How to Increase the Value of Your Whitetail Hunting Land
Whether you’ve been hunting most of your life or you’re just out for a walk in the late-fall woods, there’s something magical about spotting those towering whitetail tines. Elegant, quick, and agile, whitetail deer provide plenty of hunters with an exciting challenge.
Two of those hunters, John Tate and Shad Sheldon, have hunted whitetail throughout much of the country. John watched his dad bag a buck in the woods of South Carolina when he was just 6 years old and the love of the hunt grew from there. “I was hooked after that and grew up hunting and fishing – doves and trout and bass and deer.” It was a passion that led to a job as a cameraman, editor, and producer for Realtree Outdoors on the Outdoor Channel and ESPN2 for many years before John traded in the camera for his real estate license and a position with Hayden Outdoors.
Shad’s story follows a similar passion-turned-profession trajectory. A hunter since he was just seven-years old, he killed his first deer when he was 10 or 11. Later in life, he bought a tract of land in northwest Kansas that he and his wife developed into a hunting lodge. When they went to sell the property, they turned to Hayden Outdoors for the company’s expertise in selling large acreage hunting, ranching, and recreational properties from coast to coast.
Today, both men combine their extensive hunting expertise with their work for Hayden Outdoors as recreational real estate agents. They understand the importance of optimizing your property for whitetail deer hunting, and, more importantly, how best to do it. In a recent sit-down – the wall behind Shad clad in impressive whitetail and mule deer mounts – John and Shad shared their thoughts on how best to increase the value of whitetail deer hunting property.
Understanding Whitetail Deer
Before you optimize your hunting property for whitetail deer habitat, it’s important to understand the animals. The most notable characteristic of whitetail (or white-tailed) deer – and where they get their common name – is their “white flag” tail that stands alert anytime a deer senses trouble. They are herbivores and munch on a variety of tall grasses and plants (and your garden if you’re not careful about putting up proper fencing).
Female deer, or does, typically give birth to between one and three young (fawns) in early spring. Only male whitetail deer grow antlers, and they shed them every winter. Growth typically begins in late spring and throughout spring and summer, the antlers are covered in a fine-hair membrane that has the appearance of velvet. Antlers will grow through late summer and early fall before hardening on the animal’s head, just in time for bucks to defend their territory during the rut. Whitetail deer tend to graze mostly at dawn or dusk, and they have very good eyesight and hearing. Most live between two to three years, although whitetail deer can live up to 10 years in the wild and longer in captivity.
Whitetail Deer Behavior and Habits
Whitetail deer are pretty solitary animals. Unlike elk, which migrate in herds, whitetail deer typically move in small family units of a doe and her fawns with the bucks living alone most of their lives. Does and fawns tend to bed close to food and water sources while bucks can be very strategic about where they bed down, especially during hunting season.
During the spring and summer, bucks will bed down at their convenience, near food and water. However, once hunting season kicks off and they become aware of hunters in the area, bucks will look for safer haven resting with their backs against a solid surface such as downed timber and large rocks, at least before the rut starts. They watch for downwind predators, listen for any nearby threats, and smell for oncoming hunters.
Does, fawns, and young bucks feel comfortable wandering into open terrain to eat. However, this is not typically the case for mature bucks. They practice safety measures to help lessen threats during hunting season, such as taking indirect routes to food sources and bedding down for large portions of the day, eating and drinking at dawn and dusk. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible to spot a buck during the day, but look for smaller food plots and water sources as opposed to the great wide open. And if you’re tracking the animals, don’t forget about water. Bucks will typically drink between three and five quarts of water a day, so if you can find their water source (keeping in mind it can be as small as a puddle or meager spring), you increase your odds of bagging the prize.
Rutting Season: A Whitetail Hunter’s Dream
The deer rutting season – when deer mate – takes place between October and early December. Bucks become much more active during this time, venturing out more, and sometimes into more wide open terrain, in an effort to mate with a doe. It’s also a good time of year to spot a big buck during the day as they wander from more well-hidden sanctuaries.
Because of this additional daylight activity, the rut offers the best odds of a hunter bagging a buck. The male deer will go where the does go, so set up your stands and blinds within sight of bedding spots. It’s also this time of the rutting season bucks will abandon meandering trails for more direct routes to food plots and water sources.
There are phases of the rutting season, including:
Pre-rut: mid to late October
Seeking: late October to the first days of November
Chasing (also known as peak rutting): early to mid November
Tending (or lockdown): mid to late November
Post-rut: late November
Second rut: first two weeks of December
If you’re looking to manage whitetail deer behavior on your own hunting property during the rut, John offers some advice. “It all correlates back to food. If you’ve got the food, you’ve got the does. If you’ve got the does, you’ve got the bucks.”
Whitetail Deer Habitats
Food and Water Needs
To that point, what kind of food is best for whitetail deer? John continues, “It’s all situational. In the Midwest, you’ve got the crops. In Wyoming, you’ve got alfalfa. Do soil tests to make sure you’re getting the soil right and plan around crop rotations.”
Shad adds that pH levels are critical. “You want your soil to have plenty of nitrogen and phosphorus in it. Generally, you need to have both protein and minerals. Alfalfa, wheat, clover, and oats is a good mix.” Both men point out that owning whitetail deer hunting property is a 365-day endeavor. “Having a successful whitetail hunting property is a year-round job. You can’t just show up on opening day. To be successful, year-in and year-out, you need to be thinking about the land,” says John.
Shad agrees, “I want to make sure I’ve got enough mineral holes in summer and again in January. The minerals have to be in the deers’ bodies by hunting season to help grow their antlers. We make sure, no matter what time of year, they have access to plenty of minerals.”
Test your soil and establish the best mix of food for whitetail deer in your area. Common whitetail deer foods include:
Seeds and nuts: acorns, chestnuts, and pecans
Row Crops: oats, clover, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans, and corn
Other wild or cultivated plants like: apples, forb, berries, and native grasses
Like all other animals, deer also need plenty of pure, clean water. Sources will vary from state to state. If there is not an obvious natural water source on your land, such as a lake, pond, stream, creek, or spring, look for alternatives. These can include old wells, troughs, and other rain capture devices.
Cover and Shelter
Deer need to bed down and feel safe doing it. They require proper ground cover and sanctuary, but this doesn’t mean you need large amounts of established forest on your property. John offers this rule, “33/33/33 is a good balance – roughly one-third full timber, one-third edge property, and one-third open space.”
Successful whitetail deer hunting land also features tall grass. “One thing I’ve learned,” says John, “Is that you don’t have to have a lot of trees to be successful. Features like fence row and creek beds provide great cover and shelter.” During the offseason, assess your property and learn where the deer trails are and where the main corridor is.
One point of note is cattle. If you run cattle on your land or lease it to someone who does, it’s important to be mindful of when you pull the cattle off. Shad makes his rancher pull off the first of September. “This allows for a good 30 – 45 days with no cattle on the property to allow deer to get back into the land.” According to the seasoned hunters, a cow can ruin a deer hunt faster than just about anything.
Managing a Whitetail-Friendly Property
Spending plenty of time walking your whitetail hunting property is the best way to learn where the deer travel, how they navigate the land, and what they’re eating and when they’re eating it. Keep these practices in mind for maintaining a successful whitetail deer-friendly property:
Maintain built infrastructure such as stands and blinds.
Plant food deer like to eat to help keep them coming back to the property versus wandering farther afield in search of food and water.
Trim trees and hinge cut trees as necessary, but don’t overdo it. Make sure your efforts contribute to, not take away from, the whitetail deer habitat on your land.
Improving Your Property Value
Building a good environment for whitetail to thrive benefits not only the deer population on your land, but also has a positive impact on your property value. Well-maintained trails and roads, properly fertilized and cleared row crops, and good sources of water will attract deer – and help maintain your bottom line.
As always in real estate, a well-maintained, turnkey property goes a long way towards building value – and that includes all of your hunting infrastructure. In addition to any homes on a property, make sure all blinds and stands, storage buildings, and barns are clean and sound.
The most important thing to remember when you’re trying to sell or appraise a whitetail hunting property? “Pictures!” says Shad. “If we’re gonna sell it, we’ve got to have proof.” You can talk about those eight-point bucks all day long, but unless there’s actual proof they exist on your property, you might as well be convincing buyers BigFoot hangs out there, too.
Strategies for Scent Control
Whitetail bucks have a very keen sense of smell, so managing your own odors and scents is important to getting in close enough for the kill. Enlist these tips before hunting season starts or you head into the field to help yourself remain as undetected as possible:
Store blinds and stands in a controlled environment, such as a clean storage shed. Simply putting things away in the garage or stashing them behind the shed can result in unwanted contamination from other fumes and odors.
Use scent eliminator sprays on clothing and equipment. Wipe down your gear at the end of the hunt or the end of the season and then store in an air-tight tote.
Wipe down boots, including the soles, with scent eliminating products.
Make sure your truck or ATV is clean and clear of other animal and human scents.
