Private lands offer optimal scouting for whitetail seasons opening as early as July 29 (archery, Zone A).

Unless you either own property or have a close friend who does, you’ll likely be hunting on public land or paying for a hunting lease or a hunt club membership this fall. Both hunting leases and hunt clubs have advantages and disadvantages; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to where to hunt.

Cost

Generally speaking, hunting leases are more expensive than hunt club memberships. Memberships may range from several hundred to a thousand or more dollars a year, and when you first join, there may be an initiation fee. Compare that to the cost of leasing anywhere from 150 to a couple thousand acres for $8 to $11 an acre on your own. Then add in the cost of inputs such as corn for feeders, seed and fertilizer for food plots, tractor rental to plow food plots and mow roads, and you’ll see how the costs add up when you’re leasing on your own.

Size of Property

This is directly related to the cost of leasing property. In a hunt club, you can hunt on much larger areas than an individual hunting lease. Just as a round figure, let’s say you’re paying $10 an acre for a 200-acre tract, or $2,000 just to lease a relatively small piece of property. That $2,000 could represent membership in a hunt club with access to some very nice acreage.

Management Goals

Management for quality deer is a goal of many hunt clubs, but it takes thousands of acres to accomplish any significant improvement in deer populations. The only way you will have trophy quality deer on an individual lease is if you’re fortunate enough to be surrounded by big hunt clubs all practicing some kind of quality deer management. If you’re a member of one of those big hunt clubs, however, you may be hunting on a tract that has been under a quality deer management program for a number of years and holds trophy quality bucks.

The preserve is yet another option, attractive for events or episodic hunts, such as the Boykin spaniel owners gathering.

Number of Members

If you have your own hunting lease, the number of people hunting on it will be however many you want. In a big hunt club, you may be hunting with 20, 30, or even more other members. That can be fun if you consider hunting a social event, but if you prefer quiet woods with nobody else around, you may not find it so appealing. On the other hand, having a lot of members can be an advantage if you get stuck on a muddy road or have to get a deer out of the woods over difficult terrain.

Rules

Big hunt clubs often have lengthy, detailed rules about guests, work days, and who hunts where. As a new member of an established hunt club, you may be relegated to hunting the parts of the club property where other hunters don’t want to go. That may mean you’re hunting the least accessible parts of the property, or on a section where the habitat is poor and few deer are present, at least until you’ve been a member of the club for a couple of years and gained some seniority.

Hunt clubs often strictly limit the number of guests you can bring, or the number of times you can bring a guest. On your own lease, you make the rules and you decide when you want guests and how many people to invite.

Work Days

Managing a hunting property effectively takes times and work. There are roads to be mowed, feeders and tree stands to be maintained, and food plots to be planted. Doing it all yourself, particularly if you live a distance away from your lease, can be difficult and time consuming. When a club membership works together on projects, it’s less work for everyone. FS

First published Florida Sportsman July 2017

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