question about leased ag land

Bob Peters

Active member
I was talking with some hunting buddies the other day, and we were telling stories, sucking down some cold suds🍻🍻 and this question came up. If someone leases land, in this case lets say a quarter section, for the purpose of farming row crop, do they also automatically get hunting rights to this 160 acres? Is every lease agreement standard in this regard or are they all different? This topic came up because once we gained permission from the landowner to hunt his field, and meanwhile another party got permission from some guy driving around in his field in a pickup who we never figured out the identity of.
 
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Wolfchief

Active member
I'm about to leave for my deer stand but will briefly address this excellent question with a follow-up later. Short answer: Ag leases are as varied, unique and complicated as the parties involved make them. Even in this day and age, many farmland leases are unwritten; a handshake between a landlord and tenant , the relationship of which may have decades' standing, is common in my area (Indiana) but becoming less so.. As an ag banker for 45 years, I saw the gamut. Most leases I saw did NOT address hunting rights. In the states where public land may be scarce (Texas, for example) the lease may not only be written and detailed, but recorded in the County Clerk's office. For now, one caveat: Make sure you get permission from the OWNER NOT THE TENANT, unless you know for sure the tenant has the authority to grant permission-(ie., a son who farms the land, who you know, giving permission for land owned by his Dad.) More later.
 

remy3424

Active member
Good question Bob. Wolfchief answer is pretty accurate in my area too, it is really a hit and miss when it comes addressing the hunting rights. I will say the hunting rights are often not addresses unless the the landowner is a sportsman and intends to hunt the property. Some contracts specifically address it and others make no mension of it. If the lease cities the specific purpose is for production of crops/livestock, then technically the "hunting" rights my be with the owner. I guess they could reserve the hunting rights and even lease those out, if outlined in the agreement ...thank goodness that is not happening here. Most land here has little value for hunting, thus little need to specifically address it. But saying that, I will guess if the owner has issues with hunting, the tenant would defer to the owner as to not create a confrontational atmosphere with their landlord. I really think if you have permission from the tenant, you will be fine MOST of the time. I have only once had permission from a tenant and the owner had an issue. Permission from one or the other and you should be covered.
 

McFarmer

Active member
Traditionally here in Iowa the tenant would be the one to grant permission, unless something is in the lease that says otherwise.

I farm rented ground and rent other ground out to be farmed. In those cases you would have been the trespasser and the other folks would have been right to have been ticked off.
 

Wolfchief

Active member
Remy and McFarmer make good points. For example, two years ago I had been granted verbal rights--by the tenant, whom I thought I knew and trusted, to hunt a poorly drained farm that held both mallards and roosters. So, two days before Thanksgiving my son and I set out to jump some ducks on the ditches that cut through the farm, north and south. We had just left the truck when who should show up but the owner and his young son, who wanted to trap the ditches for "rats" (muskrats). Of course this was perfectly justifiable as he owns the property, but lives in a small town 30 miles away. You probably can guess what happens next. He unceremoniously kicks us off, even after I explained that we had taken the time to request, and receive verbal permission from the tenant who assured us we'd be fine. I was told that the tenant had no authority to grant such permission, and that he (the owner) planned to "set the tenant straight" on this subject.
Imagine my chagrin when the tenant, upon being accosted by the owner, denied giving me permission---then the tenant called to chastise me for hunting where he had given me permission. He was in a sweat; he didn't want to lose this rented ground....Lesson learned--if I am not intimately acquainted with all parties involved, I get it in writing now.

Some other considerations on this subject: In owning farm real estate, the owner is conferred with what, in farm appraisal doctrine, is called a "bundle of rights": The right to farm the land, the right of ingress and egress, the right to build or improve it, the right to grant access to others, to lease it, or the right to do NONE of those things. As the encroaching hunter, any access granted you is a privilege, NOT a right --on PRIVATE land.
Further compounding the hunters' dilemma is the fact that, unlike decades ago, much of the most intensively farmed land is owned by absentee parties, and possibly even managed by a third party (Trust Department of a bank, professional farm managers, etc.). For example, a 160 acre tract may be owned by a farm widow in a nursing home miles (or maybe states) away. Her grown children might consist of a daughter who is a doctor, a son who drives a propane truck for the local FS Co-op, etc. Finding the individual(s) with the actual AUTHORITY to grant you permission to hunt can sometimes feel like kicking at a wall of blubber!! Furthermore, the heirs may not all agree on whether the land should be hunted.

A suggestion: If you want to build solid landowner relations, treat the seeking of permission seriously, and respect the land and the hard, SACRED work of the farm and ranch owners who allow food production to take place. Two sayings that pertain here:
1.) "One "AW SHIT!" wipes out "1,000 ATTABOYS!" and #2.) Never be a son of a bitch on someone else's land...there's bars in town for that.......
 

matto

Active member
Great discussion and I'll offer a few particular scenarios.