Use unscented laundry detergents and fabric softeners during hunting season.
Avoid scented soaps, shampoos, or deodorants before you head into the field.
For the best scent control, however, Shad simply says, “Stay down wind.” And he’s not wrong. Paying close attention to wind direction while you’re hunting offers one of your biggest advantages to being on the right side of that big buck when the time comes.
John agrees, “You can use scent-free soaps and sprays, but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta hunt the wind. It’s your biggest adversary and your biggest helper. My experience is, those scent reducing techniques only help on the borderline. The only way to fool whitetail deers’ noses is to be downwind of them.”
Hunting Ethics and Conservation
When it comes to managing your whitetail deer hunting land year after year, hunting ethics and resource conservation lead the way. Make sure your visitors and guides have taken proper hunting safety courses, and understand the importance of ethical shot placement and how best to achieve it.
Working to conserve your resources prevents disease and overpopulation. It also benefits all of the species that wander your property. “The deer aren’t the only ones that benefit from these food plots and land improvements,” says Shad. “Quail do; mule deer do; turkeys do. I’ve seen disease and drought ravage deer populations, but we can, to a point, improve the land deer are living on with food plots, trimming vegetation, and hinge tree cutting so the deer aren’t stressed. It can give the herd a healthy existence for years and years to come.”
Whitetail deer hunting is about more than meat. It’s about more than the trophy. It’s about spending time outside with friends and family and connecting with the land. For John and Shad and so many other passionate hunters like them, it’s a lifelong journey.
“It’s a good way to get outdoors. To connect with your family. A good way to spend time not on the phone or in front of a TV,” says John. “We all want to shoot a deer like the ones on Shad’s wall, but those animals represent a story and a journey and where he came from. The five-pointer my dad shot in South Carolina when I was a kid means just as much or more to me than anything I’ve shot because I was with him. Now I’m hunting with my nephew. I’ve hunted with a lot of people over the years. Some hunts were successful; some weren’t. It’s funny how friendships are born being out in the woods together, around a whitetail deer camp.”
John continues to point out that not as many people hunt any more, and yet, it remains an important tradition and inextricable way to connect with the land, with conservation, and with whitetail. Learn more about owning your own whitetail deer hunting land in Kansas, North Carolina, Missouri, or Nebraska, and all of the magic and reward that comes with it.
The Benefits of Setting Up Trail Cams on Your Property
Trail cameras, or more commonly, trail cams, are a helpful tool when it comes to monitoring your property.
Scouting and glassing for this year’s hunt can be thrilling – catching a glimpse of the trophies that might be waiting there as the season nears. Adding some additional eyes to the effort, including late in the evening and at night when some animals become particularly active, can help your odds even more. Trail cams are providing this kind of visibility, and gaining popularity because of it. Those are only a few of the benefits of setting up trail cams.
Trail cams are discreet cameras people position throughout property – and sometimes on public lands – to get a complete picture of animal activity. These types of cameras are triggered by a motion sensor, capturing pictures as the animal moves through the field of vision. They range from relatively basic, taking pictures that are stored on a secure digital card and retrieved later, to much more high tech. REVEAL’s Cellular Cameras fall into the latter category, offering a mobile app that sends trail cam images to your device in real-time.
While the technology continues to get better and better, the strategy behind mounting and positioning trail cams is also important to consider. Three Hayden Outdoors recreational real estate experts recently chimed in on how they use trail cams for hunting, safety, and general wildlife management. As lifelong hunting guides and outdoor enthusiasts, Shad Sheldon, Heath Thompson, and Lonnie Gustin provided a brief master class in proper trail cam management. Hailing from the Plains, the South, and the Rocky Mountain West respectively, their insight spans a variety of purposes and touches nearly every corner of the country.
Trail Camera Basics
Quality and capabilities vary, but most cameras feature:
Make sure to see how long a camera’s battery lasts.
Detection circuit or PIR sensor
This piece detects both heat and motion, then triggers the camera.
The small lights allows for night-vision pictures.
Make sure yours can stand up to the elements in your area.
Choose a camera you can easily install
Types of Trail Cams
Modern trail cameras fall into two categories: cellular and non-cellular. Each has their benefits. Non-cellular cameras don’t allow for real-time viewing, but they are typically less expensive. Alternatively, cellular cameras allow you to keep an eye on animals without having to retrieve camera chips or disturb the area.
Shad Sheldon has been hunting since he was 7, and bagged his first deer at 10. He started bow hunting in his late teens, a passion ever since. He and his wife ran a hunting lodge in Goodland, KS until about 10 years ago, when they turned to Hayden Outdoors to help them sell it. Not long after he joined Hayden as an agent, specializing inhunting properties andfarmland.
These days, Shad and his wife spend their time in eastern Kansas, as close to the land and its rhythms as possible. He relies on trail cams for a variety of reasons, both personally and professionally when he’s helping clients list their land. We asked what he looks for in a good trail camera.
“I like good resolution and good pictures with true color. Most cameras will fire right away; you won’t get a lot of blurry moments. I like to put great pictures on our website to help clients sell property. And of course, it needs to be easy-to-use.”
Choosing a Trail Cam
Before you throw down a good chunk of change – trail cams can range from $50 – $600 – it’s good to know what you want to accomplish with your equipment. Talk with your local dealer about the features of the camera. Some important things to think about are:
Do you want a wireless camera, or will traditional work?
Do you need video capabilities as well as still shots?
What kind of image quality do you want?
What is the trigger time – the time between the animal moving across the field of vision and the picture being taken? Slower trigger times result in blurrier images.
What is the power supply and/or battery life?
Does the camera offer security features to help prevent theft?
Setting Up Trail Cams
Heath Thompson grew up on a farm in Georgia, and has a degree in Forestry. He’s been in the business a long time, hunting, guiding, and managing land. These days, Heath’s family owns 1,500 acres, row crops, and grows hay. He has a history in agricultural, hunting, timber, recreational, and farmland with Hayden Outdoors in the Southeast. He understands the importance ofthe perfect hunting property like no one else.
When it comes to trail cams, Heath doesn’t mess around. “I worry about additional scents on my cameras, so I’ll hang them outside at my house in the yard for a while to get the correct smell. When I go to place them on the property, I’ll wear rubber boots and gloves.”
Placing trail cams in the right spot is key. Our agents have some tips:
Set up near scrapes so you can see which bucks are scraping when.
Set up feeders year-round to see seasonal and yearly patterns.
If allowed, consider bait such as a mineral lick, soy, alfalfa, or scent.
Look for game trails. Mount your camera alongside them to track animal movement.
Look for water sources, and mount a camera nearby.
How many cameras you hang depends on the size of the land, your objective, and your budget. Heath offers these tips on trail cam height. “I hang mine three feet from the ground to the bottom of the camera to get a full view of the animal. I also keep the sun’s direction in mind, pointing cameras northeast or northwest to avoid over exposure.”
Look closely for nearby plants that might trigger the camera. There’s nothing worse than hoping for a great shot of that Boone-and-Crockett buck only to get hundreds of pictures of grain or a branch.
Using Trail Cams to Enhance Wildlife Observation
You might be using trail cams for hunting, or just to get an inside view of the wildlife. Lonnie Gustin is familiar with both. He’s been hunting and wandering the mountains of the West his whole life, but is quick to tell you he’s never been an outfitter. “I always said I liked hunting too much to be a guide.” Nowadays, he hunts with his boys along the Rocky Mountain Front throughout Wyoming and Colorado. He calls 4,000 acres along the Western Slope of Colorado and Wyoming home, and joined Hayden Outdoors “back in the day,” about 13 years ago. If you’re looking to buy or sell a farm, hunting property, or ranch land in the area, Lonnie is your guy.
He uses trail cams all the time, most commonly placing them near water sources where he might catch a glimpse of big game – typically elk or mule deer in his neck of the woods. And sometimes, a camera will capture something else – another big Western predator making its way across the land. Trail cams are an excellent way to learn more about the wildlife in the area. Bears, wolves, lynx, mountain lions, coyotes, fowl, and varmints – trail cams paint broad strokes of the wildlife living on your land. For Lonnie and others, trail cams also offer a unique way to understand the local wildlife population – how and where animals are moving; which water sources they rely on; and how land use shifts from one season to the next.
Using Trail Cams for a Better Hunting Experience
While trail cams can certainly enhance the hunting experience, Heath gives fair warning, “The worst thing you can do is look at trail cams. It’ll make you sick; big buck after big buck you might never see again.” And while he’s right – some of the biggest racks don’t make it onto the wall – having trail cams on the property can help you prepare.
He adds, “We use trail cams for animal counts. We count every deer we see. It lets us know what’s on the property.” Lonnie counts on trail cams for knowing the time of day animals are coming in. And Shad likes to use them to learn more about what comes after hunting season. “After last rifle season was over, we had about three to four 150-class bucks show up. We saw new deer move in.” Heath notes trail cams aren’t just for big game. “They’re great for turkey hunting, too. Trail cams let me see where the turkeys are, because down here, turkeys don’t gobble a lot. So we’re using trail cams to see where they’re traveling in and out.”
