Purchasing Private Ground: Not Just for the Wealthy

Many of us dream of owning private ground. That sweet little patch of land with the potential to reward year after year with abundant hunting or fishing opportunities. Many consider it a rich man’s game, and sometimes that assumption is rightfully made, yet owning private ground is realistically feasible for many. It can also be profitable in some regards too.

It is true that hunters are becoming increasingly frustrated with crowded public grounds or diminishing access to private land. The obvious way to step over this issue is to purchase private ground for yourself or through a partnership. Becoming a steward of your own property is something that any hunter or angler will find satisfaction in. There are things to make note of however, before you pull the trigger on ownership.

Shop Around
Just like buying a home or a car, spend time shopping around via the internet, print media or other source to find properties that suit your intended interests. Decide if you wish to purchase individually or with a partner, even a group of partners as this will delegate the price bracket in which to look. The power of buying with a partner or a group can dramatically increase the price of affordable properties. On the plus side too, even smaller, less expensive properties bought by more than one individual in a mutual partnership can give those without a bottomless wallet a chance of owning private ground.

A 40 acre property will suffice for an individual but 80-100 acres is desirable. If going in as a group partnership, a property larger than 100 acres should be considered. Once a few have been picked, visit the properties and look them over carefully. If the surrounding land has been farmed to a barren desert then no amount of effort on improvements will make a difference; avoid these; check these off the list. It is also favorable if the property contains arable land and this can ultimately be profitable too. Pre-existing habitat or the potential to create it is key.

Talk and Ask
Once a property catches your eye, spend time talking to the neighbors and also the local DNR. Find out the quality of the wildlife in the area and see if the neighbors hunt and how they hunt. Ideally, even hunt the property if you can before making a final decision. At any rate, spend time on the land to get a feel for it. Ask the landowner any and all questions pertaining to drainage, problematic neighbors, erosion and things of that nature to see if there are issues with the land that might lead to a large expense down the road.

Make an Offer and Close
Now that you or the group of you have settled on that perfect deer producing, pheasant growing or duck attracting property, it’s time to make an offer. Always start low just as you would for a home and work into the deal with the current owner, meeting at middle ground. Once the offer is accepted there are a few very important steps to take.

Hire a local attorney to the area to draw up the purchase agreement.

Make sure the current owner gives a clear, legal description of the property boundaries for the agreement.

Shop around for financing to find the most affordable and attractive rates.

Inspect the property again before closing to look for additional flaws or any resurrected problems. It may be beneficial for the owner to physically show boundaries too.

Develop an LLC
Turn the property into and LLC through an attorney which will provide protection against liability in case someone is injured on the property. Do this in conjunction with liability insurance.

Turn a Profit
You, you and a partner or a group are now officially landowners and it’s time to make benefit of the acquired property. There are a whole host of government sponsored conservation programs available to landowners, especially if the land is arable as most programs only apply to farms. The US Department of Agriculture Land Conservation programs will pay to convert farmland into wildlife habitat. By enrolling in one or a few of these, you will not be covering the mortgage costs but it will certainly lessen the blow on top of creating valuable, desired habitat.

Pick up a Conservation Reserve Program packet from the county Natural Resources Conservation Service office and fill out the require forms. Upon returning the forms the NRCS will inspect them and recommend the proper management strategies eligible. It may also be beneficial to have the local wildlife biologist stop out and recommend a habitat management plan.

If the land is arable and large enough to accommodate a dedicated percentage of standing crops then this is where a real profit can be made. Instead of investing in farm equipment for yourself, unless already owned, hire a farm manager who will rent the ground where crops are to be planted, plant crops and harvest them. Farm managers typically take 6-10% of the agricultural proceeds and in return will also maintain any fencing or gates associated.
There are things to be said about the appreciation of land value over time also. On choice pieces of ground in Iowa, land values may increase by as much as 4% to 5% a year. Realistically, most properties appreciate between 0.5% to 2% annually. This may seem small but it’s still a potentially profitable investment if you are ever looking to sell, years down the road.

You will notice that buying private ground really is attainable for many, especially if the property can contribute positive financial gains. There’s just something special about owning ground knowing that it’s all yours to hunt, fish, farm and play on. Something that your family and friends can enjoy as well for years down the road.