My family owns some ground that's a little spread out. We have 3 different tenant farmers. All of these arrangements are "handshake" deals as described above. All of these tenants know that we (my Dad and I) want to control who hunts and who doesn't. Even if the law that would govern such things grants that control to the tenant, they respect our wishes because farming is what's important to them and hunting is what's important to us.

These same tenants will give us permission to hunt other ground they lease. I can only assume that they have arrangements with those landowners that are somewhat different than their relationship with us.

A different farmer friend of mine much closer to town *won't* give us permission to hunt a few particular fields that he farms, in fact he won't even hunt them himself, out of respect for the landowner's wishes. He has said that the it would be legal for him to hunt or give us permission, but he will respect the landowner because he wants to continue to farm the ground. This same farmer hunted, and let us hunt, ground owned by other landowners that he leased.

The short answer is that I have no idea what the law is, but generally the tenant farmer will respect the landowner's wishes.
 

gimruis

Active member
Years ago I attempted to gain permission to turkey hunt in the spring from someone who was leasing the land for row crops and he specifically told me no because he did not have permission from the owner to grant permission to hunters. So in this specific case, the leaser was told by the owner he was paying rent to that granting permission to hunters was not a part of the deal.

I have also run into this a long time ago when I was early goose hunting on a hayfield. I had received permission from the leaser but when we were setting up in the dark, another group of hunters showed up intending to hunt it. We had a discussion about who had permission from who to be there, and in the end we agreed that both parties had proper permission and it should be first come, first serve. So they went to another field to hunt.
 

Matt D

Active member
From my experience here in OH it is most common the tenant is renting the land to farm and that is it. No hunting rights transfer most of the time. Land owner typically has the say on who hunts and who doesn’t. Obviously the renter may ask for an receive permission to hunt and over time somewhat become the by default gatekeeper of permission but that is not implied just because they farm it. We have one lady here that is quite reclusive and doesn’t like to have to tell people no they can’t hunt so she asked for me to manage access as part of the farming agreement. Just so happens it is across the road from my house so it has become my little piece of heaven that no one else gets access to. Works out great and she sends people that ask her to me for me to decide. No one yet has cracked the code to get permission. 😁

It seems as you go west that the tenant getting the hunting rights along with the farming lease is more common. We seem to run in to that more in SD for sure.
 

Bob Peters

Active member
I have also run into this a long time ago when I was early goose hunting on a hayfield. I had received permission from the leaser but when we were setting up in the dark, another group of hunters showed up intending to hunt it. We had a discussion about who had permission from who to be there, and in the end we agreed that both parties had proper permission and it should be first come, first serve. So they went to another field to hunt.
This is basically what happened to us on the story I started the thread with. It was a picked field in ND loaded with mallards the day before. My buddy called and got permission from the out of town landowner. The other party in the field had secured permission from a guy traveling the property in a pickup truck. We never found out who this guy was, but assumed he was a renter or maybe a family member of the owner. We ceded the field to the other party as they were there first.
 

goldenboy

Well-known member
Ok I will chime in because I had a very scary event like this. I was hunting in Nebraska with a buddy who grew up around where we were hunting. We got permission on a field from the owner who lived in California and from the renter who leased the land for farming. While hunting the property the relative of the owner who lives close by stopped us and threatened us. He held a gun at us and told us that the sheriff was on the way! When the sheriff arrived my buddy was put into the squad car and asked to write out his version of the story. I was also given a form to fill out. The sheriff then proceeded to give us court dates because the rellative said he had exclusive hunting rights to the land and he was pressing charges of trespassing against us. My buddy in the squad car then proceeded to explain how this individual pointed a rifle at us and demanded that we drop our guns. That made the sheriff ask the relative if he pointed a gun and where his written proof of hunting rights was located. The man sped off in his truck to "get the paperwork" but when he returned he had no gun in his truck, no paperwork, and an entirely different attitude. Even invited us to hunt with him sometime. Needless to say that guy did not last long in that small community. All the local farmers had a meeting at his house and the next time we were in the area he had conveniently moved to town! I still don't know what lesson can be learned from this experience I thought we did everything correctly but there are still people in this world who see things like leases and relatives and landownership in a different light.
 