Using Trail Cams to Increase Property Value
Hayden Outdoors real estate agents are known for showcasing every aspect of a property when it comes to selling it, and cutting-edge cellular trail cams are a big part of the strategy. Shad sums it up this way: “The bigger bucks I pull off the property, the more it’s going to go for. The more good pictures I have of those bucks, the more money we can bring in.”
Lonnie agrees, “Trail cams are pretty damn important when I’m selling land. They let me prove the wildlife moving on the property. If I can actually show people some background and some shots and they can see where that huge elk was, it’s an important selling point.”
Heath goes so far as to compile entire albums for the properties he represents. “You need to have proof, and you can’t get it in just a week. Property trail cam capture takes a long time. Having historical timestamps on a lot of photos adds a lot more value than just having one good buck on a single trail cam shot.”
In addition to buying and selling, trail cams add additional value to the property by aiding in pest control and property security. Placing trail cams at a property entrance or lesser known access point is a great way to see if people are wandering in when they shouldn’t be.
Setting up trail cams on your property offers a variety of benefits, including:
Adding a trail cam system to your land can help bolster its value over time. It’s also an excellent way to learn the ins, outs, and animals who call your acres theirs, too. Chat with your local sporting goods dealer about the best setup for your land, or upgrade to trail cams that let you know which four-legged creatures are cruising though as soon as they’ve crossed the camera’s lens.
Rural Property Forest Fire Prevention & Protection Tips
The Threat of Forest Fires are a Very Real One For Rural Property Owners.
Whether it’s timberland, farmland, grassland or a cabin in the woods, protecting your property from the ravages of an out-of-control blaze is essential. The team at Hayden Outdoors represents land purchases across the country – many of which are in the forest, country or grassland areas. Our expert team will suggest fire prevention strategies, and use our experiences to communicate the best methods of keeping your buildings and livestock safe.
Tips to Help Protect Your Rural Property and Home from Wildland Forest Fires
Make Sure You Have Adequate Fire Insurance Coverage on Your Home and Other Buildings on Your Property.
Regularly review this policy to make sure it covers all potential risks associated with wildfires. Take a moment to review this policy with an agent – ensuring that all the necessary coverages are in place to safeguard you from the potential risks that wildfires present.
Hayden Outdoors’ Evan Anderson offers insurance programs for landowners throughout the country, as a service to our clients. “Fire insurance can offer much more than coverage on buildings. We have policies through providers across the country that protect your investments beyond homes and personal property, including loss of income, loss of feed for livestock and loss of livestock itself.”Hayden Outdoors offers a full line of insurance for rural landowners, including fire protection, crop insurance, drought insurance and more.
Clear Away Dead Leaves, Limbs and Brush That May Accumulate Near Your Home or Other Structures on The Property.
This will reduce the amount of fuel available to a fire should it reach your property. Also consider cutting down or clearing away trees or lower limbs from within 50 feet of your primary home on the property.
Christopher Licata, a Hayden Outdoors agent and forester, sites some pretty interesting statistics on fire control. “The Washington State DNR studies show that as much as 80 percent of homes lost to wildland fire may have been saved if brush around the homes were cleared and defensible space created around structures,” says Licata. California remains one of the most fire ridden states in the country. “In a 2022 post-fire analysis by CALFIRE, homes with an effective D-Space had a 6 times better chance of remaining intact.” Landowners need to put in the effort now to protect their investments in the future.
Create a Buffer Zone Around the Perimeter of Your Homeand Property Improvements
Start by removing flammable vegetation and trees and replacing them with fire-resistant landscaping features such as mulch or stone pathways, gravel beds, or rock walls. Colorado State University’s Forest Service division has a nice diagram above called the “Home Ignition Zone” to show the effective range of fire control in relation to your home. Defensible Zones are broken into three zones in relation to how far the fuel resides near your home.
Licata coaches landowners when buying and maintaining their property in forested areas. “It is important to think of your defensible space efforts in annual terms. The initial treatment is just that and keeping your property safe will be an ongoing project. You can do a lot of the work yourself. It is a great chance to get outdoors with your family, working on and learning about your property. You would be spending time together while protecting your home, so it is a win-win situation.”
Clear a Buffer Zone Along Your Property Boundary
Keep this path disced and clear of weeds throughout the spring thru the fall. Work with your neighbors to cooperate on fire mitigation efforts so that you are all working together to reduce risk.
Install Fire Resistant Roofing Material on Buildings That May be At-Risk From Burning Embers in a Wildfire.
This will give added protection against flying sparks and ash that can ignite nearby structures even when there is no direct flame contact.
Make Sure You Have Adequate Water Sources for Fighting Fires
Consider your property’s accessible water sources including nearby reservoirs filled with non-potable water like rainwater and large tanks that can store thousands of gallons of water. Wells on site, rivers or creeks onsite could also be used with a pump. Additionally, there are options for on-site water sources such as this ranch fire control tank!
Install a Sprinkler System Around Your Home and Other Structures
You can install a system that will automatically turn on in the event of a fire to help protect against flames, smoke, and ash. Research has shown sprinkler systems to be effective at structure protection during wildfire passage (Walksinshaw and Ault 2009).
Some landowners that live in the mountains place sprinklers around their home that tie into a main well or water source with a pump for emergency use. Ranchers often have trailers with water tanks and hose ready to drive to spot fires to assist in small fires.
Have a Plan for Evacuating People & Animals From Your Property
Having an emergency plan can help save lives or a property if a wildfire occurs. Make sure everyone is familiar with the plan and designate an evacuation route away from any potential danger should you need to leave quickly. Stock trailers should always be empty and ready to roll in case animals need to be transported quickly.
Always Have Your Volunteer Fire Department Contact Info Accessible
Keep your local station’s phone number saved on your cell phone, posted in your home or barns in case you spot a fire nearby. Consult your local rural fire department on their suggestions to protect your property. Many times they will come out to tour your property and give you tips on how to reduce the risk associated with rural fires.
Install a Trail Camera, or Game Camera, with Cellular Technology.
These wireless tools offer three main benefits to landowners. Security, game management and risk detection. With solar battery supply and cellular technology, you can have videos and photos sent to your phone from your property instantly using these motion-sensored cameras. Hayden Outdoors agents usually install trail cameras on their listings for security of showings and for wildlife surveys. But having one for yourself can really provide many benefits. Pick up a Reveal Camera from our online store to protect your property today!
By following these tips, you can take proactive steps to ensure that your rural property or home are as safe as possible from the threat of forest fires. Remember, it’s always better to be prepared than sorry when it comes to protecting what matters most – your safety and your home!
What to Know Before Building a Gun Range on Your Property
For the past 35 years, Clay Owens has been among the top names in big game hunting in the U.S. He was an outfitter in Western Colorado, managing three of the largest operations in the state for 20 years. Today, he still actively guides hunts near Steamboat Springs, and in 2018, he applied his deep knowledge of rangelands and Midwest hunting properties to a different endeavor – recreational real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors. Neatly put, Clay knows a lot about building a gun range on your property.
As a guide on some of the country’s most notable hunting lands, Clay became an expert in setting up long-range shooting courses. Now he puts that knowledge to good use, helping his clients find property that can accommodate a personal gun range, and he’ll be quick to note that when you’re building a gun range on your property, there are several considerations you should keep in mind. It’s also important to note these considerations are general guidelines, and the specific requirements vary depending on your location.
Clay stresses, “It’s crucial to consult with local authorities, legal professionals, and shooting range experts who can provide guidance based on your jurisdiction’s laws and regulations.” With that in mind, he also provided these key factors to consider when setting up a personal gun range.
Building a shooting range on your property to practice for hunting – Hayden Outdoors agent Clay Owens guides Allen Treadwell on a predator hunt filmed for Life on the Land TV Show.
Assessing the Suitability of Your Property for a Gun Range
There are a variety of property considerations for home gun ranges, starting with size and a proper backdrop for the target area.
“The biggest safety factor is your backdrop; it needs to be big enough to prevent ricochet and bullets from flying past the target, typically 20 – 60 feet high.” Clay explains this backdrop can be an established natural feature, such as a cliff wall, or something you build, like a large dirt bank. If you’re looking to buy land that’s well suited for a home gun range or build one on land you already own, Clay recommends utilizing heavy topography, such as canyons and hills, for a backdrop. The parcel should also be a minimum of 40 acres, although simple home handgun ranges require less acreage. If your goal is long-range shooting, the number goes up, with 500 acres being the minimum land you should look for to ensure success and safety.
To put this into real world context, Clay is currently overseeing the build and installment of a long range at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch in Nebraska. About as complex and involved as a personal gun range can get, this impressive amenity will feature a five-stand shot range for sporting clays, a hand gun range with a cliff wall backdrop to prevent any escaped projectiles, and a 1,550-yard long range with steel plate targets every 100 yards. All of this is located in a canyon where shooters can practice out of the wind.
