Be careful when you lease

Leasing hunting property can be cost effective but it also isn't always as advertised.

Dec 1 2013 - Dec 1 2014

Jeffery Whitesell

First posted Apr 1 2015 Last updated Apr 24 2015

This story is undoubtedly a bit different than most of the others you have received. It doesn't chronicle the hunt for that huge elusive buck or bull, but explains just how careful you have to be when choosing a place to hunt.

Never having hunted the great state of Ohio before, and hearing countless stories about huge whitetails killed there, my buddy Dave and I decided to try it. We were invited on to a lease that was owned by some other northern New Englanders.

These guys had leased before through "Base Camp Leasing" which is an on-line hunting clearinghouse of sorts for leased lands available to hunt throughout the US.

We arrived a few days early in order to get our stands and ground blinds in place and speak with the landowner. The landowner was a "farmer." Really, a gentleman farmer if you ask me as the locals basically ran the farm for this guy. The head of the farming operation was, well, colorful to put it lightly. He and his teenage son quickly informed us that they too would be hunting on the property as they always do, however pledged to steer clear of us. They went on to boast about how many "rackers" they shot the previous year with their rifle. These two drove around in a miniature pickup kinda thing and never seemed to go anywhere without their .270 (Ohio is shotgun only if you didn't already know).

We got our blinds up and anxiously waited for the sun to come up and start seeing those big Ohio deer.

Not soon after sunrise it started. They were all over! Not the deer, but the echoing shot after shot after shot, loud and right on top of us! We couldn't see them (the other hunters or what they were shooting) but holy crap it felt as if I had set my blind up next to a military firing range.

After the first 10-15 minutes of shots, you could then hear the four wheelers. This rotation went on all day. Apparently the adjacent lease holders had what amounted to a skirmish line set up along the perimeter with our lease and they shot any damn thing that came along. After they shot they would get on their four wheelers, drive to the deer and drag them back to an area by their stand. Needless to say, day number one was a huge bust.

Day number two we moved our position to the other side of the property, to an area where our lease bordered other private land. I was set up on the top of a draw and felt good about my chances. About mid-day I left my stand and did a small push for Dave who was up in a tree stand (it had been slow and we thought that we would try to get the deer moving a bit).

I made my push and met him at the stand, no deer. I decided to work my way back toward my ground blind (away from Dave) and return for my evening hunt. As I get to within 100 yards of my blind I see orange from that same direction. I was completely puzzled as I left Dave (behind me). I thought to myself, how the hell did Dave get around in front of me? As I slowly move closer I see a second set of orange. This guy is hunched over. I walk up to these two guys and the hunched over guys is in his late 60's gutting out a beautiful 8 pointer. The second guy with him well, for those that follow Jeff Dunham, the famous ventriloquist, would immediately recognize that the second guy looks exactly like Jeff Dunham's "Bubba J." Ten feet over their left shoulder is my ground blind.

These two went on to tell of this elaborate story on how they shot this deer on private property and finally tracked the deer down on our lease. I suspect that these guys were just straight up poachers. They offered me the deer. I told them that I didn't want their deer and tried to explain to them that deer hunting to me is more than "just killing a deer." They didn't understand what I was trying to tell them as they looked completely puzzled at what I was saying. I tried to explain that the process of hunting the deer and all the work that goes in to it is every much as important to me as the actual kill and that some of the best hunts I've ever had, didn't result in killing anything! Their response, "Take this deer, then you got somethin." I thought for moment about calling Fish and Game in order to have them arrested. I decided against it as that was sure to ruin the rest of my hunt and also require my presence in court at some future date.

We spoke to the landowner about all the issues and he was less than helpful. After all, he had his money.

So not learning from our first lease misadventure. What does any crazed deer hunter do? Try it again! However, this year would be different. We are going to move to a different lease, on property that our friends have hunted before and been successful. In addition, we were going to hunt archery this year and forgo the gun hunt. This year was going to be different!

This year we set a week aside. The property owner lived close to this leased parcel. We were told he was very strict and wanted to know when and where we would be on the property. Dave and I thought "Great, an owner who cares." The property sits a top a ridge and has numerous roads and trails throughout, mainly in order to access the many gas and oil wells on the property.

Day one of our hunt Dave and I are scouting the property for sign and stand location when we look over our right shoulder and see a jeep coming through the woods. It stops, a male gets out and lets two dogs run loose and he continues down the trail toward us. Dave and I look at each other with that "No F%$#@ way look." Naturally his 2 Dobermans find us rather quickly and jump all over us. We ask this guy what he's doing here. He says "running my dogs." Dave says "Didn't the owner tell u this property is leased." He replies, "oh yeah, didn't know you guys would be here today."

We eventually found a few suitable ground blind and tree stand locations and set up trail cams. The next morning we had several images captured. We popped the memory cards out and took them back to the hotel with us, we were like kids on Christmas morning! We couldn't wait to see what we had captured on film. Horses! Are you kidding me, Horses! First dogs, then Horses! Yet another call to the landowner. He went on to tell us how his daughter really loves to ride and must have forgotten about us being there, yet another "oh, sorry."

Day three of the hunt. No dogs or horses. By god I'm looking good today! The morning hunt is uneventful, just a few unsuspecting does mingling around, and then it started. It got louder and louder and louder then VROOM by me comes this teenager on what looks like a clown motorcycle, followed by a young teenage girl on a four wheeler and not to be outdone by the kid on the motocross bike chasing the other two! They chase each other around by me for a good 15-20 minutes before I exit my ground blind chasing these guys around like a young boy chasing a squealing pig at a county fair. Finally, I catch up to the young girl. Guess who? The property owners granddaughter! That was it for us. This was yet another one of those landowners that simply didn't care. Dave and I tucked our tails between our legs and returned to New England, lesson learned on leases.

We look back at it now and kind of laugh. But at the time it was very frustrating. I'm sure that many people have had better experiences than me and Dave when it comes to lease property. It is our opinion that if you want to try a different state or species to hunt, do so with a reputable guide. Check his references and do your homework. Its worth the extra effort and will be worth every penny of what you spend!

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  • Jerry Blake

    Jerry Blake

    I feel your pain! Ohio

  • Lenny Miller

    Lenny Miller

    Ouch! Great story! The Guidefitter crew can feel your pain. You'll be able to see our leasing fiasco on an upcoming episode of Guidefitter Tv.

  • Hank Seale

    Hank Seale

    Great advice and funny (sorry) story. But you have to laugh. If the second guy had an ounce of class, he gave you your money back.