.
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