Understanding Legal and Regulatory Requirements
Once you have established a workable piece of land for building a gun range on your property, it’s important to check in with relevant county officials to ensure you’re complying with any permitting, insurance requirements, private gun range laws, and noise ordinances.
Clay suggests starting by visiting your county website to determine who the best person to talk to might be. Typically this is the county commissioner or sheriff’s office. And while it’s not necessary on private land, he also suggests putting up proper signage around the gun range so visitors know it’s an active shooting zone.
“Generally speaking, most rural areas are not going to have any kind of regulation for that type of activity. The closer you get to an urban or neighborhood setting, the more you’ll need to take noise and compliance into account.”
Safety Considerations for Your Home Gun Range
Again, Clay emphasizes the importance of implementing proper backdrops, bulletproof barriers, and safety berms to mitigate ricochet or stray bullets. It’s also key to establish clear safety protocols and range rules. “It’s important to let people know when you are having active fire on the range. For dude ranches, hunting properties, or family plots where people are doing other activities, put up a sign that designates the range is active.”
Dan Brunk, Marketing Director at Hayden Outdoors, sights in his rifle before his elk hunt.
Insurance and Liability
Clay points out that building a gun range on your property typically doesn’t require insurance riders, but it’s important to check with your insurance agent to make sure. “If you have gun range courses or start charging for use, then you’ll need to explore liability insurance and waivers.”
Whether private or part of your property’s larger revenue generation activities, understanding the risks associated with operating a gun range is imperative to its success and the safety of its users. If you’re not sure what these risks might be, talk with a gun range expert to learn more or reach out to Evan Anderson, the Hayden Outdoors’ Insurance Representative.
Private Gun Range Noise Management
If you’re lucky enough to shoot on a 1,500-acre gun range like the one Clay is building at the Hayden Outdoors Ranch, noise is most likely not an issue. The sound of shots fired will ultimately be swallowed up by the surrounding landscape or fade into the vastness of such immense acreage. But if you’re building a private gun range on less acreage and closer to neighbors, it’s important to understand – and mitigate – the impact of shooting range noise.
Start by understanding the potential noise impact on neighbors, and communicating with them your intent for the range, your frequency and hours of use, and then address any concerns they might have. Taking a few minutes to talk with your neighbors now can save you countless angry phone calls and complaints later. Also research sound-dampening techniques and materials and acoustical barriers.
The environmental impact of a home gun range is something to consider from the very beginning of the process. It can influence the design of target retrieval roads and trails, and all ranges should consider soil contamination from lead but especially those built near natural water sources, such as streams and creeks flowing through the property.
“In regards to lead, there are companies that will come and retrieve the lead out of banks and shooting ranges,” says Clay. “For folks who are really concerned about lead contamination, you can shoot copper bullets exclusively.”
Additionally, be mindful of target retrieval roads and trails, making sure they don’t disrupt wildlife habitat such as bedding, roosting, and resting areas. This is particularly important if the land doubles as a hunting property.
Dr. Peddicord of Environmental Range Protection has years of experience consulting private land owners and public entities on proper range environmental practices. “A fundamental objective is to keep bullets and shot off neighboring properties. For rifle/pistol ranges this requires appropriate space and terrain to place adequate backstops far enough from property boundaries that bullets ricocheted or flipped off the backstop will not reach the property boundary.” For shotgun clay target venues, recognize that shot deposits much farther downrange than often expected, especially when shooting downslope. As an initial generalization, recognize that shot may fall 300 yards and perhaps more from the shooting position, depending on terrain and site conditions.
“It is important that shot and target debris do not reach adjoining property and that they do not fall into waters or wetlands on your property. If siting a range for a business or more frequent use, the most fundamental management consideration is periodic reclaiming and recycling of bullets and shot on ranges. Keep in mind this is much more efficient on moderately slopping un-forested areas without boulder fields where the necessary equipment can operate effectively.”
As discussed, your personal shooting range is going to be specific to your property and its allowances. Before you begin, determine the layout of the range (indoor or outdoor) and the appropriate shooting lanes and target distances. This is an excellent time to consult with a shooting range expert on best practices to ensure you get the most out of yours.
It’s also important to think about orientation if you have the flexibility to do so. For example, a south-to-north range will maximize natural light on the targets while minimizing glare from natural light in the shooter’s eyes.
Select appropriate materials for construction, targets, and safe backdrops. This will vary if you’re building an indoor or outdoor range. Earth berms, log walls, and railroad ties walls work well for outdoor backdrops as do swinging steel targets that can absorb a bullet’s velocity without shattering. They also allow the shooter to hear the hit, versus having to walk long distances to confirm impact.
Equipment and Maintenance
The size and location of your home gun range will determine the equipment required to maintain it. Targets, shooting lanes, and shooting benches all require upkeep, so it’s important to keep this in mind when budgeting for your range.
Setting up a maintenance schedule can help. Consider the work required to maintain the backdrop – be it a natural one or something you’ve built. Additionally, map out what you think will be required to keep your shooting range in proper working order, including trail maintenance, materials reviews, target replacements, etc.
Clay points out, “If you’re having to construct a backdrop, you’re going to always need to add dirt. For active ranges, you’ll be replacing targets constantly.”
Safety Training and Education
Personal shooting ranges provide a lot of opportunity. There’s the thrill of shooting, the possibility to improve, and camaraderie of target practice with friends. But there’s also the benefit of learning about the sport in a safe environment, one that can promote responsible gun ownership and firearm handling.
For those looking to incorporate gun safety training and education into their home gun range, Clay recommends a few things. First, the NRA offers an abundance of gun safety and gun education resources, especially for those who are new to the sport like young children and women – the fastest growing segment of gun owners.
“I also always recommend people go to their local gun shop. Talk to them about training or people in the area who offer it locally. It’s a great way to learn the basics of gun safety as well as any local rules and regulations that might be relevant to your gun range.”
Adding a home gun range to your recreational property is a great way to increase the land’s versatility while also adding value. Clay concludes, “Adding a gun range to your property can absolutely increase its worth. It’ll enhance the value to a certain segment of buyers – people looking for hunting land with a range set up.”
To this point, he recommends getting in touch with a recreational real estate agent as soon as you decide you’re interested in a gun range property. Clay uses his expertise to identify and purchase legacy properties for his clients – the kind that speak to personal passions and generational family involvement.
The avid outdoorsman drives the point home. “My family loves to go out and clink at different things. My wife, daughter, and son are all shooters. It becomes a fun competition with our kids, and it’s a lifelong activity for our family. There are a lot of people buying firearms for recreational shooting, now more than ever before.”
Clay is quick to reiterate the need for encouraging responsible and safe firearm use, while also pointing out how building a gun range on your property offers an excellent opportunity to accomplish both. If you’re interested in learning more about selling property you feel is ideal for a home gun range, or you’re in the market to buy recreational land that can become the future home of one, talk with Clay Owens or a Hayden Outdoors real estate professional today. They’re the outdoor experts in the type of hunting or personal gun range property you’re looking for.
Best Practices for Wildlife Management on Western Ranches
Duncan Clark knows cattle ranching. Growing up in a ranching family in West Texas, he learned the life balance between the magic of wide open spaces and the work it takes to maintain them early on. These days, he lives along Colorado’s Front Range, just shy of the Wyoming border, a short drive from his family’s 6,500-acre cattle ranch where he spends much of his time.
After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in finance and real estate, Duncan turned his love of the land into a full-time job as a recreational real estate agent for Hayden Outdoors. He’s gone on to help broker a number of notable ranch real estate transactions in the past decade. From summers spent mending fences to balancing the intricacies of maintaining forage in the extreme winter months for wildlife and stock alike, Duncan understands the rhythms of ranch land like few others do. At the heart of that connection is a passion for the intersection of wildlife and ranching. Duncan is an expert in managing and maintaining range and wildlife habitat in a way that elevates both.
“Wildlife management on a ranch is critical for a lot of reasons. The healthier the animal population, the more your ranch is going to be worth.” From guided hunting and fishing income to proper land and habitat management, Duncan dives into the key factors to consider when managing wildlife on ranches in the West.
Understanding Western Ranches and Wildlife
Ranches in the West provide ideal habitat for deer, elk, and antelope. Commonly, a ranch will be home to one or two of these species, but if you’re lucky enough to gain access to an expansive ranch in the western plains, you might come across all three. Additionally, ranches with viable water sources, including rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes can offer premier fishing. But as Duncan is quick to point out, you don’t have to be an avid hunter to want to manage the wildlife on your property. “The unique thing about land is that it’s an investment you can enjoy. Maybe you hunt; maybe you don’t. Regardless, driving around a ranch watching herds of elk and deer is a pretty special thing to see”
That said, hunting and fishing can be a viable income opportunity for ranchers in the West. Hunters and anglers spend an estimated $2 billion annually in Colorado alone. “Wildlife is big business in the West, and it provides incentives for landowners to manage this profitable resource, whether the focus is on cattle, farming, or recreation.” Guided elk hunts can garner anywhere from $5,000-$20,000 a hunt depending on trophy quality. If a rancher is able to work with a local outfitter or guide to lease the land for hunting, the revenue can offset a large portion of ranch expenses.
