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Shopping for hunting land

Whoever it was that said it’s a buyer’s market for hunting land is in serious need of revising their sound bites. From what I see and have had reported to me by interested buyers, a “buyers’ market” is anything but the truth when it comes to hunting land being easy to find and purchase.

The reality is that there is no shortage of decent hunting land for sale, but the rub comes trying to find sellers willing to sharpen their pencils and negotiate. When the real estate market is down as it has been for some years now, one expects to find a fair opportunity to buy. With hunting land, it doesn’t seem to be happening quite that way.


Case Scenario

Friend Barry from Flowood tried to buy land three separate times last fall and could not succeed. “I looked at two pieces of property up in Holmes County not far from the Hillside National Refuge. The first one has been hunted by the two owners, but they crossed up on their hunting management styles and decided to sell. One was willing, the other was not. I made what I thought was a fair offer to their initial pricing and was backed by the rural land real estate agent. I was turned down flat, no counteroffer was even made,” said this potential land buyer.

“A few days later the agent called with another piece of land in the same area. It was a larger piece of property than I wanted to buy, but he assured me the owner would subdivide it any way I wanted it. I printed off an aerial map of the site and marked off roughly 100 acres I was interested in. I gave them an offer $200 less per acre than their price. On the counter, the owner reduced his price by only $2 an acre. I took that to mean he didn’t really want to sell all that badly. He also balked on dividing the land to suit me.” He didn’t call the agent back.

“On my third try I looked at a piece of land in Madison County, but like my friend said, the price was too good to be true. I found out why. For one thing it paralleled the interstate highway with all its noise. There were multiple access points to the long strip of land all planted in pines and everything was littered with trash. I didn’t spend 30 minutes looking at that place,” noted Barry. He gave up after that.


Searching for Nirvana

I love the radio ads of birds calling in the background and fish flopping on the pond as a rural land lending outfit talks about them financing your “little piece of heaven” for recreation and investment. It’s not quite that easy these days.

Land buyers looking for a place to hunt need to decide up front what they are looking for and set a flexible budget to attain it. From my market analysis the price of good hunting land can range from $1,500 to $4,000 an acre or more. Pricing depends on location from population, easy highway access, land feature amenities, infrastructure in place like roads, trails, and food plots, available electricity and water.

Hunters should be clued into the habitat potential. Is the land one huge cutover from a previous timber harvest or does it have standing hardwoods? Is it a pine plantation? Is there natural water available? Are there open areas or all timber? Can the property be easily secured via one or two locked gates? Who are the neighbors nearby and what is their reputation? Do they hunt, run dogs, and manage their property for wildlife? Who has been hunting the place if anybody?

When you initiate your search for hunting land via an agent or searching market newspapers and real estate ads, keep your minimal preferences at the forefront. If you use an agent, fully communicate your desires, and keep stressing them if they stray from your demands. Make sure the agent is selling what you want to buy.

The search for a really good piece of hunting land might take a year, maybe more. It certainly is nothing to rush into over a month or so. Deer hunters should never let the dream of big antlers cloud their decision making. Never buy land during the rut.


Beware of Red Flags

Ask why a particular piece of hunting land is for sale. Good land rarely is. Is the owner distressed? Is it an estate sale? Was the property leased for the past ten years and the owner finally had to run the hoodlums off the place for overhunting it or doing damage?

If the place looks unused, grass grown up, trees down, gate off the post, then it may just have fallen on hard times. If the roads show signs of recent use, deeply rutted roads and trails, then find out why. Is the place relatively clean or trashed? What is the history of trespassing or poaching around the place? Are their neighbors nearby to ask? Good neighbors are always looking for good neighbors, but they may also be the ones that have been hunting the place.

Deer or turkey hunters in particular ought to be interested in any harvest information or records on the place. Is the owner a hunter or his family? Ask them about the hunting? If there are no food plots in place and no sign of hunting stands, then maybe it genuinely has not been used for some time.

All the while you walk the place be thinking about what work the place needs and what that is going to cost you. Hunting land with amenities in place is worth more. Land without hunting infrastructure should not command the same high market prices. Keep looking until you find just what you want, which could include land you want to mold and shape on your own.

It may not exactly be a buyer’s market out there for hunting land, but with enough effort most people will eventually find that private piece of land they can call their own.


John J. Woods, Ph.D., is vice president in charge of economic development and training, Eagle Ridge Conference and Training Center, the Workforce Development Center and contract training services at Hinds Community College in Raymond.

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