Goosemaster

Well-known member
Remy and McFarmer make good points. For example, two years ago I had been granted verbal rights--by the tenant, whom I thought I knew and trusted, to hunt a poorly drained farm that held both mallards and roosters. So, two days before Thanksgiving my son and I set out to jump some ducks on the ditches that cut through the farm, north and south. We had just left the truck when who should show up but the owner and his young son, who wanted to trap the ditches for "rats" (muskrats). Of course this was perfectly justifiable as he owns the property, but lives in a small town 30 miles away. You probably can guess what happens next. He unceremoniously kicks us off, even after I explained that we had taken the time to request, and receive verbal permission from the tenant who assured us we'd be fine. I was told that the tenant had no authority to grant such permission, and that he (the owner) planned to "set the tenant straight" on this subject.
Imagine my chagrin when the tenant, upon being accosted by the owner, denied giving me permission---then the tenant called to chastise me for hunting where he had given me permission. He was in a sweat; he didn't want to lose this rented ground....Lesson learned--if I am not intimately acquainted with all parties involved, I get it in writing now.

Some other considerations on this subject: In owning farm real estate, the owner is conferred with what, in farm appraisal doctrine, is called a "bundle of rights": The right to farm the land, the right of ingress and egress, the right to build or improve it, the right to grant access to others, to lease it, or the right to do NONE of those things. As the encroaching hunter, any access granted you is a privilege, NOT a right --on PRIVATE land.
Further compounding the hunters' dilemma is the fact that, unlike decades ago, much of the most intensively farmed land is owned by absentee parties, and possibly even managed by a third party (Trust Department of a bank, professional farm managers, etc.). For example, a 160 acre tract may be owned by a farm widow in a nursing home miles (or maybe states) away. Her grown children might consist of a daughter who is a doctor, a son who drives a propane truck for the local FS Co-op, etc. Finding the individual(s) with the actual AUTHORITY to grant you permission to hunt can sometimes feel like kicking at a wall of blubber!! Furthermore, the heirs may not all agree on whether the land should be hunted.

A suggestion: If you want to build solid landowner relations, treat the seeking of permission seriously, and respect the land and the hard, SACRED work of the farm and ranch owners who allow food production to take place. Two sayings that pertain here:
1.) "One "AW SHIT!" wipes out "1,000 ATTABOYS!" and #2.) Never be a son of a bitch on someone else's land...there's bars in town for that.......
Just bring beer, and burger.That gets you permission every time.
 

jackrabbit

Active member
I think they are all different, however I ran into my first ever problem with it last week in South Dakota.

New piece of land that a family bought, owned by multiple family members. I had permission from one and was hunting. Halfway through my hunt a pickup flies through the field and accuses me of tresspassing, he was not friendly to me. To make a long story short, the family bought this piece this past year but the original owner had a written agreement with the new owners that he maintained hunting rights to it until he passed away. The one that gave me permission said he did not know about that agreement, however I think he did and didn't like the previous landowner and wanted to upset him...
 

Wolfchief

Active member
That incident pretty much illustrates the kind of misleading communication, confusion and outright misdirection a hunter can run into, even when he himself has tried to seek permission and do it right. Families are like anyone else, sometimes the left hand doesn't know (or doesn't agree with) what the right hand is doing. Another thing is clarifying that you have permission for what type of hunting, exactly? I hunt a couple of tracts close to home where I have permission to hunt birds (pheasants, ducks, doves) but if I tried to hunt DEER on those properties I would instantly lose all permission to hunt. Trouble is, these nuances in giving permission are not always clearly conveyed or understood by all parties.
 

gimruis

Active member
Another thing is clarifying that you have permission for what type of hunting, exactly?
Fantastic point. Gaining permission to hunt birds for me is significantly easier than it is to hunt deer on private property. I'm very clear on what my target is when I am asking for permission. Most of the land I have permission to hunt pheasants on are hunted for deer which is why I am not permitted to hunt them until the firearms deer season is complete.
 

4shot

Member
My dad farmed a farm for over 30 years. Owners could careless about hunting. A land management took over and had some wordy contract that really pissed him off. Crossed out the hunting and other stuff he didn’t like and signed it. That was the last year he farmed it. Way to go dad. Stuff is all about money these days. If the management company can get more money they get a larger cut. He’d probably rather be farming it than hunting it. When you get old, you get grouchy. Now has has neither.
 

Golden Hour

Well-known member
Just bring beer, and burger.That gets you permission every time.
Maybe a 12 pack and 2 burgers, a sixer and burger for owner/renter, respectively.

I learned a couple years ago that in SD, if there is no written agreement about hunting, the party renting the ground to farm it also has the right to control hunting on it. As has been stated, it is usually pretty clear when there is an owner who wants to hunt and I haven't experienced otherwise.

When I ask permission to hunt, I typically start with the landowner. And they'll typically tell me to talk to the farmer. Typically. ;)

Some unfortunate stories you guys shared. Glad everyone is okay, but few things are worse than a confrontation when you're supposed to be blissfully afield.
 
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