Planning and Implementing a Wildlife Management Plan
Before you begin building your wildlife management plan, it’s important to outline and understand your objectives. This includes the wildlife population objective that will dictate how many animals to harvest from the property each year in order to maintain healthy herd numbers. It’s also essential to work with an expert – local fish, wildlife, and land managers as well as nearby guides and outfitters – in order to optimize both wildlife and cattle health on the ranch. Start by evaluating how many animals you currently have on the property. Trail cams are an extremely useful tool for this. Additional considerations include the size of your property, any adjacent public lands or ranch sizes, and if there’s a well known hunting outfitter in the area. If so, how many animals are they harvesting?
Assess the habitat health, including water sources, food plots, vegetation, and landscape. From there, develop a management plan that balances your economic and conservation goals, working to maximize revenue while simultaneously catering to wildlife health and safety on the property. Manage and monitor progress throughout hunting seasons and year to year.
Wildlife Habitat Management Techniques
Duncan outlines the following guidelines for optimum wildlife habitat management on western ranches:
Water is a key ingredient to any farm or ranch property and the leading factor in determining the value of the land and the quantity and variety of wildlife it can support. While many western ranches have multiple water sources, including springs, creeks, or rivers, these sources aren’t always accessible to animals and they’re susceptible to drought. “With a prolonged drought that affects groundwater sources encompassing much of the West, I’ve seen a number of different ways to maximize water resources. I’ve worked with clients to build ponds, develop spring water catchment systems, and even implement water guzzlers. If you want your ranch to maintain its value, paying close attention to the water sources on the land is step number one.”
Brush & Range Management:
Controlling the right blend of escape and bedding cover, along with the number of openings wildlife use to feed, is important for all species of wildlife. “Often, we see mountain ranches with dense deadfall of pine and aspen that provide little value to wildlife. If controlled burns are not an option – and they typically aren’t on a private ranch – a sound brush control strategy can maximize the wildlife value.”
Duncan notes that this oft-overlooked aspect of wildlife management on ranches is an incredibly important one. While barbed wire might still line the perimeter of a ranch, it can be detrimental to healthy migration paths. You don’t have to pull out all of the barbed wire fencing in place, but Duncan does suggest modifying it to more modern standards. “By taking off the bottom and top strands of barbed wire and installing a smooth or high-visibility wire, you can drastically improve the viability of the fence. I recommend leaving an 18-inch space between the ground and the bottom strand of wire to allow animals to crawl underneath it.”
Rotational Grazing Strategies to Maximize Browse:
Another important tool for wildlife is balancing the grazing strategy. But as Duncan notes, this tip is particularly specific to each and every ranch. “If you were to ask a hundred different folks the best way to effectively run cattle on a property while also maximizing the hunting potential, you would likely get a hundred different answers.”
Food Plots that Attract More Animals:
Food plots have long been an important tool for farmers and ranchers in the South and Midwest who also lease the property for hunting. However, there just isn’t enough information or data available for western landowners trying to create food plots for elk and mule deer. Enter Duncan’s expertise. “I’ve done plenty of trial and error food plot tests and this is what I’ve found to work at an elevation of approximately 7,300 feet. With a disc and grain drill, we have successfully established food plots consisting of a blend of winter grain rye, annual clover, and sainfoin (a perennial drought-resistant legume). With ample rainfall and the right soil, I believe this can be done on most ranches in the western states. I’ve seen it work first-hand, especially when the native browse starts to go dormant and the winter rye and clover hold green browse late into the fall.”
Wildlife Population Management Techniques
Maintaining healthy populations, including cattle, deer, elk, and antelope, on your ranch is another pillar of ranch wildlife management. If overgrazing or overpopulation become an issue, you might need to manipulate habitat in order to draw one species to a different part of the ranch. Another important aspect of wildlife population management is the utilization of predator control. Predators are elemental to a healthy ecosystem – every ranch needs a sound predator control program to benefit both wildlife and cattle – but again, ranchers need to understand the ideal predator population for their land.
When opening your ranch land to hunting, fishing, and trapping, make sure you do so with best practices top of mind. Has everyone hunting the property taken any necessary hunter’s safety course? Know when to fish, and when doing so might stress fish populations. Talk with local outfitters, guides, and other experts about current trapping regulations. Doing so will help ensure your ranch is hunter- and angler-friendly for years to come.
Benefits of Wildlife Management
As Duncan will tell you, the primary financial goal of any ranch is to break even. Wildlife can be a key factor in doing so. “If you’re running a hunting outfitter on your ranch property, you can certainly offset a lot of your operational costs.” These regulations and opportunities vary state by state. Colorado and New Mexico are very land-owner friendly, for example. If you’re looking at ranches for sale in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, or Arizona, it’s important to work with a ranch real estate specialist to learn more about the revenue opportunities for that particular property.
Of course, the benefits of having wildlife on your ranch go far beyond potential profits. Wildlife and cattle can pair perfectly when it comes to maintaining habitat health, with opposing grazing and range seasons. There’s the opportunity to watch out the truck window as herds of elk or deer or antelope make their way across your acres. Those who don’t have immediate access to wild spaces and species can find it on your land. Wildlife management on your ranch runs the right direction both ways, providing safe, healthy refuge for the animals and a balanced value-add for your property.
Wildlife management on western ranches is the future of this unique way of life. If you’re interested in buying ranch land where you can prioritize wildlife management, the recreational real estate agents at Hayden Outdoors are experts in the field. And if you simply want to learn more about how you can integrate healthier wildlife management practices into your ranch, give Duncan Clark a call. With a lifetime of ranching in his back pocket, he’s your guy.
Expert Recommendations for Buying Row Crop Farmland
A century farm is one that’s been in a family for over one hundred years. It’s an obvious enough fact, but one you probably wouldn’t come across unless you were talking to a farmer who owns one, like John Herrity.
To clarify, he’s not the sole owner of his family’s ground – he and his siblings all claim a stake – but his family has been working the soil since 1888. Today, John mostly focuses on real estate as a recreational and large-land real estate specialist at Hayden Outdoors. But he didn’t get there by way of the city. John knows row crop farming as well as anyone can, because he’s been a part of it since he was born – a generational learner of loving and working corn and soybeans in rotation as constant as calendar years.
In its simplest terms, row crop farming, or row cropping, is production agriculture. Plants are grown in rows and then harvested by the farmer. John adds, “It has its benefits, like tractors being able to move through fields without harming the plants, allowing for easier cultivation, watering, and maintenance. Row crop farming also facilitates the optimal number of plants per acre of ground.”
What are some of the best crops for row crop practices in the Midwest and/or as an investment?
The Midwest is row crop country. South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa all offer premium farm land and growing conditions. Farmers can cultivate a variety of crops, including corn, soy, wheat, alfalfa, and organic vegetables. In the Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois, corn and soybeans rotate because corn typically takes a lot of nutrients out of the soil while soybeans allow the land to replenish. In some parts of the region, and with the right fertilizers, it’s corn on corn combined with some no till practices.
How can farmers optimize yield and productivity in row crop farming?
The short answer is a few words – good crop rotation, herbicides, fertilizers, and watering. To elaborate on that, optimizing crop yield and productivity involves using a combination of sustainable farming practices such as precision agriculture, soil health management, and crop rotation. Farmers can collect and analyze data and then make informed decisions about when and where to modify practices resulting in more efficient resource use and increased crop yield.
What should a buyer consider when looking at farmland in the Midwest for row crops?
It depends on what type of buyer it is. According to John, “There are generally two types of row crop buyers – producers and investors. Producers should look at the land for what they can grow. These days, the typical ag land buyer is very savvy. They know what they’re buying, the crops, numbers, and yields. Investors are interested in the income of the land and will want to invest in property that provides a viable return.”
Why is soil health important in row crop farming?
Soil health is important in any kind of farming, but particularly in row crop farming. It directly affects crop health and yields and the sustainability of the land. There are a variety of things farmers can do to improve soil health such as cover crops, composting, reduced tillage, and using fertilizers. John points out, “It’s important for row crop farmers to work with an agronomist who can take soil samples and determine which nutrients need to be supplemented.” Corn and soy rotation is considered best practice to help preserve soil health.
What is precision agriculture and what are the benefits in row crop farming?
Precision ag turns the field into a grid and farmers can take soil samples within that grid, pinpointing areas within the field that need less or different fertilizer. It reduces waste and input costs as well as minimizes environmental impact. “A lot is happening in the farm world that is making farming easier and more precise. There are GPS tractors that don’t require steering. In Brazil, they’re testing autonomous tractors. Pivot systems that have GPS functions are another technological breakthrough in farming. You can be sitting on your boat on the lake and water your fields from afar.”
What are some of the technologies used in sustainable agriculture for row crop farming?
There are a variety of row crop farming practices that prioritize environmental sustainability while optimizing crop yield, including reduced tillage, cover crops, composting, and organic farming. Reducing tillage can improve soil health and mitigate erosion while also increasing carbon sequestration. Cover crops aims to retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and provide habitat for beneficial insects. Composting contributes to soil health and fertility, which reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers and organic farming eliminates the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
What are some of the best practice irrigation techniques being used in row crop farming to conserve water?
As water and irrigation become increasingly relevant issues throughout the U.S., finding ways to conserve has also become important to a farm’s sustainability. While there are a variety of new technologies out there, such as drop irrigation, soil moisture sensors, and remote monitoring systems, John notes the most effective water saving technologies are actually within the seed selection itself. “Seed companies are researching genetically modified seeds that require less water or rainfall. It starts with knowing your regional seed salesman. Seed companies help educate farmers on what works best for that region and grow zone. It’s key to establish a relationship with a local agronomist for precise soil testing and amendment requirements.”
What future opportunities do you see coming up in row crops?
“If you’re looking to get into row crop farming, it’s best to find a farmer who is looking to pass the farm along to a younger generation. Farming used to be very generational – changing hands from parents to children and so-on. But these days, some kids don’t want to take over the family farm. They think the life is too remote or too difficult. In some of these cases, farmers can find someone who is looking to get into row crop farming. Other times, older generations don’t want to burden the younger family members with the estate, so they’ll sell the farm. We are seeing farms being sold to investors or real estate investment trusts (REITs).”
There are also government programs that can subsidize farm ownership if your land is enrolled. Farm Credit Services provides great lending opportunities for both investors and producers, and the Farm Service Agency offers first-time farmer financing up to $600,000.
In all, what makes the Midwest such great farm country?
In thinking about what makes the Midwest such optimal farm country – as it has been for hundreds of years – John replies, “Great climate, good rainfall. Farmers can increase their yields without additional irrigation. And of course, back in the day, pasture was important, too. Farmers found a good place to raise cattle, hogs, and families. And they settled and stayed.” Much like John’s family did in Elk Point, South Dakota in 1888.
These days, farms must meet an ever-growing demand, and families don’t always settle in for generations like they once did. But row crop farmland remains a very valuable commodity, and finding the right real estate agent to help you buy or sell it is essential to success.
The land experts at Hayden Outdoors know soil types and how to put a value on them. They understand regional rainfall, how much water it takes to grow corn, and what type of irrigation a particular crop requires. They’re an effective go-between for investors and producers. These aren’t your typical real estate agent qualifications, but it is the type of skill set you’ll find in your Hayden Outdoors professional – someone who knows how to buy and sell row crop farmland because it isn’t just a job or a hobby; it’s a lifestyle.
“Turkey hunting is a great gateway for anyone looking to learn more about hunting or just wanting to be outside, connecting with the land. It’s the perfect day because it happens in the spring, when the weather is warm. And it doesn’t take all day if you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing. So after hunting it’s time to fish in a nearby pond, river, lake, or creek where the fish will be hungry, because – again – it’s spring and all animals are. Then go scout for some mushrooms. Then fire up the grill and cook that fish or that turkey while you drink some sweet tea. Maybe in a field, maybe in a small stand of timber, maybe along some water. Sit in the sun and enjoy. That’s what it’s all about.”
Sign us up.
Brandon has been an expert on turkey hunting nearly his entire life, beginning with his morning chores on his family’s 500-acre farm in southern Missouri when he was a kid. “It was my job to feed the pigs before the bus came to take me to school, and the turkeys were always gobblin’ back there, so I spent a lot of time with them, watching them, listening to them.” From there, he started hunting turkeys with friends, became a devout turkey hunter by age 16, and he’s been all-in ever since, moving onto guiding, hunting show appearances, and competitions all over the country.
Brandon recently gave a rundown on what to consider when buying turkey hunting property. Here are some tips, including his expertise and insights.
What makes a good turkey hunting property?
When buying turkey hunting land, you should consider factors such as location, size, terrain and habitat. Look for land that has plenty of natural vegetation, water sources, and cover for turkeys. According to Brandon, a mixture of landscape is key, as is close proximity to water. “The perfect property would be 50% open space and 50% timberland. Big, mature timber will offer a lot of roost trees and food sources like acorns and berries. Look for some overgrown fields with native grasses and property that provides a variety of food sources. A majority of the time, turkeys will try to find roost sites that are close to water, so if you use the land year-round, it’s important to have a water source such as a spring, pond, lake, or other source that’s resistant to drought.”
Why is now a good time to invest in turkey hunting land in the Midwest?
Brandon cites one of the tenets and most important truths of real estate investment, “There’s never a bad time to invest in land, because there’s only so much of it.” This is particularly relevant to turkey hunting property. Luckily, the United States features a variety of states that offer premier turkey hunting land, such as Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Texas, and Florida. The time to buy is when the right property pops up, so the best thing you can do is be prepared. Make sure your financing is secured, and contact your local recreational land real estate expert. Hunting land can be a very valuable and lucrative investment – monetarily, personally, and generationally. Back to Brandon’s ideal spring day, owning your own turkey hunting land can be a great way to bond with friends and family, establishing the kinds of adventurous traditions that are harder and harder to come by in today’s busy world.
What are some ways owners can offset the cost of buying turkey hunting land?
Logging the timber on your property is a great way to generate income from the land. Selective logging can help open up food plots and create road systems. If the land is conducive to farming, you can lease the land to a producer, which is also great for turkey hunting habitat as it provides a consistent food source.
Another income opportunity to consider is leasing the land to other hunters, hunting outfits, or hunting guides. This can add to the value of your asset, demonstrating the property’s productivity and income possibilities.
What are the biggest differences between turkey hunting on private and public land?
The first part of the answer is probably the most obvious, “When you own a good piece of hunting ground, you control all of that,” says Brandon. No competing for spots on opening day, pressured birds, or other bird hunters. It also ensures your hunting experience is private, uninterrupted, and most importantly, safe. He adds, “Safety is a big point. There’s also the pressure put on the turkeys. You can control or better regulate the pressure on the flock when hunting private land. Public birds can be pressured making it harder to hear or locate them. It also allows you to better control the habitat.”
What are some effective ways to scout for quality turkey hunting land?
Start with mapping. Mapright, onX, and Google are all excellent sources of information as is aerial imagery. Look at the area as a whole to understand the location and surrounding properties. Talk with other local landowners and hunters to gain insights. Look at the habitat.
Pull on your best hiking boots and walk the property (with the current owner’s permission). This is particularly important to do right at daylight in the spring if possible. This is probably the most effective way to locate signs of turkey activity and learn more about the habitat.
Brandon’s pro tip? Bring binoculars so you can glass fields. This can help you scout and see the landscape and population or activities of the turkeys. Also consider calling the listing agent to ask about the history of the land as it relates to turkey hunting, including looking at any trail cam pictures or other documentation.
What kind of land maintenance should you consider to improve your chances of success in the field?
The beauty of owning the land is your ability and freedom to personalize it to your needs and preferences. You can design the property to attract turkeys by planting specific vegetation, building cover such as ground blinds, putting in roads or openings, and planting food plots. It’s important to understand how flocks have behaved in previous seasons, and customize the land to cater to those habits.
Brandon suggests establishing a road system and watering holes. “Turkeys rely a lot on their eyesight. They like spaces where they can feel comfortable coming out and strutting with their hens. Road systems allow you to slip around quietly as you’re turkey hunting.” He also suggests letting some old fields grow to become more dense with native grasses and flora, while cutting down other taller grasses. Consider planting chicory, clover, or other turkey-friendly food sources. In short, habitat variety is essential. And when you own the land, you can establish multiple hunting locations for cover and ground blinds based on previous flock activity for different scenarios.
What is the biggest benefit of having a turkey hunting land expert as your real estate agent?
Brandon points out that working with a recreational land real estate agent offers huge benefits. “You’re talking to someone who not only understands the business of real estate; they’re also passionate about the outdoors. As outdoorsmen and women, even if they’re not a turkey hunter, they will have been paying attention to the land, making note of when and where they see wildlife, and for how many days in a row. These details set the experience apart from working with a traditional residential or commercial agent.”
The Investment of a Lifetime
Brandon leaves us with this thought, “Purchasing turkey hunting property you can utilize in the springtime will be one of the best investments of your lifetime. It’s an all-inclusive experience that creates an immediate connection between you, the birds, the land, your friends, and your family.” It’s a pretty special thing – to have that kind of unlimited access to prime turkey hunting land, and to create the traditions and memories that come along with it.
If you’re looking to buy prime turkey hunting land, contact the recreational real estate specialists at Hayden Outdoors, where the reason you should is right there in the name. All of the agents are experts in the great outdoors. They know where to look and what to look for when it comes to buying an ideal hunting property in your neck of the woods.
Brandon Pendergrass photo below with fellow agent Jeff Lovan and Bree Lovan. Also pictured with hunters in Hawaii as a guide.
Pro Tips for Buying & Managing Duck Hunting Land
When it comes to vast swaths of land, it doesn’t seem like 300 yards would affect whether or not that land serves its purpose. Give a partial river bank here, take a slice of sand bar there; it’s all the same in the grand scheme, right? Not exactly, and according to professional recreational real estate agents, Jake Hyland and Taylor Dunnigan, definitely not when it comes to looking for prime waterfowl hunting land. Spend a moment talking with these two about finding the perfect property for duck hunting, and you’ll quickly learn how situational an effort it is. “Acre-to-acre, foot-to-foot,” according to Taylor.
Buying waterfowl hunting land for personal recreation or as an investment isn’t easy. Taylor says, “It might be once every five years that a duck hunting property in your budget comes up for sale. And you need to be ready.” It’s why Jake and Taylor are the people you want to talk to if you’re in the market for the waterfowl hunting property of your dreams – they’re both seasoned recreational real estate agents with a long history buying and selling this type of property. But their expertise extends well beyond that. Both grew up smack in the middle of some of the best duck hunting in the West, on Colorado’s Front Range. They went on to guide on some of the most coveted goose and duck hunting land in the country. Give these two a few minutes walking a potential property and they can tell you if it’s worth your time or not.
We spent some time with Jake and Taylor – goose and bird dog pictures mounted on the wall squarely behind them – to learn more about finding the ideal waterfowl property and getting their expert advice on buying duck or goose hunting land.
What are the primary attributes of quality duck hunting property?
These two agents have a four-point checklist when looking for prime duck hunting land: food, refuge, open water and location.
According to Jake and Taylor, water controls everything when you’re hunting waterfowl. It’s where birds take refuge – a spot where they can loaf and hang out. It’s why finding duck hunting land with an ideal water source is not only essential, it’s also important for the overall management and use of the property as it can affect other aspects such as flight paths and feed for waterfowl. If water doesn’t currently exist on the property, is there an opportunity to catch water and move it around? The abundance of duck- and goose-friendly water is what makes South Dakota, Nebraska and Arkansas so good for waterfowl hunting.
But there are other great regions for duck hunting property, if you’re working with a real estate agent who knows where to look and what to look for. Certain areas in the Midwest and along the Mississippi and Platte Rivers can also offer ideal waterfowl hunting land ownership opportunities.
How important are historical flyways for waterfowl land?
Very. Historical flyways are important for waterfowl hunting properties because they indicate the migration patterns of ducks and geese. And they can shift. Taylor points out that we’re starting to see shifts in the flyways wherein geese are moving much farther west. In fact, migration can shift 50 to 75 miles east or west of a particular zone. It’s why agent knowledge about the location and history of the property is so valuable in determining its potential for waterfowl hunting.
Taylor also looks at agriculture and other large bodies of water around the subject property. One of his biggest considerations on behalf of his clients is pressure. For example, 200 acres of hunting property that borders 2,000 acres of public land can be a catch 22. If you can find a collective of private landowners all managing for the same purpose – hunting waterfowl – you’ll do ten times better.
Jake notes the time of year.
“It’s easy to assume a property is ideal for duck hunting in the fall or early winter when you can see the ducks. But our knowledge shines when we visit a property mid-summer and need to paint the picture for a potential client. We might see three ducks during that time, and the client has to trust our knowledge and experience about the flyways and potential of the land.”
What are other ways owners can offset the cost of buying waterfowl land?
There are various ways to generate income from a hunting property, such as leasing it to farmers or conservation organizations. Taylor chimes in, “If you’re looking at a property that has everything – water, ag, etc. – you can rent that land out to a farmer and then reap some of the benefits of the harvest. I also know guys who will contact Denver University to put properties under conservation easements. If you’re solely a hunting property, these easements improve the habitat, which improves the hunting. These easements do come with some restrictions, so it’s important to understand those before going down this path.”
What kind of habitat maintenance do you need to attract waterfowl to your land year after year?
Habitat maintenance is important for fostering the property as a viable resource for wildlife. Land improvements such as fencing, hunting pits, ground blinds and other infrastructure also add value. Wildlife photography, videography and trail cams are an excellent way to document migration patterns and wildlife land use for future sales opportunities. Jake even tells us of a client who keeps a rolodex of duck kills, taking pictures of ducks on the property, which can come in handy when talking with potential buyers or guides.
Back to water, water management is another key way to improve the quality of your duck hunting investment or recreational property. This can include flooding or water capture that improve the habitat, but these measures will be regulated differently in different states. Colorado, for instance, can be a difficult place to move water due to irrigation restrictions, which is why it’s important to understand what it means to own land with water rights in Colorado. According to Jake and Taylor, if you can move water on your waterfowl hunting property, that’s huge. You’re maximizing improvements to your duck hunting land and what it can do.
How important is it to have a recreational agent advise you before buying waterfowl hunting land?
Very important. And Jake and Taylor can’t emphasize this enough, for good reason. Jake notes, “Duck hunting properties are the highest supply and demand right now when it comes to recreational or investment hunting land. There just aren’t that many of them per the factors we’ve talked about. There isn’t a surplus.”
Taylor adds, “There are properties that were good 20 years ago, and they’ll probably be good in 20 years. They’re just historically special properties. However, there are parts of the country where duck hunting is absolutely terrible. There are parts where it’s really good, but finding special properties comes down to working with a recreational land agent who is knowledgeable and has the expertise on waterfowl hunting in a specific regional flyway.”
If there’s still a question as to whether or not Jake and Taylor are experts on the subject of waterfowl hunting properties, Taylor puts those to rest. “We both grew up obsessing about this hobby and guiding all over the country. And now it gets to be our career. Jake and I have put in that time.”
Jake continues, “It’s a passion. It’s the pinnacle hunting property and inventory is slim. We know where to look and what to look for. We view ourselves more as advisors than traditional real estate agents when it comes to this type of property transaction. We work with some clients for years finding them the right duck hunting property within their budget.”
It’s a relationship that goes beyond the exchange of cash and land. Jake and Taylor stay in touch with their clients, providing advice and counsel on how to better the land and optimize the hunting. “Reach out to us, even if it’s early on, so we can understand what you’re looking for. We have the inside track.”
What You Need to Know Before Investing in Timberland
When it comes to investing in something as complex as timberland it’s best to get expert advice first. What is the current market rate for white oak? Can I sell my timber? Does timberland make for good hunting property? It’s important to talk with someone who knows both sides of the equation – buying recreational real estate and properly managing it to reach your end goals.
On a recent afternoon, we found ourselves asking some of these important questions, so we turned to the experts, Hayden Outdoors agent Jeff Lovan and his long-time friend and professional logger, Austin Gauldin. They were out in the field, doing what they do best – morphing a dense swath of old growth forest into healthy, thriving land, optimized for growing timber, harvesting logs, hunting, and year-round recreation. Jeff and Austin offered up the kind of expertise one garners from a lifetime spent in the woods, where the office is the front seat of a farm truck or a ridgeline overlooking treetops.
What to Consider When Determining the Value of Timberland
We asked Jeff what his process is for determining the value of timberland, and he offered up this insight: “Buyers need to remember that timber is a commodity, just like corn and beans. That means the value of timber goes up and down, depending on market demand.” He also wants to know if the land has ever been cut – and if so, when – in addition to how healthy the trees currently are.
“I don’t do a lot of traditional timber surveys. I lean heavily on someone who can walk the property and knows the wood – someone who sells timber every day of their lives and knows exactly how much the trees are worth. The guy who’s gonna be making the sawdust is the best person to give an idea of how much the timber is worth.”
Enter Austin Gauldin.
Jeff and Austin have been running around the Ozarks their entire lives, but Austin has made a living of knowing the ins and outs of southeastern Missouri’s forests, and the ups and downs of the timber industry. We were curious about what the current price of timber is in his region. He told us it depends on the type of tree, what you want to do with it, and how the market is reacting on that particular day. “Right now, walnut and white oak are where the money is.” According to Austin, walnut has always been a sought after wood, but white oak is a relatively new timber trend.
“Today, walnut is selling for anywhere between ¢.40 and $8 – $10 per board foot. White oak can also bring in a lot of money – white oak hardwood veneers are very popular right now, and less-perfect pieces of the white oak stave logs go into making wine and whiskey barrels.”
The Biggest Risk in Investing in Timberland Property
The most prominent and obvious risk when investing in timberland property is market volatility, assuming your aim is to monetize the timber itself. Jeff continued, “When you’re buying timber property, you’re subject to the fluctuating markets. I watch commodity prices on an hourly basis.” Austin chimed in, “And you can’t just look at a piece of ground with a bunch of big trees on it and assume those trees are valuable. What you see on the outside of a tree isn’t necessarily what’s on the inside. Timber can be rotten on the inside.”
It’s best to play the long game with timberland, which means having a thorough understanding of the types of trees you plan on harvesting now, and how you want to manage the forest in the decades to come. Walnut in particular is a very slow-growing tree. Talking with a local timberman or forester to determine which trees to harvest today to allow smaller, healthier trees to sprout up in the future is important.
Tactics for Managing Timberland
When we called to ask about timberland management, Austin was doing just that – walking new property and deciding how best to take care of the forest. He offered some tips and things he looks for when managing timberland, including:
Identify old growth timber and its current market value. Then select the trees you want to cut and sell; depending on quality, these logs are good candidates for the local mill. You’ll also get to the wood before detrimental bugs, such as pine beetles, ash beetles, and lighting storm damage.
Wait to thin trees until summer or early fall. The trees will be fully leafed out when cut, which makes for extremely good habitat and bedding for deer. This is something to consider if you plan to hunt your timberland.
If you find a place that has young and old growth in it, work with a local timberman or forester to determine which trees need to come out based on ecosystem diversity, tree placement, etc.
There’s only so much water in the ground for trees to grow. There is only so much water on the ground. If the trees are too thick they compete for the water and don’t grow as fast. So thinning your timber will give you a healthier stand of timber and trees.
Thin dense bunches of trees. This allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor, and increases the return of growth of the trees.
Plan to re-cut your land every 15 years.
Tips for Making Your Timberland More Valuable After Harvest
Jeff noted that it’s important to multitask when taking trees out of your new timberland. “While you cut timber, consider putting in food plots, roads, and trails that allow access to every inch of the property. Land isn’t overly valuable if you can’t access it.” He notes the importance of diversifying roads and trails to include those accessible by truck, ATV, horse, and on foot. Take wind direction into account, which can come into play during hunting season.
Austin added, “You’ll find better trees on the north- and east-facing slopes are typically the best growth in the Midwest which varies from region to region. These get less direct sunlight, which can be hard on trees. South- and west-facing hillsides also tend to have more rocks, and trees don’t grow as well there. Harvesting timber provides an opportunity for habitat improvements and more accessible woods.”
Government Grants for Timberland
While this varies from region to region and state to state, in many parts of the country, there are government programs and grants for timber that help offset the cost of timberland management. In Missouri, this is known as TSI, or timber stand improvement. The program incentivizes timberland owners to properly thin their trees, encouraging healthier, sturdier long-term growth. In other parts of the country, the U.S. Forest Service might offer similar programs for wildfire mitigation.
The one thing that can be really tough on your timberland and render it less valuable to either the local mill or government grant program? “Cattle,” Austin told us. “Cows are really rough on timber. Running cattle on timberland results in too much nitrogen in the trees, which will rot them from the bottom up. This is definitely something to consider if you’re looking at buying the land.”
The Importance of Consulting with a Recreational Agent When Buying Timberland
When it comes to buying timberland, Jeff summed it up with these choice words: “You’ve gotta know where to sell the logs and who to sell them to in order to get the most out of your tree.” He admitted he might not know the answer to every question, but, “I can always call a guy who does.”
This is why it’s essential to work with a recreational agent when buying timberland, and the recreational real estate agents at Hayden Outdoors are second to none. They’re out in it every day, walking and working the land, and then checking commodity prices from the cab of their truck. In Jeff’s and Austin’s case, these boys were born and raised in the small town in southeastern Missouri where they live. They not only know the land, trees, waters, and wildlife, they also know the good, local timbermen. “A big part of our job as an agent is to have the local resources. I’m probably not your guy if you’re looking to sell a lot in town, but if you have some timber ground, that’s my wheelhouse. Finding the right person for what you’re buying or selling is everything.”
If you’re looking for viable timberland for sale in your neck of the woods, the recreational real estate agents at Hayden Outdoors walk the walk and talk the talk. They ensure your investment is sound and sturdy, reinforced with the kind of local knowledge that comes with a lifetime of living in and loving a place.
Expert Advice – Buying & Selling Hunting Land in the Midwest
One thing he is admittedly not? Desk jockey. “I can name every tree on my land, every species of animal out there, but I’m not great at Zoom.”
This is also why Allen is so good at his job as a Hayden Outdoors recreational real estate professional – his understanding of the land, its purpose, productivity, and profitability run deeper than most. He might not be an expert at online conferencing, but that’s because he doesn’t spend his days in an office, stuck behind a desk or staring out the window. He’s out there, scoping the best hunting land opportunities, walking large-acre parcels with clients, and homesteading his own couple hundred acre farm in southern Missouri.
“At Hayden Outdoors, most of us don’t just sell land; we live on the land. It’s our heritage and our passion.”
When it comes to Allen’s selling region of Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, that passion rings true in every word. We asked him to give us some insight into buying hunting and large-acre land in this nostalgic and plentiful corner of the country.
3 Key Reasons Why People are buying Hunting land in Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri
1. The Land is Productive & Affordable
I think part of what is driving people here is how affordable the land is for being as productive as it is. With the price of land skyrocketing across the rest of the country, you can still get a sizable hunting or farming property in Kansas, Arkansas, or Missouri for an affordable price. Yes, interest rates have gone up, but they’re still relatively low compared to the past 30 years. Where I live in southern Missouri, if you own the land, you can hunt it. Every year. I think that’s a big deciding factor.
We see a lot of folks moving out of cities, or out of other places in the West that have simply become unaffordable, and buying in this area. They want 10 – 40 acres to themselves, where they can have a small garden, greenhouse and some animals. It’s becoming increasingly important for people to feel self-sufficient, and to raise their kids outside in the open land and open air.
2. Quality Climate Year-Around
The climate is also an important consideration. In a normal year, we typically get upwards of 40 inches of rainfall while our temperature fluctuations are relatively minimal. We usually don’t see temps above 100 or below zero. This makes for some really productive acres and friendly wildlife habitat. Land in Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri – these pieces of real estate offer folks the opportunity to become modern homesteaders, farming, hunting and exploring their own land.
3. World Class Hunting Opportunities
The hunting opportunities in the Midwest are incredible, especially for deer and turkey. You can even get those tags over the counter in many of these areas. There’s no draw system for Missouri & Arkansas, however, if you want a guaranteed landowner tag every year in Kansas – you must own at least 80 acres. (Be sure to check local hunting and game harvest laws in each state for up-to-date regulations.)
While other parts of the country are seeing a real estate slowdown, farms, ranches and recreational property sales in Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas don’t show any sign of slowing or devaluing. It’s a very good place to put your money; a very safe place to put your money.
How can you make Improvements to your Hunting land?
Tips for Increasing the Value of your Hunting Property:
– road maintenance (and possibly new roads), – Repairing existing tree stands
– maintained food plots
– a history of trail cam and harvest photos and videos – anything you can add to your hunting property while you own it will return at the closing table.
As an example of land improvements you can make, Allen currently has some friends who bought a large parcel that was thick with old-growth timber. They went in and put in a road system and food plots, both of which make the land much more productive for either forest management and timber harvesting or hunting (or both). If they sell it, they could definitely do so for more than they bought it for.
Recreational properties are at an all-time high as far as value is concerned. Everyone believes their farm or hunting land should bring in the highest dollars, but not everyone has the talent of making the land great. Allen helps his clients identify what they can do to improve the property and maximize the value of the land.
Anything you can put into the land to make it better, you will get back when you go to sell it.
Why you need to have a Recreational Agent When Buying & Selling Hunting Land
If you’re in the market to buy a hunting property, I think it’s very important to find a good recreational agent who can represent you; someone who walks properties every day and will know – even faster than the buyer does – what a good property is. As a recreational agent, when I get excited about a property, the buyer I’m working with gets excited about it, too, because they know I can identify the value in it.
If you are selling a hunting property, you must have a recreational agent – someone who understands hunting, can talk hunting, and knows how to identify, buy, or sell a recreational property. For example, to get the most out of a whitetail deer property, the agent needs to know everything about whitetail deer hunting.
Additionally, my job as a buyer’s agent is to ask the buyer questions: What are you looking for in a hunting property? What do you want in your farmland? At Hayden Outdoors, that’s our number one goal, to represent both buyers and sellers with our expertise and levels of care. That’s where we outshine other agencies. We care about our clients and we do what’s right by them.
The Experience Allen Brings to Hayden Outdoors
As an Olympic athlete and avid hunter, Allen has traveled the world. He has competed in countless countries, and shot on every continent except Antarctica. Yet, these days, you’ll find him content at home, in his coveted corner of Missouri. He explores real estate opportunities for his clients, or helps them prepare a property to sell. He’s a dedicated member of the Hayden Outdoors team. “They run the company as a family, and everyone feels that. It’s so, so important.”
He also spends his time wandering his own property, his six-year old daughter bopping behind him. He now gets to teach her how to spot a hidden whitetail deer or flock of turkeys, feed the cows, and harvest the garden bounty. Ask him about all of it, and Allen sums it up well, “I’ve been very fortunate. Now I like to share my experience with others.”